Category Archives: Give Life

Seeing God’s Vision, Joining God’s Mission: A Florida Church’s Radical Community Life

Pastor Shawn engages in conversation at a community event.

By Carl Stagner

“Church in the Palms” is spelled out in large letters on the side of the building at 3812 Jog Road in Greenacres, Florida. This does not mean the congregation that goes by the name feels any sense of ownership of the place. For them, the property is God’s to accomplish what he wants done on it. Is it really any wonder then that the ministry hub houses a variety of nonprofits, including ten other churches with worship services taking place in English, Spanish, and Creole? In the past few years alone, Pastor Shawn Allen has led the church to embrace a strategic vision that would inspire as many Christians as possible in Palm Beach County to see God’s vision, connect with God’s people, and join God’s mission. The radical, yet conceptually simple approach to what the pastor calls “missional unity” is already bearing tremendous fruit in and for the community. Continue reading

All-Volunteer Parachurch Ministry Meets Needs, Gives Life in Arkansas

Lines of people waiting to be blessed by Healing Waters.

By Carl Stagner

Consider what just happened the weekend before Thanksgiving. Three hundred thirty meals were served and over two hundred bags of food were given away. For free. No catch. Even more exciting—thirty-eight individuals accepted Christ. But this wasn’t a special holiday outreach. Revival services weren’t planned, and no traveling evangelist had been brought in to deliver an impassioned sermon. Obviously, this wasn’t Easter, yet numerous non-churchgoers were within earshot of the gospel. Far from an unusual occurrence at Healing Waters Outreach Center in Shannon Hills, Arkansas, these kinds of Holy Spirit-happenings take place on a weekly basis! The parachurch ministry supported by the Church of God in Arkansas now has a connection through one of its founding members to the Urban Missions team of Church of God Ministries. Robert Holt gives us a glimpse into the life-giving, far-reaching impact of Healing Waters, and why so many—at least 125 people—choose to volunteer their time every week for the work. Continue reading

Lilly Endowment Awards Church of God Ministries Grant for CARE 2.0

By Carl Stagner

Earlier this year, Church of God Ministries was invited by Lilly Endowment to apply for a grant to extend the fruitful ministry of CARE—Clergy Advocacy and Resource Effort. The week of Thanksgiving brought with it news that a $500,000 grant has been awarded to carry on the program until at least 2021. No longer an initiative, the program known as CARE has been so well received by the Church of God movement that the goal is to sustain the work indefinitely. CARE 2.0 will bring with it continued engagement of pastors and congregational boards in pastoral retirement assistance and educational debt relief that have become synonymous with the program since it began in early 2016. Continue reading

West Virginia Church Rises from the Ashes—Literally

Dedication service crowd fills the new sanctuary!

By Carl Stagner

It was nearing the middle of the night on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Instead of sleeping, several of the saints of Green Valley Church of God, in St. Albans, West Virginia, were wide awake. They’d gathered in the parking lot, gazing in horror as smoke and flame engulfed the place where they’d accepted Christ, got baptized, grew in their faith, and/or made lifelong friends. Thoughts raced through their minds: What’s next? How will this affect the ministry here? What in the world does God have in mind? In the trauma of the moment, God’s sovereign hand was hard to detect. But out of the bad, God was working for the good, ushering in a new beginning for Green Valley Church of God. Continue reading

Black Woman Pastor Takes White Kansas Congregation to New Heights

Presephoni (center, middle row) with part of the congregation.

By Carl Stagner

Liberal, Kansas, never saw it coming. The city of only about 20,000 people couldn’t have imagined the day. Only 3.8 percent of the population is African American, and the new pastor of South Church of God is both black and a woman. Presephoni Fuller is, in fact, the first black pastor in the ninety-year history of the church. Still, Pastor Presephoni takes it all in stride. She doesn’t have time to ponder the uniqueness of her situation; she’s too busy reaching deeper into the community and taking the Kansas congregation to new heights. Continue reading

When Ministry Gets Messy: A Washington Church’s Incarnational Approach

RCC team at work on a Service Project Sunday.

By Carl Stagner

“In the beginning was the Word, as the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 NIV). Community was whole and pristine, at the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. But the thief, who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10), did exactly that. Community was ruptured between humanity and God, and between one another. Since the Fall, God has been working to restore that community, to bring people back to himself. Did you know he’s chosen to use you and me to accomplish the task? But we’ve lost our sense of community, downplayed the power of presence, and ignored the methods of Jesus. Our neighbors are crying out for hope all around us, we hear their voices, but we’d prefer to write a check to the nearest charity. We don’t want to get our hands dirty. In contrast, Roosevelt Community Church, a modest-size Church of God congregation in Bellingham, Washington, is taking back what hell has stolen and destroyed in their neighborhood. They’re boldly giving life where the enemy of our souls has snatched it away, simply by being in, for, and with their community. Continue reading

Côte d’Ivoire: A Church is Being Built!

Team working together to tie a post.

By Bobby and Jenny Mihsill

On a Sunday morning in the village of Sinfra, about an hour and fifteen minutes from where we live in Yamoussoukro, people sit shoulder-to-shoulder on backless wooden benches at the local Church of God. The church has been meeting in the living room area of the house that was built for the pastor, although they outgrew the space some time ago. Continue reading

Transformation Begins Outside the Walls in West Texas

Community block party at the new church facility.

