Category Archives: Great Lakes

Growing Churches Take Giant Steps Forward with Christ-Centered Lender

Catalyst Church ribbon-cutting ceremony.

By Carl Stagner

Two Church of God congregations, one in West Virginia, and one in Indiana. Both healthy, strong churches, but both facing “good” problems. Surges in attendance, coupled with distinct, significant transitions in each church, meant ministry momentum might no longer be sustainable without an outside voice and trusted partner. It wasn’t long before they discovered in Mark Senseman and CDF Capital an inside voice with experience not only in financial capital, but also spiritual capital. Southridge and Catalyst Churches had reached within the Church of God and found the crucial knowledge and outside perspective to take giant steps toward greater kingdom impact. Continue reading

Taking the Plunge: Couple Chooses Life, Gains Life

Nick and Sidney Truax embrace after he baptized her.

By Carl Stagner

Young adults. Unplanned pregnancy. One, a wandering believer; the other, lost. The cards were certainly stacked against them. Nick and Sidney knew they had options—separation was on the table, and abortion wasn’t out of the question. A baby’s heartbeat, a wedding ceremony, a church that loved them, and a half-decade of patient prayer culminated this past fall when, accompanied by joyous applause, Nick performed the baptism of his own bride. Continue reading

Java and Jesus: Michigan Ministry Does Discipleship Differently

Cultivate Coffee & Tea storefront in the mall.

By Beth Ehlert

Editor’s note—In July, Healthy Growing Churches began publishing a series of articles called “Fresh Expressions of the Church.” Since then, they’ve shared the stories of visionary leaders thinking “outside the box” about church. In the following article, Beth Ehlert introduces you to Matt Chesney of Eagle Ridge Church of God in Midland, Michigan. The story’s not about Eagle Ridge so much, however, as it is about a separate creative ministry given to Matt and his senior pastor, Bill Greiner. This unique, fresh approach to church isn’t a once-a-week gathering; it’s an outreach that’s making a daily impact on their community.

The Calling

The moment Matt became a Christian, he began to hear little whispers saying, “You need to be a pastor.” Over and over again, the Voice would call, and Matt would push it away, believing he already had his dream job as a teacher, school builder, and principal. What more could he want?

Continue reading

Fresh Expression of Church Empowers Everyday Missionaries

Amanda (far left) and team wearing aprons symbolizing servanthood.

By Carl Stagner

They don’t have their own building, and they won’t be renting a school or a movie theater as they grow. They have no ambition to get big; in fact, they’ll multiply before they ever attract a crowd. They’re not looking to raise up associate pastors who will open a second campus. If they had a website, you wouldn’t find service times listed. The Foundry, based in Columbia City, Indiana, is not your typical church plant. It’s a “fresh expression” of church, and it’s designed to train disciples to use their spiritual gifts to make more disciples—at home, at work, and at play. Continue reading

Art Exhibit Enhances Church’s Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

Portrait of a martyr at Maiden Lane Church of God. Credit: Julia Armstrong.

By Carl Stagner

Before this year’s General Assembly resolution about prayer for the persecuted church ever passed, the next International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church was already on Pastor Mark Martin’s radar. Maiden Lane Church of God in Springfield, Ohio, had already made the November observance an annual occurrence, but this year’s event took on a life of its own, raising the bar for years to come. Leading up to the first weekend in November, Maiden Lane Church of God transformed their activities center into a prayerfully interactive art exhibit, wholly dedicated to the persecuted church across the globe. Continue reading

“Progressive” Revival Strengthens Unity Among Central Ohio Churches

The Columbus-area revival pastors at Kimberly Parkway CHOG.

By Adrian D. Powell

Five Church of God congregations organized and participated in revival meetings at five different locations around the Columbus, Ohio, metro area, in early October. The pastors met for over a year together and had planned to do revival differently than the traditional way, and bring hope to the greater Columbus area, which is home to 2.4 million people. Not unlike a progressive dinner, where you might begin at one location and go to a different house for each course of the meal, the pastors agreed to this kind of unique approach. Continue reading

Dayton Churches Distribute Love in the Wake of Disaster

Salem Church disaster relief team removing debris from yard.

By Carl Stagner

Memorial Day weekend wasn’t all barbecues and sunshine across the Midwest. Especially from central Indiana to the Dayton, Ohio, area, festivities were cut short on May 27 due to an outbreak of tornadoes, the likes of which most residents had never seen. More than a dozen tornadoes touched down between the state line and the Interstate 75-Interstate 70 interchange, with winds up to 170 miles per hour in the worst twisters, one of which was a half-mile wide. To make matters worse, these storms came after dark and hit many low-income neighborhoods the hardest. Without hesitation, the Church of God sprang into action, offering assistance wherever it was needed. Even since the newness of the tragic events has worn off and the national spotlight on Dayton has dimmed, congregations like Salem and Hopeland continue to distribute helping hands, supplies, and love in the wake of disaster. 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

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

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

Michigan Pastor Reaching Across Generations: “I Wanna Be On Their Phones”

Pastor Tom Whitesel

By Lane Webb

Tom Whitesel, pastor of Ithaca Church of God in Ithaca, Michigan, has become aware, and has adapted, to a change in the way community is expressed. Whitesel, the founder of the 24Today podcast, spoke on the matter during an interview, where he stated that he believes times are changing and, along with this, values are changing. This values shift reflects the decrease in church attendance. Whitesel clarified that his church’s core values are “Loving God, Loving Each Other, and Loving Community,” and, through this, he believes he can reach farther than most church’s in today’s age, the Digital Age. Continue reading

Hispanic Church Coming Soon to West Side of Indianapolis

By Tom Planck and Israel Munguia

The story of the community surrounding Westlake Church of God on the west side of Indianapolis, Indiana, is familiar to many churches across the state. The culture has vastly changed over the past several years. A once mostly Caucasian community has now shifted to include a large population of African American and Hispanic people. Continue reading

At the Crossroads: Indiana Churches Initiate Plan to Multiply

The crowded entryway of County Line’s new campus church.

By Carl Stagner

Nate Tatman had no idea how pivotal that moment would be. He’d been in the office of Indiana Ministries when something caught his attention. The map of the state on the wall wasn’t anything new; he remembered seeing it before. But what he hadn’t noticed was the distribution of push pins on the map, which indicated counties that did not have a Church of God congregation. In particular, he noticed this time that there were thirty-seven counties in total with no Church of God congregation. And that’s when things began to get interesting. Continue reading

Retired Police Chaplain Looks into Rearview Mirror, Sees Ripe Mission Field Ahead

By Carl Stagner

John Crose is the son of influential Church of God missions figures, Lester and Ruthe Crose. With a name like Crose, you might assume he’d follow in his family’s footsteps abroad. God did call John to the mission field, but of a different kind. For twenty-one years, John Crose took the hope and healing of the gospel into all the world of police chaplaincy. His new book, The Exciting World of a Police Chaplain, chronicles firsthand accounts of ride-alongs with law enforcement, difficult death notifications, pastoral counseling, and sharing the gospel with unbelieving officers, family members, and persons affected by police-related matters. Though retired today, his experiences of the past predict an ever-increasing need for police chaplains. Continue reading