By Carl Stagner
God is truly moving in the Church of God. From the local church, to the state and regional assemblies, to the offices of Church of God Ministries, real change is taking place to position the movement for maximum kingdom impact. Baptisteries are getting wet again. Altars are filling up again. Churches are making more and better disciples. Walls that recently separated saints from one another are crumbling. As ministries coalesce around our common subject, Jesus, we’re reclaiming what hell has stolen. Many of our state and regional assemblies are seeing renewed unity and fresh missional fervor thanks in part to what are being called revitalization “boot camps.” These opportunities, offered by Church of God Ministries, and led by Handel Smith and the domestic ministry team, are now open to any district, state, or regional assembly that longs to see revitalization.
Consider the GPS. First, it has to determine where you are. Then it can tell you which direction to go. For any church or regional assembly to experience a turnaround, it must first be clear on where it is in its life cycle. With honest introspection, it must come to terms with its challenges—as well as its strengths. Revitalization boot camps begin with a SWOB analysis—Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Barriers. They take a close look at the vision and mission statements of the state assembly, as well as the vision and mission statements of churches represented at the boot camp.
“Your systems are perfectly designed to give you the results you’ve been getting,” Handel Smith, Church of God Ministries chief domestic officer explains. Seems obvious enough. But are churches actually paying attention to such a principle? “If churches want better results in ministry, they must improve their systems,” Handel continues. “You have worship systems, assimilation systems, hospitality systems, evangelism systems. Perhaps it’s the follow-up system with visitors to your church. To create a healthy system, you must start with the end in mind. We believe healthy systems lead to healthy churches.”
Handel’s thirty-three years of ministry experience has brought him to a place where he speaks strategically and with wisdom when it comes to ministry revitalization. From being a minister at one of the fastest-growing churches on the East Coast, to experiencing firsthand every stage of a church’s life cycle—including rebirth—to his twenty-nine years sharpening business leadership skills as a senior leader for Verizon—Handel’s credentials for revitalization are matched only by his heart for seeing churches and church networks turn around. “My mantra is to be a loving leader helping others—including churches and ministers—reach their full potential in Christ.”
Each boot camp experience is tailored for the specific needs of the region. Church leaders are given the chance to choose one ministry system in their church to discuss and analyze. From that point, the boot camp becomes a practical, how-to course on improving ministry systems. Be Bold Academy’s treasure trove of ministry resources are made available to everyone who participates. But if a state assembly is suffering from division, that has to be dealt with first. Ministries have already benefited from boot camp mediations in partnership with the professional counsel of Chris Cottrell, husband of Esther Cottrell, who serves as the state pastor and director of Ohio Ministries. Handel gives God the glory for each time he witnesses longstanding suspicion and disunity melt away for the sake of the kingdom.
“We’re finding that it’s very difficult for a state or church to move forward unless they deal with past hurts, habits, and hang-ups,” Handel explains. “In accordance with James 5, we confess our faults to one another so we may be healed. In the mediation, we ask the churches to come to the table and identify the elephant in the room. We begin the difficult process of making amends, confessing, forgiving, uniting, and moving forward.”
Handel continues, “The challenges of the church is to address its own culture before attempting to address the culture in which the church lives. The real issue is about developing leaders who are able to lead change in their communities and churches. God never changes, but our society and culture is ever-changing.”
Handel Smith has already brought revitalization boot camps to multiple state assemblies and districts, including Missouri, South Dakota, Texas, Georgia, northern California, the North-Central Region, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alaska, Arizona, Oregon, and Canada. Church of God Ministries does not charge for these events, though consideration for Handel’s travel expenses is encouraged. “It’s just part of what we do at Church of God Ministries,” Handel explains. “I’m here to wash your feet.”
Your state or district can benefit from a revitalization boot camp, too. Contact the Church of God Ministries domestic ministry team at 800-848-2464 or e-mail Tamera Wilkinson at TWilkinson@chog.org to learn more.
Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.