Convention 2019: An International Affair

Convention guests from Mexico and Ghana together in 2013.

By Carl Stagner

In 2015, the General Assembly passed a resolution directing the Church of God Convention to “encourage broad participation” by the Church of God around the world every fourth year. The first of these gatherings with an international emphasis is Convention 2019 in Orlando, Florida, June 27–30 (www.chogconvention.org). With Church of God speakers from outside the United States and Canada, approximately 170 international registrants to date, and a variety of missions conferences and events, Convention 2019 and General Assembly is gearing up to be one of the most international experiences of the Church of God in North America. Continue reading

Christmas Outreach on a Small Budget

By Tammy Tilley

Everybody tunes in to Christmas. On December 25, stores close, work shuts down, and everyone stops what they normally would be doing to celebrate.

What, exactly, they’re celebrating is a different story. As culture grows more post-Christian, no longer can we assume families know the story of Christ coming to earth as a baby; if they do know the story, they may see it only as a legend or myth.

What do we do to redeem the season in our communities? How do we point our neighbors, schools, and family members back to Jesus in any sort of resonant, meaningful way? Continue reading

From the Archives: Beyond Change

By Kathleen Buehler

I learned (or revisited) a bit of information recently that caught me by surprise. I was helping my daughter study for a science test, when I discovered this: Some members of the animal kingdom –adult sponges, to be exact—stay attached to one spot throughout their lives.

Think of it: stuck in one spot for life. It sounds boring and confining. The ability to move, to change, gives so many more possibilities for excitement and freedom. On the other hand, there’s something comforting, safe, and sure about sameness, while change can bring anxiety, discomfort, and even pain. Continue reading

South Dakota Church: Farmers, You’re Not Alone

Very few fields looks this good (at least this one’s been planted!).

By Carl Stagner

This has not been a good year for farmers. Actually, agricultural conditions have taken an economic and emotional toll on farmers for the past year-and-a-half, though much of the country is only beginning to take notice. While American routine often involves that indispensable weekly trip to the supermarket, requiring little to no thought of the origins of their convenient purchases, farmers bear the brunt of the material and mental cost. A May 29 article published in FarmWorld reported that the USDA’s assessments showed corn planting across the country was at its “slowest pace” since 1980. It’s no wonder, considering much of the country—from the Rocky Mountains to the Midwest and through the South—has been locked in a seemingly never-ending cycle of rain. With uncertain days upon farmers, as well as everyone connected to the agricultural industry, First Church of God in Marion, South Dakota, addressed the need early this month in the best way they knew how—prayer. Continue reading

Unstuck and Unleashed: Small Indiana Church Thinks Big

As First Church grows, they don’t forget to have fun together!

In the summer of 2016, First Church of God in Marion, Indiana, found themselves without a pastor. With only forty folks on average in attendance on Sunday mornings, they weren’t sure how to move forward. Determined not to give up on the mission they believed God was calling them to in their community, they sought a bi-vocational minister who could lead them in a restart. By September, they found just the pastor God had intended for them. Continue reading

Tornadoes, Flooding Wreak Havoc Across Plains, Midwest

Dayton-area home damaged by tornado (photo courtesy Chris Hall).

By Carl Stagner

UPDATE, as of May 31, 11:15 AM EDT: As floodwaters continue to devastate parts of Oklahoma, Church of God Ministries has authorized $5,000 in relief funds to be sent to aid relief efforts in coordination with Crossings Community Church (Oklahoma City) and First Church of God (Nowata, Oklahoma). Wendell Abbott, pastor in Nowata, reports that the need is great and most homeowners do not have flood insurance. The emergency manager for the county is also a part of the Nowata congregation and the church has become a staging facility for the Red Cross. In Muskogee, also inundated, Pastor Gary Underwood of Eastside Community Church is helping flood victims in a variety of ways, including gathering hay for farm animals. While the story continues to develop, we rejoice that great things are happening through the Church of God in Oklahoma in the name of Jesus! To continue to distribute disaster relief funds, we need your financial support: www.jesusisthesubject.org/disaster-relief.

