Category Archives: Great Lakes

Illinois Church Makes Jesus the Subject, Sees Record Growth

The community knows!

By Megan DeBruyn

From 17 to 100 in just a few short years, the congregation at First Church of God in Marseilles, Illinois, continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. According to Pastor Brian Hefner, the increase in both attendance and congregational participation was entirely the work of the Lord. “Words can hardly describe what has happened here, but I know this: if we can do it, so can you,” Hefner says. “If you are willing to step aside and let God actually take the reins, it can happen.” Continue reading

Northeast Ohio Church Fall Fest Attracts Unprecedented Crowd

Lines forming at the Eleventh Street Church of God Family Fall Fest.

By Carl Stagner

Like other parts of the country, weather in the Midwest can be unpredictable. Eleventh Street Church of God in Canton, Ohio, knows this fact firsthand. But one thing they can predict is God’s blessing when his people choose to be the hands and feet of Christ for a community event. As the northeast Ohio congregation recently discovered, the combination of great weather, effective promotion, and an amazing God is a recipe for unprecedented response. After preparing for a crowd of up to 300, following a year where only a couple hundred showed up, the church welcomed an estimated 1,000 people to their annual fall festival. Continue reading

The Michigan Church Now Known as the Do Something! Church

First Church volunteers sporting their Do Something! T-shirts (from the book with the same title by Miles McPherson).

By Megan DeBruyn

It wasn’t just the bright T-shirts matching the even brighter smiles worn by First Church of God volunteers that inspired their new nickname. The southwest Michigan church was unofficially dubbed the “Do Something! Church” by the surrounding local community after launching a work day in the summer of 2009 that encouraged members of the congregation to get out and serve. Armed with work gloves, paint brushes, and cleaning supplies, the mob of roughly 800 First Church of God volunteers took to the streets on a Sunday morning in early June and began to serve the most basic needs of their community. Continue reading

Chicago-Area Church Plant Gains Momentum

By Charlie Arms

In 2014, after consultation with Indiana Ministries, our family moved from sunny Florida and took on the responsibility of planting a church in northwest Indiana. Locals refer to this area of Indiana as “the Region,” primarily because we are part of Indiana, yet in many ways more closely connected through business and lifestyle with Chicago. Continue reading

Comfort Zones Stretched, A Harbor for Women Gained

Photo: A creative welcome to Dove Harbor.

By Karen Roberts

“Have You Ever…” is a game I play with a class I teach. It begins innocently enough, with an easy question, and then it moves into more challenging ones. Let’s try it. Have you ever…gone sledding? Have you ever…had to sleep in your car? Have you ever…knowingly talked with a homeless person? Those who answered yes are ready for more. Have you ever…volunteered somewhere out of your comfort zone? Have you ever…donated material items or money to a food pantry? Have you ever…shared a meal with someone living in a shelter? Continue reading

Adopted Daughter Discovers the Road to Truth Leads to Grace

Laura Tonks (right) with brothers at time of adoption.

By Megan DeBruyn

Growing up in a large family in Flushing, Michigan, American life was all that Laura Tonks ever knew. That is, until a chance encounter with her Korean birth mom forty-three years after she was given up for adoption changed everything. Continue reading

On Bended Knee: Prayer Perspectives from the Pulpit and the Pew

Redmond Church of God prayer walk.

By Carl Stagner

Maybe it was a passage that seemed to leap from the pages of Scripture. But perhaps it was a pastor or a trusted friend. Or it might have been a mother whose bedside “Now I lay me down to sleep…” made an eternal impact. For so many believers, prayer is not simply taught; it’s modeled by another. That’s how it was for Jamie Wilkerson. Her mother would faithfully kneel down and pray with young Jamie morning and night, instilling in her a passion for prayer which burns to this day. Like Jamie, Joe Arena sees prayer as one of the most vital practices of the Christian. Involved in numerous prayer ministries inside and outside the church, Joe’s pursuit of God on bended knee isn’t unlike that of Pastor Dave Thompson and the Church of God in Redmond, Oregon. Their desire to intercede on behalf of church, community, nation, and world is nothing short of infectious. As the Church of God prepares for the 360 Revolution prayer and evangelism initiative this September, these three individuals offer some timely perspective on prayer. Continue reading

Dale Gruver: Known for Worship, Called to Preach

Photo: Dale Gruver

By Carl Stagner

You know it when you see it—that deep love for Jesus, visibly overflowing from a heart that understands the gravity of what the Savior has done. It’s truly contagious, clearly communicating the reality of Christ to a world devoid of hope. Dale Gruver’s got it, and believes everyone can have it, too. Widely known for high-energy, joy-filled worship leading, Dale was called first and foremost to preach the gospel. After nearly a decade-and-a-half of providing worship leadership for the local church, camp meetings, and conferences, Dale accepted a senior pastorate in Alliance, Ohio, with similar enthusiasm. Though Dale’s full embrace of God’s call only came to pass a couple of years ago, extensive investment from mentors and his wide variety of ministry experiences prepared the man who rises to the pulpit at First Church of God. Continue reading

The Faster Pastor: Michigan Minister Competes for Charity

Photo: Pastor David Aukerman preparing to race!

