By Carl Stagner
Guests of the Church of God Convention 2014 were doubly blessed on Wednesday, June 25 as Anne Graham Lotz returned to the pulpit for a second message. From Lotz’s presentation of Revelation 2 to the opportunity for every church to “Change a Life, Change the World” in their own innovative way, Wednesday could be characterized as practical, purposeful, and powerful. Wednesday also included the first business session of the General Assembly, the Heritage Sing-Along, several receptions, the commissioning of missionaries, and a compelling call to evangelism from speaker Dave Stone.
The first session on Wednesday began with a message from Lotz—before any worship song had been sung. Interweaving personal vignettes of her struggles as a caretaker for her husband, she compared the pangs of the church
today to heart blockages that need cleared up. Her message challenged individual leaders to reignite passion for personal worship time and urged the church to return to its first love—Jesus. The Church of God was reminded of its first love and emphasis later on Wednesday when participants of the Heritage Sing-Along echoed the resounding cry of the movement in song: “Then forward let us go, our hearts with love aflame, our snowy banner borne aloft, inscribed with Jesus’ name….”
Alanna Story led worshipers to the throne of God in a powerful followup to Lotz’s message. After a short break, the Church of God reconvened in the auditorium of Crossings Church in Oklahoma City to witness Jim Lyon interview former Muslim Danny AL-Naser. Danny’s story of transformation by the love of Christ has inspired a desire in him to teach the church about Islam and evangelism. His plan for an online tool for this purpose is just one example of how individuals and churches can submit creative, fresh ministry ideas for grants through the Change the World initiative.
Joe Gregory, Jean Shackleton, Ruth Ann Yerden, and friends gathered in the chapel Wednesday afternoon to worship the Lord through a special time of singing the heritage songs of the Church of God. At the same time in another hall, the General Assembly convened and heard opening statements by Jim Lyon before offering him a standing ovation. The Assembly also carried out regular balloting procedures, briefly discussed two resolutions, and received the
presentation of the budget. Midway through the session, members took a break to attend a reception for Jim Lyon to honor his new role. Following the session, the Church of God took time to honor David Sebastian, who is retiring as dean of Anderson University School of Theology.
With unfettered energy and enthusiasm, Ashmont Hill took the stage on Wednesday evening to lead worship. The presence of the Holy Spirit had been palpable all day, preparing hearts for a convicting, often humorous, yet inspiring message on personal and corporate evangelism. Dave Stone’s words echoed the bold sentiment of Jesus’ disciples in Acts 4 and dared the Church of God to reach beyond its comfort zone. “The church exists for those who aren’t members yet,” Stone insisted. “Silence is not an option.” In light of a trend for churches to increasingly turn inward, he asserted, “We have to get close to people who are far from God.”
On Thursday morning, the General Assembly reconvened to conclude business for 2014. Reggie McNeal delivered the final message of the convention, interspersing humor and personal stories to urge the Church of God toward kingdom-thinking and community involvement. “It’s our job to connect with the community—not the other way around!” he exclaimed. In an exciting and powerful finale, Ashmont Hill joined Alanna Story for a musical celebration of our God and all he had done to orchestrate such a historic event in the life of the movement.
For more information about the Church of God Convention, visit www.chogconvention.org. To learn about the Change the World initiative, visit http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/change-the-world/.