Category Archives: Great Lakes

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

Detroit-Area Churches Continue to Pursue Unity

Detroit-area pastors and leaders together in July.

By Albert Grant

Editor’s note—The Detroit, Michigan, metropolitan area is home to more than twenty Church of God congregations. While much of contemporary society seems to be looking for more reasons to divide, local Church of God pastors and laypeople of these churches are actively seeking ways to unite. They already have one reason to unite, and his name is Jesus. Of course, Jesus is the subject for these congregations, and they’re demonstrating once again this summer the power of uniting under the Name above all names. In January, we told the story of their efforts, and we’re blessed to report their pursuit of unity continues.
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A Year of Living with Less: Ohio Pastor’s Family Accepts Radical Challenge

The Deeter family.

By Carl Stagner

No more trinkets or toys. No more new clothes or that pair of shoes you’ve just got to have. No more DVDs, home décor, or kitchen appliances—even if they’re on sale! Absolutely no more trips to the department store or the mall simply to browse the selection—that would be too tempting. Josh Deeter, pastor of First Church of God in Tallmadge, Ohio, and his wife Emily, accepted the challenge early this year to make 2018 their “year of living with less.” The goal: to stop buying things for an entire year. Don’t worry—they’re still buying deodorant, tooth paste, food to eat, and necessary items that break. Half-way through the year, they’ve learned a lot about themselves, how much God has truly blessed them, and that living with less can mean living for so much more. Continue reading

Out of Death, Life: Gathering Celebrates CHOG History, Ohio Church’s Unique Story

Nyle Kardatzke highlighting stories of the CHOG in Elmore, OH at the recent Historical Society retreat.

By Carl Stagner

Stories connect us. They connect us to each other, to our roots, to our God. Stories help us learn from our past—to repeat the good and avoid the mistakes. Jesus used stories to communicate concepts with his listeners, and preachers do the same today. Individuals like the Church of God historian (Gary Agee) and our archivist (Nicholas Stanton-Roark), as well as groups like the Historical Society, strive to preserve, tell, and retell stories, too. Their stories take place within the context of the Church of God movement, and all point to the love of an eternal Father whose provision is not bound by time and space. At a late-June gathering of the Church of God Historical Society in Anderson, Indiana, Nyle Kardatzke was invited as a guest speaker to highlight some of the common experiences of “growing up Church of God”—both serious and whimsical—as well as the unique story of one Ohio church that came to life in the wake of death. Continue reading

Michigan Church Courageously Combats Flint Water Crisis

Distribution of water at West Court Street Church of God.

By Megan DeBruyn

It has been four years, one month, one week, and one day since Flint, Michigan has had access to clean drinking water.

The crisis began back in 2014, when Genesee County implemented a new pipeline designed to deliver water from Lake Huron to the residents of Flint. Shortly thereafter, the city announced that fecal coliform bacterium had been detected in the water supply and issued a water boiling advisory to neighborhoods on the west side of town. The situation continued to escalate into early 2015, when it was announced that the water could be causing serious health issues and an increased risk of cancer. Continue reading

Building Up to IYC2018: Indiana Church Breathes Life into Students, Community

Renovation at the new NSpire Church location.

By Carl Stagner

The Latin word spīrāre inspired the name of the Church of God in Westfield, Indiana, now known as NSpire Church. In the Hebrew and Greek, its meaning is understood as having to do with breath, life, wind, and the Spirit. Building up to IYC2018 (July 2–5), the church is preparing to work with IYC students by hosting an Indianapolis-area Impact Day project. As the church transitions out of a season of building and expanding, their partnership with the International Youth Convention is but an extension of who they already are. Leading into a new season of outreach, NSpire Church is breathing life into their community and will soon breathe life into the lives of teenagers attending IYC. Continue reading

Fifty Years and Counting: Ohio Pastor’s Longevity at One Church Inspires

The congregation honoring Pastor Walls for his faithful service (Image courtesy Ferman Brown Photography).

By Carl Stagner

They came from near and far. Pastors, politicians, family, friends, and members of the community descended upon East Second Street First Church of God in Xenia, Ohio, for a very special and very unique occasion. On Sunday, March 18, notable Church of God figures addressed the over-capacity crowd, including—but not limited to—Ed Foggs, former executive secretary of the Church of God; Miki Merritt, presiding elder of the National Association; Demetrius Booker, associate state pastor of Ohio Ministries; Timothy Clarke, senior pastor of First Church of God in Columbus; and Dennis Kidd, senior pastor of Front Street Church of God in Hamilton, Ohio. Morning and afternoon services, complete with preaching, presentations, and powerful moments of worship, celebrated the sixty-five-year ministry of Dr. J. Douglas and Lady Donna Walls: fifty faithful years at one church. Continue reading

Dozens Saved, Baptized as Revival Breaks Out in West Liberty, Ohio

By Carl Stagner

Nate Wilcoxon wasn’t having the best day. It was Baptism Sunday, and four of the eight originally scheduled to be immersed had backed out at the last minute. Not only that, he’d been at the church half the night, trying to get the rusted old baptistery ready for water—something it hadn’t seen for quite a while. Still, the pastor of First Church of God in West Liberty, Ohio, persisted, preached a bold message of repentance, and told the story of his own unplanned-yet-providential baptism experience. When Nate asked if anyone else wanted to be baptized, thirty more individuals came forward, roughly half of whom accepted Christ on the spot. March 4, 2018, will go down in history as the day revival swept through West Liberty, Ohio. Continue reading

Three Children Find Family through Children of Promise

Northside supporters holding up “We love you…” signs.