UPDATE, as of May 30, 3:55 PM EDT: Kevin Clouse, of Oklahoma Church of God Ministries, has reported that no Church of God buildings have been damaged from recent storms and flooding. One pastor’s rented house sustained some roof damage, and some churches are hard to reach due to flooded roads. Of course, numerous homes and churches beyond the Movement have been damaged or destroyed, and we continue to lift in prayer those affected, including Church of God congregations engaging in relief efforts for their communities.


ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT: It’s been a rough few weeks from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania and states in between. While weather records reveal an average of 276 tornadoes nationwide during the month of May, as of May 29, more than 460 tornadoes had been reported. While much of the media has focused its attention on the dramatic destruction of structures due to recent tornadic activity, parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri remain underwater. Church of God congregations near and far from the affected regions have already mobilized work teams, supply drives, and represented Jesus in tangible ways, but there is so much more to be done. Church of God Disaster Relief continues to gather information and determine the scope of the affect of such severe weather on our churches and congregants. Continue reading

Beyond the Border: A Visit with the Church of God in Northern Mexico

Mexico side of US-Mexico border fence; makeshift tents of asylum-seekers at base.

By Carl Stagner

After borrowing a Spanish New Testament and grammar book to learn Spanish, B. F. Elliot set sail from San Diego for Ensenada, Mexico, with the stamp of approval and exactly two dollars from D. S. Warner himself. B. F. Elliot would be the first missionary of the Church of God, heeding the Spirit’s prompts to preach the gospel to Spanish-speaking people in 1891. Combined with subsequent trips, and enhanced by others who would come alongside and come after, B. F. Elliot got to work, conducting door-to-door evangelism and starting a mission. Seeds planted then would ultimately grow into the active, unified Church of God in northern Mexico it is today. Earlier this year, Global Strategy’s Andrew Gale joined Darren Adwalpalker of Highland Park Community Church (Casper, Wyoming), as well as two leaders from their missions committee, for an eye-opening visit to Baja California. While the media often only portrays a narrow view of Mexico, limited to immigration and border concerns, this visit shone a light on what God is accomplishing through these thirteen congregations, at the border, and beyond the border. Continue reading

Disaster Response Sustains Haiti Hospital through Recent Crisis

Hospital of the Church of God in Haiti.

By Mark Fulton

Responses to crises vary wildly. In February 2019, a faction of the general populous of Haiti responded to economic and governmental crises with a long period of violent protests and roadblocks, leading to advisories from the US Embassy, to all people, to “shelter in place.” In the midst of the uncertain times, the Hospital of the Church of God struggled to continue its normal daily functions. Continue reading

Jim O’Bold Selected to Succeed Jeff Jenness as President of Servant Solutions

Jim O’Bold with his wife Felisia.

Merv Bennett, chair of the search committee and board of trustees of Servant Solutions announced that Jim O’Bold has been selected to become the sixth president in the seventy-year history of Servant Solutions. The naming of Rev. O’Bold as president-elect is subject to ratification by the General Assembly of the Church of God at Convention 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Continue reading

Layperson Launches, Leads Ministry for Families of Children with Disabilities

Victory Lane Camp is about building community in Jesus’ name.

By Carl Stagner

“No family should have to raise their children facing disabilities alone.” That’s the premise of Victory Lane Camp, a parachurch ministry in New Castle, Indiana, founded by Brett Fischer. Brett and his family, who have called South Memorial Drive Church of God their home church since 1999, have experienced life’s ups and downs while brothers and sisters in Christ came alongside. When Brett felt God call him to start a camp ministry that would reach the whole family of children with disabilities, the church was there to provide prayerful and financial support—support which continues to this day. Victory Lane Camp didn’t just drop out of thin air; a series of dots had to connect to bring to life one of the most life-giving parachurch ministries anywhere. Behind the life change, the baptisms, the marriages restored, and the children transformed is a God who has called and equipped Christ-centered laypeople for the task. Continue reading

