Category Archives: Great Lakes

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

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.
Continue reading

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