By Carl Stagner
With increasing regularity, congregations and local fellowships are seeking affiliation with the Church of God. Drawn by the dawning of a bright new day, reflecting the light of Christ at the center, established bodies of believers are asking the question, How can we join the movement? From the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the Middle East, Christians have observed that God is on the move in the Church of God. Recently, the Church of God in Michigan rejoiced as Berrien Community Church in Bridgman, Michigan, became the newest Church of God congregation in the state.
God began to pen the beautiful story of Berrien Community Church long before the congregation chose to formally join the Church of God movement. Back in 2014, when the church formed, it was actually the merger of two separate churches—neither of which had any previous affiliation with the Church of God. But Jesus was the subject, the common point at which the Olivet Congregational Church and The Worship Center of Baroda could rally together. The stage was set.
A few years before the merger, Herb Smith been begun to pastor at Baroda. Herb was a longtime pastor in the Church of God and had served as chaplain for the Flint, Michigan, police department. He moved to be closer to his daughter in southwest Michigan, but followed God’s lead to enter into an ecumenical role. With unity on full display through the merger of two churches, and a desire to champion the doctrine of holiness, it seemed more and more like the Church of God offered the kind of global family they were looking for. Herb’s daughter had been raised in the Church of God, and his associate pastor Bob Ingels had a fifteen-year history with the movement. It just made sense.
“Jesus being the subject is the way it all works out,” Herb explains. “We even have Lutherans and those from other denominational backgrounds coming in and embracing the Church of God. And, we continue to grow.” While some churches struggle to reach young people, Herb is blessed to report a thriving children’s ministry and a wide range of ages. In fact, at sixty-six, Pastor Herb says he’s one of the oldest in his congregation. For a church of about twenty-five prior to the merger, to about forty today, the children’s attendance of ten is very encouraging.
Bob Ingels said it was only natural that the church, pastored by a longtime Church of God minister, would lead the congregation to become part of the movement. “When Pastor Herb was asked to come take over a local historical church that had all but died, he knew the key to building a new future for the church would be in becoming a Church of God congregation,” Bob explains. “The Church of God has a long history of great churches in southwest Michigan—we desire to be one of them. We are excited to be part of the Church of God, a movement that God is directing into the future as we all work together to build the church and make Jesus the subject.”
It’s simply no secret that great things are happening in the Church of God. The Spirit is moving in powerful ways, and people want to be a part of what’s going on. One of the initiatives that appealed to Berrien Community Church was CHOG TraffickLight. Joining the movement-wide focus on fighting against human trafficking, Berrien chose to come alongside a local anti-human trafficking, pro-freedom ministry called True Value. “My daughter Rachel has always been very involved in that sort of ministry, and with my background in law enforcement, and the close proximity to human trafficking between Chicago and Detroit, I saw a real need for it,” Herb reflects.
Bob Ingels is also finding that the new Leadership Focus of the Church of God is another bright spot in the movement. As a current Leadership Focus student, he has found the experience compelling, challenging, and very rewarding. Besides the great books and lessons, he’s found the networking component to be of lasting value. “It helps you feel part of the larger Church of God body as you connect and build friendships in the group,” Bob explains. “I feel that, as we move along, I will be better equipped as a pastor and have lifelong friendships with other pastors where I can find prayer, advice, and accountability…It’s a great program, and I’m grateful to the Church of God for the opportunity.”
Please welcome Berrien Community Church to the Church of God!
For more information on affiliation with the Church of God, visit our Affiliate My Church page on our website. 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/.