Unexpected Journeys Lead Pastor to Niche in Teaching, Blogging

Scott Beha

By Carl Stagner

Southridge Church is a thriving Church of God congregation nestled in South Charleston, West Virginia. On Easter Sunday, they rejoiced to welcome over 700 for worship, an all-time high. Already this year, the church has celebrated the baptism of 20 believers. Eighteen months ago, small-group participation had declined to about 60; since then, the number of participants has topped 200. Outreach into a women’s recovery center has brought more than 150 additional guests, many of whom have since been saved and baptized. A strong partnership with an elementary school has helped the church make major strides in the advancement of the kingdom, even as the school permitted the church to host an Easter egg hunt for students during the school day! Lead executive pastor Michael Coker and lead teaching pastor Scott Beha are thrilled to be a part of Southridge during such an exciting time in the church’s history. But Scott wouldn’t have been there to experience it firsthand, except for a series of unexpected journeys that also helped him find a God-ordained niche in teaching and blogging. Continue reading

Daughters of the King: Missouri Church Leads Effort to Reach Girls for Christ

High-energy worship experience at Jesus Girls 2019.

By Carl Stagner

Four years ago, the children’s pastor at First Church of God in East Prairie, Missouri, was in the middle of a conversation with a group of moms about issues their daughters were facing. It seemed that a common problem among the church girls was the presentation of an image at church on Sundays that didn’t match the one they lived out during the week. Dawn Walters recounts how she and this group of moms envisioned an evening experience designed especially for girls where the gospel would be presented clearly, where such topics would be addressed from a biblical perspective, and where the girls would make wonderful memories. Considering prevalent bullying, stressful relationship dynamics, social media craziness, and more, it was clear something needed to be done, particularly before those trying teenage years, to instill in the hearts of girls the love, acceptance, and security found in Jesus alone. Continue reading

Multiplication in the Midwest Changing the Conversation on Church Planting

Tom Planck leading a CHOG conference at Exponential 2019.

By Carl Stagner

We’re simply not keeping up. Statistics show 4,000 churches are planted each year in the United States and 3,700 churches close. That leaves a gain of only three hundred churches. The overall population continues to rise, while the number of churches to reach people with the gospel lags behind. Perhaps now, more than ever, it’s time to change the conversation on church planting. That’s precisely what Tom Planck and Healthy Growing Churches are doing. The Church of God pastor and church planter is now actively pouring into the hearts of churches and regions to reverse a trend through basic math—multiplication. The numbers are starting to turn in their favor, as multiplication in the Midwest has captured fresh interest and mobilized existing churches like never before. Continue reading

Bolivia: A New Joel

Sunday school in Bolivia.

By Paul and Kattia Jones

Once upon a time, in a small Church of God in Bolivia, South America, there was a four-year-old boy named Joel. He was restless. He participated in very little during Sunday school, and he did not pay much attention to his teacher Irene, either. In addition, he showed his fist to any child who kept looking at him. This type of behavior drew the attention of missionary Kattia Jones, who decided to speak with the teacher. The conversation led to another topic that the missionary suspected was the main reason why Joel behaved that way. Continue reading

Midnight Meditations: Gethsemane Experience Draws Church to Watch and Pray

Maiden Lane congregants gather to “watch and pray.”

By Carl Stagner

Unless you work third-shift or suffer insomnia, chances are you were asleep at midnight on Good Friday this year. Not Pastor Mark Martin and a good crowd of people from Maiden Lane Church of God, in Springfield, Ohio, though! With the aid of the Holy Spirit—and perhaps an extra cup of coffee—they could be found gathered at church, embarking on a unique adventure like never before. Inspired and challenged by Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:36–46 to “watch and pray,” even for just an hour, they took a spiritual journey back to the Garden of Gethsemane to reflect on the gravity of that historical moment, and ultimately prepare the way for a victorious Easter celebration. Continue reading