By Maria Neathery

On Jan. 1, 2018, Northside Church of God in Springfield, Ohio, made the compassionate decision to sponsor three children—Simon, Natan, and Paskali—from three different countries: Nepal, India and Tanzania. When the church received the child profiles encouraging them to support Children of Promise, they felt the need to not just support one of the children, but all three. Continue reading

Faith Promise, Individuals Fuel Ohio Church Mission Trip to Belize

First Church missions team stands behind a Belize flag.

By Johnny Creasong

The First Church of God of Shelby, Ohio, will send a mission team to the Central American country of Belize for a nine-day construction work camp in March. Led by Larry Cramer, president of Quality Plumbing and Heating of Shelby, this year’s group includes Michael Graham, Lydia Laug, Gwen Robertson, Larry Cramer, Sally Bevier, Mike Skidmore, and James DuBois (not pictured), a former church member now living in Nevada. Lydia, a fourteen-year-old freshman from Crestview High School, the youngest member of the team, is following a family tradition of service. Lydia’s two older sisters have gone on work camps to Belize previously. Continue reading

Victory in Jesus: Fort Wayne Ministry Gives Life to Women in Need

Victory House leadership celebrates a success story!

By Noel Marquis

Since its creation in 2010, Victory House has offered hope and extended the message of Christ’s love to over 150 women in need. Victory House, which is hosted by Destiny Life Center, a Church of God congregation in Fort Wayne, Indiana, serves women in transition by offering them temporary housing and advancement opportunities. In addition, Victory House provides the chance to grow closer and delve deeper into God’s Word. Continue reading

Local Churches Set Aside Differences, Establish and Sustain Community Ministry

Volunteers from local churches help sustain the ministry.

By Carl Stagner

Another title of this article could have appropriately been, “Local Churches Set Aside Differences, Discover They Can Do More Together.” That’s because this is exactly what happened when Operation Love Ministries was formed in Anderson, Indiana. The collaboration and unity among churches representing multiple denominations and cultures make this yet another Jesus-is-the-subject story, and a potential model for other communities. Today, twenty-seven area churches prayerfully and financially support the parachurch organization, also giving governance to the work. As a result, these local churches have access to a tried-and-tested resource to more effectively help neighbors in need. Continue reading

Detroit-Area Churches Practice Unity, Partner for Community

Detroit-area Church of God leaders gathered together.

By Carl Stagner

Unity, one of the Movement’s foundational doctrines, has, for too long, been preached but not practiced. The move from theory to practice, from conceptual to functional, is desperately needed, and is possible when Jesus is the subject. Church of God congregations in the Michigan cities of Detroit and Flint, for example, understand this. That’s why they’ve come together to worship the Lord and to partner for the betterment of the cities. When the people of God are united, not only is the community better off, but so is the church. In southeastern Michigan, a historic fall gathering demonstrated this blessed reality. Continue reading

From 30 Times Behind Bars to 30 Years in the Pulpit

By Carl Stagner

He was barely a teen when he was arrested the first time. Between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five, Paul McCulley was put behind bars a total of thirty times. Charges ranged from truancy to assault, and he was also court martialed three times. His shackles—both seen and unseen—would soon fall off after Jesus Christ changed his life, however. Not only did Paul McCulley become a Christian, but he also entered full-time ministry. Until he retired in 2014, he served the Lord as a senior pastor for thirty years. But he never really retired. Paul McCulley’s gripping testimony is too good to put on the shelf, there are too many people that still need to hear it. Today Paul continues a dynamic ministry program to the incarcerated and their families, turning what the devil meant for bad into something very, very good. Continue reading

A Pastor’s Amazing, Agonizing Adventure of Adopting Special Needs Children

Ralph loves Ana and each of his adopted children.

By Carl Stagner

If you’ve been to many camp meetings across the country, chances are you’ve sat under the bold preaching or inspirational worship leading of pastor and evangelist Ralph Watts. The pastor emeritus of Columbus West Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, is used to sharing Bible stories and passages that point to Jesus Christ. But his own story points to Christ, too, one that is nothing short of remarkable. He and his wife Karen have fostered a total of thirty-five special needs children over the years, and have adopted fourteen. Continue reading