By Carl Stagner
Were you present at Church of God Convention and General Assembly on Friday, June 28? If you tuned into the live video stream offered by Faithlife, you got a taste of the truly riveting plot that actually unfolded throughout the day. A variety of CHOG Convention firsts, a couple major transitions, an atmosphere conducive to life change, and a hearkening back to our heritage revealed a story over the past twenty-four hours that only God could write. If you were onsite, you know firsthand the powerful pieces that weaved together to make the day more than memorable. The indelible imprint left upon sisters and brothers from across the country is undeniable, as wounded hearts found healing, parched souls quenched their thirst on living water, and dry bones received life. On Day Two of Convention 2019, participants experienced nothing short of history in the making.
On Friday morning, the General Assembly of the Church of God opened for the first time, since its formal inception in 1917, in a convention center adjacent to a convention hotel. Many may have wondered if such a bold move would fly, but the lack of empty seats and participants sitting on the floor in the back of the room confirm that it took off.
It really took off, however, when Jeff Frymire, longtime Church of God pastor and educator, delivered an impassioned devotion that we all needed to hear and heed. Surveying our sometimes not-so-rosy history as a movement, Jeff challenged us to repent and return to an intentional and courageous living-out of what we believe.
Also in the General Assembly, among other agency updates, two major leadership transitions captured our attention. First, we celebrated the twenty-six years of Jeff Jenness at the helm of Servant Solutions and his passing of the baton to Jim O’Bold. Second, we rejoiced over the sixteen years Paul Maxfield invested in leading Children of Promise and his passing of the baton to Mike and Heather Webb. The ending of one era and the inauguration of another was met with tears, laughter, and anticipation for the next chapter of each ministry.
A bonus blessing came in the announcement of a brand-new reference book available immediately for free download, and soon for purchase in print and e-book format, that provides reference to the full history of the General Assembly. Major thanks goes to Barry Callen for such a massive undertaking! To access the download of Leaning Forward!, visit www.warnerpress.org/leaningforward.html.
Warner Press-sponsored KidzLIVE! activities for children—both in the morning and evening—were also a historic first for the Church of God Convention. Hearkening back to the richly vibrant days of Kid’s Place, the new experience designed especially for today’s children transported kids back to Bible days, fed them physically and spiritually, and featured a quintessential missionary visit. Halfway through the Friday morning KidzLIVE! programming, which gave parents a well-deserved break to focus on worship, Juan Santos, of the Dominican Republic, rose to the platform as the first speaker of the day. His message challenged us to keep Jesus the subject as we love him and his Word more than social media, the plethora of cultural distractions, and even ministry itself.
Comedic relief on Friday afternoon was a blessing for many drinking from the firehose of ministry information, ideas, and inspiration. Sandwiched between lunchtime gatherings and afternoon workshops, illusionist (and humorist) John Michael Hinton nearly brought the house down—at least the corresponding thunder bellowing from above the convention center roof made you wonder! Such an afternoon thunderstorm hearkened those with a camp meeting history back to the days of deluges on grounds surrounding Warner Auditorium yet, at the same time, affirmed a heritage and timeless message not lost. John’s jaw-dropping illusions entertained the masses, yet softened hearts for a testimony of Jesus’ creative and redemptive love toward his masterpieces—each one of us.
Few could have expected the magnitude of God’s anointing on the evening session, another first-of-its kind experience. In a TED Talk-style format, four gifted, young ministers of the movement delivered relatively short, yet very potent, messages. Each of these messages—from Allyson Smith, Matt Anderson, Erin Taylor, and Jake Zaske—were interspersed with Scripture and song, and concluded with an extended time of response. The end of the evening was the climax of the story for countless individuals and families who came forward to be prayed for; receive anointing; take Communion; and/or visit a cross station where prayer requests or notes of thanksgiving could be placed on, or confessions of sin could be symbolically nailed to, the cross.
Rounding out the evening, Servant Solutions and Children of Promise hosted a joint agency retirement gala and Mid-America Christian University hosted an alumni reception.
Saturday’s schedule is packed full of don’t-miss activities, events, and opportunities. For details, visit www.chogconvention.org.