Category Archives: Western

Disaster Relief Update: California Wildfires

By Carl Stagner

The multiple wildfires raging in California are reported to be the deadliest in history. Entire communities have been wiped off the map, as the list of missing persons has climbed to well over a thousand. Even the East Coast has observed the effects of the fires as haze drifts across the country. Though rain is in the forecast, the much-needed moisture is also likely to cause dangerous mudslides and even more devastation. Since the wildfires began, Church of God Ministries has urged prayerful support over social media. Now your financial support is desperately needed, too. 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

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

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

All About Jesus in Alaska: Palmer Pastor Celebrates Unity, Mission

Nora and J. R. Stepp in scenic Alaska.

By Carl Stagner

One year has passed since J. R. Stepp became the first black pastor of a predominantly white congregation in Palmer, Alaska. But to Palmer Church of God and Pastor J. R., it’s really no big deal. While they certainly acknowledge the effective witness of multicultural ministry, they’re most concerned about the advancement of the kingdom. Simply put, they’re too busy preaching the gospel in word and action to spend time thinking about their unique situation. As the Spirit convicts and compels the Church of God movement to reconciliation and greater unity, Palmer Church of God offers a glimpse of what it looks like when Jesus is truly the subject. Continue reading

AZ Churches Coordinate Discipleship Strategy, Share Resources Nationwide

Matt Anderson uses the Journal with the Bible for a daily devotion.

By Carl Stagner

The Phoenix Collective was born out of a desire between Arizona Church of God congregations McDowell Mountain, Arcadia City, and Desert City—each with similar missional DNA and past working relationships—to be stronger together. While no legal binding exists, the three churches have formed an LLC to strategically share administrative services, payroll services, and health insurance. Beyond the practical nuts and bolts, there was a desire to be more creative in each church’s discipleship strategy. What if they united to produce a tool that would boost the effectiveness of discipleship among their three congregations? And what if other churches wanted to get involved? Last year, these what-ifs became reality as the first Journal was released. Since then, the results have been perhaps beyond anyone’s expectations. Continue reading

History in the Making: Arizona Church Unearths Time Capsule

Digging up the time capsule.

By Carl Stagner

At 5536 N. 6th Street in Phoenix, Arizona, you’ll find sacred grounds. On these grounds, souls have been won to Christ. Believers have been baptized. Lives have been transformed. Memories—of both challenge and triumph—have been made. Of course, it’s not the address, the parking lot, or the building that make it so special; it’s the Lord, whose providential hand has preserved that space for his glorious work for three decades. And it’s the believers themselves, who had worshiped at another location even longer—since the 1940s. Though the name over the door has changed over the years, the Lord over all has remained the same. In view of The Gathering Place Church of God positioning itself for expansion, congregants from generations past-to-present recently reunited to unearth a time capsule, whose contents not only bring back cherished memories, but speak of an unchanging, eternally faithful God. Continue reading

Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy Find Renewal in the Rockies

The Church of God group represented at the conference.

By Carron Odokara

The Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy (WHWC) organization held its biennial conference in April at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado. Amid the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, over 300 women and men gathered to worship, learn, and be revived. The conference welcomed the Church of God (Anderson), Brethren in Christ, the Free Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Wesleyan Church, and other groups. These faith groups came together under the banner of Jesus Christ to celebrate the biblical foundations of gender equality being fully lived out across the church as women and men lead together, following their holy callings. Continue reading

Simply Ministry: Arizona Churches Respond to Teacher Walkout

By Carl Stagner

There wasn’t much time to respond, but there was no question what had to be done. When public school teachers in Arizona went on strike beginning on Thursday, April 26, the church community didn’t hesitate. Uninterested in taking sides or entering the political fray, the church saw their role as simply ministry. For the single parent who must work during the school day, the church was there. For the student who relies on the school for daily sustenance, the church was there. For a community divided, the church was there with a message of hope. With no certain end to the teacher walkout in sight (as of Tuesday, May 1), Church of God congregations were among those hardest at work to meet the needs of their neighbors. Continue reading

Phoenix, Oklahoma City Regional Conventions Commission All

Friendships, both old and new, are a Regional Convention highlight.