By Carl Stagner

“…As the pastor behind me started to pass me on the inside, I gave the car more gas and tried to speed through the turn while staying high on the track. Turns three and four went well, but I had too much speed coming through turn one. I slipped up and over the edge of the track in turn two, down a short hill, and ran into the retaining wall on the other side—all in the span of two or three seconds.” No, this wasn’t the Brickyard 400, and the setting was neither Talladega nor Daytona. The competition was fierce, but not against each other; these pastors were racing for a charity of their choice. Though Pastor David Aukerman of Mt. Haley Church of God in Midland, Michigan, wasn’t ultimately named on the six-foot-tall cross-adorned traveling trophy, he did raise nearly $2,500 for the local homeless shelter. Continue reading

Scrubbing Away Mom’s Stress: Churches Reach Out with MOPS

Photo: MOPS ministry at Madison Park Church of God.

By Karen Roberts

An older woman approached the MOPS display table in the foyer of a local Church of God. “So, are you selling cleaning products?” she asked. Her question is common. The answer is surprising. No, it’s not a floor product company. Yes, it’s a group for moms with small children that meets in local host churches to teach and encourage women—literally all around the world. Many Church of God congregations are discovering the power of the ministry to reach new families in their community. Continue reading

Indiana Church Offers Ministry for Children of Divorced Parents

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Photo: Madison Park Church of God

By Karen Roberts

It started about a week after Noah’s dad left. Fear like nothing he’d ever experienced before. Unable to sleep. Unable to concentrate at school. It felt as if he were dying, and his dad was no longer there to help. Where was his dad?

Noah’s mom didn’t understand what was happening to her seven-year-old son. She was devastated by her own immediate circumstances. She needed a full-time job. The aging van was on its last legs. What would happen to the family home if she couldn’t keep up with the mortgage payments? She knew she needed an attorney, but she had no money to hire one.

And then a caring friend told her about DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K). Continue reading

Fridays in Fort Wayne: Church’s Outreach Bears Fruit (and Bread, Too!)

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Photo: The Bread and More ministry of Tillman Road.

By Carl Stagner

They’d say they’re just ordinary people doing some extraordinary things because of the grace of God. In fact, the pastor says there’s really no reason they should be doing it, especially considering the size of the church, the average age of many of the volunteers, and the budget (or lack thereof). But God said, “If you’ll trust me, I’ll use you.” And he is certainly using Tillman Road Church of God to accomplish things beyond their own abilities. The Fort Wayne, Indiana, congregation, with an average attendance of fewer than sixty, is touching the lives of nearly three hundred neighbors every single Friday. Continue reading

Kingdom-Minded in Muncie: Mary and Cornelius Dollison

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Photo: The Dollisons and Kirby Avenue Church of God.

By Rachel Eldridge

Unity. Reclamation. These are tough goals. It’s easier to think about them than to do them, far simpler to dismiss them as buzzwords than carry them out, day by day, in the messiness of life. But for Mary and Cornelius Dollison and Kirby Avenue Church of God, unity and reclamation are part of life itself.

“‘Working together, involving all’ has been my motto, and I strive to live it every day,” Mary wrote in a recent column in her local newspaper, expressing gratitude for a Lifetime Achievement Award she recently received. Continue reading

Michigan Ministry Blankets Cold World with Love

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Photo: School children blessed by the quilting ministry.

By Carl Stagner

The world can be a cruel and cold place. Especially for children and families living in poverty. Especially for the homeless. Especially for inhabitants of third-world countries. Congregations and ministries of the Church of God are known across the country and around the world for bringing the light and warmth of God’s love to “the least of these.” One such ministry creates and distributes quilts and blankets to those in need both here and abroad. Mary Scott joins approximately fifteen other ladies and three gentlemen who meet on Mondays at Beaverton Church of God in Beaverton, Michigan. More than a social club, this quilting ministry she leads warms both the body and the soul. Continue reading

The Power of the Cross to Take Back a City

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Photo: Crosses displayed with victims’ pictures inside the church.

By Carl Stagner

Approximately eight hundred murders rocked Chicago in the last year alone. Gang violence is on the rise in many large cities across the country, and Chicago is no exception. While many would rather retreat to the suburbs and write off urban centers as a loss, there is a growing movement of people that won’t give up on the youth, the children, and the families of densely populated areas. The grim statistics might suggest the forces of evil have completely taken over cities like Chicago. But soldiers of the cross like Greg Zanis are fighting side-by-side with congregations like Restoration Church of nearby Aurora, Illinois, to take back their cities. Recently, this reclamation effort took the form of one cross built for each of the eight hundred victims. Continue reading