By Carl Stagner

Deep in the heart of west Texas, surrounded by semiarid plains and prized oil country, you’ll find the small city of Odessa. Though it may not garner much media attention, a remarkable story of transformation is developing out of the city’s young Church of God congregation known as New Dawn Fellowship. Focusing more on discipling new believers and not simply packing the pews, the church has celebrated relatively slow, but healthy growth. The congregation, 90 percent previously unchurched, has rejoiced at more than 30 salvations, more than 30 baptisms, and multiple rededications in just three years. On August 5, after outgrowing its previous facility, the community-oriented church enjoyed a grand opening worship service in their new home, welcoming 154 people through their doors. Continue reading

Church Pastored by CHOG Ministries’ Handel Smith Celebrates Urban Ministry Renewal

Handel Smith with Paul, sub-contractor for the church’s affordable homes ministry.

By Carl Stagner

Church of God Ministries staff are known for their roles they play in the collective work of the Movement. But among those who report to “base camp” day after day are individuals who are very active in their local churches. Some are Sunday school teachers, board members, worship leaders, associate pastors, and senior pastors. Others are laypeople who volunteer and get involved in numerous initiatives and projects at the local church level. When Handel Smith accepted the call to fill an executive leadership position at Church of God Ministries in Anderson, Indiana, he accepted a massive portfolio—oversight of the Movement’s influence and impact in the United States and Canada. His ministry Monday through Saturday—and countless Sundays, too—is extensive and expansive. Though a faithful attender of one of the Anderson-area churches when at home, it soon became apparent that he’d received a special leadership assignment that would both bring God glory and give life to a life-giving soul. Continue reading

Unity in the Caribbean: Convention Helps Re-establish Regional Assembly

Lennox Boyce addresses the Caribbean-Atlantic Assembly in July.

By Carl Stagner

We love to talk about unity in the Church of God, but putting it into practice is often another story. Over the past two years, the national churches of the Caribbean-Atlantic region have taken steps to move beyond theoretical to functional unity once again. Though an assembly of national churches came together formally in the 1970s, recent years had seen a downturn in participation and interest. Until 2018, more than seven years had passed without a convention of the Caribbean-Atlantic Assembly. From July 28 through August 3, seven of fourteen national churches united in a visible recommitment to worshiping and working together for the advancement of the kingdom in their region. Continue reading

Reclaiming Hope: Arizona Church Turns Old Jail into Children’s Ministry Wing

Down to the studs at Community of Hope!

By Carl Stagner

Rusty Akers couldn’t have known what the journey would entail, but no doubt he knew it would be the journey of a lifetime. Planting a church in the heart of one of the fastest-growing cities in the country had its strong points, but it wasn’t going to be easy. The hard work of holding services in an elementary school, the years of community involvement, and the faithful communication of the gospel has more than paid off in eternal rewards—souls won to Christ, believers baptized, lives transformed, and a community better for it. But more than one purchase of property since 2005 and a community far more transient than expected, resulting in frequent turnover of residents and congregational makeup, has proved grueling. Nonetheless, the opportunity seized recently by Community of Hope, a life-giving Church of God congregation in Maricopa, Arizona, is one with implications for both now and the future. By the end of the summer, they will have completely renovated a former jail, transforming it into the church’s new children’s ministry wing. Continue reading

Japan Congregation Embraces Opportunities to Give Life

Children enjoying a meal provided by the church.

By Bernie and Akiko Barton

April is a time of new beginnings in Japan, with a new school year and the start of a new fiscal year. At Futsukaichi Eiko Christ Church, a new community outreach ministry began this April—Flowers of the Field Meal Service. With more families needing dual incomes these days, kids often don’t have family meal times. Throughout Japan there is a push for meal services to help provide kids with stable, nutritional meals. Our church has started the only meal service in our immediate community. We provide a low-cost, nutritious meal, two Friday evenings a month. The response has been surprising, with almost twenty coming each time so far. Please pray for our pastor’s wife, Kazuko Numa, as she leads this ministry and for church volunteer staff as we relate to our neighbors who join us for supper. Continue reading

Georgia Church Gives Food, Health, and Life to Community

Children, families are important to Community Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

When Jason McClendon was a child, there were grown-ups in his life who spent quality time with him. One gave him his first Bible, and said, “Jason, God will do something special in your life.” That moment may have seemed insignificant to the one who said it, but to Jason, it meant the world. Over the years, he’s not forgotten that blessing, he’s learned to love authentically, and he’s developed an especially soft heart toward children. The pastor of Community Church of God in Macon, Georgia, says, “Now, I have the privilege to look into a child’s eyes and say, “God has the ability to take you to places you’ve never been!” It should come as no surprise then, that when the need became clear for a summer feeding program for local children, Community Church of God rose to the occasion. Continue reading

A Multicultural Colorado Church’s Bivocational Advantage

The congregation at their centennial in 2017.

By Carl Stagner

In August 2008, Bobby Washington returned as senior pastor to East Denver Church of God in Denver, Colorado, along with his wife Regina. In the mid-1990s, they’d given pastoral leadership to the youth ministry there, soon after graduating from Mid-America. It’s not been easy doing ministry in the heart of the city, but it’s been a tremendous blessing. It’s also not been easy being bivocational, but they’ve found the payoff to be both eternally rewarding and incredibly practical. Meanwhile, the church continues to reach across the cultural spectrum, with flexibility otherwise unavailable if Pastor Bobby had insisted on a full-time position. Continue reading

Delaware Church Strategy: Surprising the World with God’s Love

Pastor Edward and Jean Cross.

By Carl Stagner

After forty-seven years shepherding the flock at New Community Church of God in Wilmington, Delaware, Pastor Edward Cross has made more than a few observations about the surrounding culture. For example, there’s a prevailing suspicion that nothing’s ever really free, and if you’ve got something to offer, you must want something in return. But by building authentic relationships in the community, not just hosting events and doing more programs, the Delaware congregation is catching a few people off guard—in a good way! They’re demonstrating that they really do care, surprising the world with God’s love. Continue reading