By Carl Stagner

Two of the five Church of God Regional Conventions 2018 are now history, but their impact is still being felt from Alaska to Alabama. Some may have flown to Arizona to escape winter’s clutch on spring, but they stayed to drink from an oasis in the desert. Others may have descended upon Oklahoma City for the fine barbecue, but they stayed because their cravings were satisfied in the life-giving teaching and fellowship. Still others attended, many as first-time guests of a Church of God convention, because this year’s variety of regional locations afforded them accessibility. Challenged to reclaim what hell has stolen, but inspired to fully embrace the Life, attendees of the first two Regional Conventions ultimately climbed in cars or boarded airplanes to return home, ready and resourced to change the world in Jesus’ name. Continue reading

Regional Day 2: Church of God Unleashed for ‘Greater Works’

Don Wilson challenged and inspired on Wednesday night.

By Carl Stagner

Daring to do something about racial reconciliation, champion those far from God, challenge the status quo, or lift up Jesus over all other subjects, the Church of God was inspired Wednesday to reclaim what hell has stolen. It didn’t matter that the sermons stung a bit; truth can hurt, and we needed to hear the truth. It didn’t matter that a Church of God Ministries employee missed the first session of the morning; he encountered a homeless man, was compelled to pray with him, and took the time to purchase the T-shirts he was in need of. It didn’t matter that students from the school across the street from the convention host church hung out on church property, inside and out, after the dismissal bell rang; those students need Christ, and they’ve learned they’re more than welcome at Mountain Park Church—even when a convention is taking place. Continue reading

Times of Refreshing Descend on the Desert: Phoenix Regional Day 1

Ben Hardman, Matt Tebbe lead a training at Mountain Park.

By Carl Stagner

There was not a cloud in the sky as the sun rose on the first day of the Church of God Regional Convention in Phoenix, Arizona. April is no doubt one of the most beautiful months of the year in the Valley of the Sun. But when summer monsoon rains fall in July and August, locals know the dry desert becomes a flood plain. Hardened by weeks and often months with little to no rain, the desert floor cannot receive, but instead initially rejects, the life-giving droplets. Rainwater collects without absorbing into the ground, turning ordinarily dry washes into sometimes deadly, raging rivers. Like pastors and laypeople who minister to others but ignore their own souls, work must be done below the surface to prepare the soil for times of refreshment and revival. Beginning with an anointed discipleship training seminar led by Ben Hardman and Matt Tebbe, and continuing through a variety of excellent events held at Mountain Park Church on Tuesday, convention-goers were encouraged, convicted, and inspired to receive, hear, and embrace the Life. Continue reading

Church of God Gathers in Phoenix for First of Five Regionals

A desert Palo Verde tree in bloom Monday outside the incredible architecture of the new Mountain Park Church facility.

By Carl Stagner

Some are delighted to leave the spring snowstorms behind. Others are grateful to host the Church of God in their part of the country. Certainly the next couple of days at Mountain Park Church in Phoenix, Arizona, will be, for many, a reunion with friends from years past. The first of five Regional Conventions this year will also give attendees the chance to taste fried rattlesnake and cactus fries for the first time, whether or not that freedom is exercised at a nearby steakhouse. Everyone, however, will rejoice in the chance to receive, hear, and embrace life to the full, the kind of experience available exclusively in Jesus Christ. Through enriching conferences, inspirational worship, and powerful preaching—surrounded by desert scenery and warmed by Southwest sunshine—#LifePhoenix is set to spark a spiritual fire in the souls of Church of God pastors and laypeople alike. Continue reading

Prayer Movement Overtakes New Mexico, Gains National Traction

Prayer for New Mexico’s Lieutenant Governor John Sanchez.

By Carl Stagner

All 33 counties in New Mexico are covered. Ninety churches are participating, representing 26 cities. With Jesus as the subject, numerous denominations are represented. They’ve come together in a movement devoted to prayer, a movement which has overtaken the state. From the halls of government, to the classroom, to the streets, this prayer movement has already been proven powerful and effective. For 24 hours a day, every day, 365 days a year, they’ve set out to cover the state in prayer until Jesus comes back. One of the co-founders of what’s been dubbed “New Mexico Prays” is Richard Mansfield, senior pastor of New Beginnings Church of God in Albuquerque. Continue reading

Colorado Church Serves Up Grace, Wins Small Victories

Pickleball at Arvada Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

Across the Church of God movement, large churches are doing some vital, and often incredible, ministries. Often their tremendous successes can seem unattainable to the small church. Balancing multiple jobs, juggling the demands of resources and parishioners, and finding time to squeeze in one more task can seem daunting to the small-church pastor. But God sees. And he’s just as much at work through our small churches. Though they may win more small victories at any given time, churches like Arvada Church of God in Arvada, Colorado, are making a big impact for the kingdom. Continue reading