Tag Archives: California

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

Pastor Engages the Enemy in Adventure of a Lifetime

Chaplain Miller prays with a Marine Corps Special Operations Team prior to a mission in East Africa.

By Carl Stagner

Calculated risk. Often used in the financial sense, Baron Miller uttered the term in the context of fear. Every time you take a drive in the car or catch a flight on an airplane, is there a chance you might not make it back? Sure, there is. But that doesn’t cancel your travel plans. When firefighters have to rush inside a burning building, or law enforcement are called to a chaotic scene, they don’t hesitate. There’s risk involved, but these community heroes trust their training and their gear to help them stand strong in the heat of the battle. The parallel to the Christian experience is inescapable; the soldier of the cross must engage the battle, must reclaim what hell has stolen. Might it get scary? Possibly. Could it get dangerous? Certainly. But at the fingertips of every believer is an arsenal of spiritual weapons and an array of training options to fully engage in the fight. Engaging the enemy—that’s what Baron Miller’s life has been about—from the halls of the Church of God he founded in Bellingham, Washington, to the shores of Guantanamo Bay. Continue reading

Just Outside Yosemite National Park, Church Seeks to Restore the Wonder

Pastor Bruce Newton speaks about Restore the Wonder.

By Carl Stagner

Fourteen miles south of the entrance to Yosemite National Park at the base of the beautiful Sierra Nevada in central California, you’ll find a Church of God congregation ready and raring to restore the wonder. Not the restoration of a national park or other scenic location—Sierra Pines Church in Oakhurst, California, has set out to restore the wonder of an awesome God. In their community and society beyond, they’ve come to observe a lack of wonder, certainly among non-Christians, but even among born-again believers. Through extensive local and international outreach, apologetics, and innovation that has caught the attention of some of the folks at Disney, Sierra Pines Church isn’t content to be anywhere but at the leading edge of the kingdom. Continue reading

California Christmas Event Reaches 8,000 with Gospel

Christmas scene with the angel and shepherds.

By Carl Stagner

For the past eighteen years, Crossroads Church of God in Yuba City, California, has been hosting a Christmastime event that moves visitors beyond the manger. The “Miracle of Christmas” drive-through experience on the church parking lot truly takes the classic live nativity to a whole new level. Designed for car-fulls of people at a time to witness major incidents of Jesus’ life on earth from birth to death, to resurrection and ascension, the event reaches more than 8,000 people with the gospel in the span of just three evenings. Though the 350 volunteers may never know the total impact of their efforts, individuals often surrender their lives to Christ on the spot, and numerous families simply looking for a holiday activity make Crossroads their church home. Continue reading

Christmas Across the Church of God

Crossroads Church (Yuba City, CA) drive-through nativity (& more!).

By Carl Stagner

The Christmas season is upon us; a quick glance at the social media of a handful of Church of God congregations suggests we are a Movement that knows how to celebrate! Certainly, the birth of Jesus gives us many reasons to celebrate, and that celebration has taken the form of hanging of the greens services, advent readings and candlelighting, choral cantatas, Christmas pageants, caroling, dinners (also known as potlucks, pitch-ins, and carry-ins!), and much, much more. Because the gift of Jesus is meant to be shared with as many people as possible, Church of God congregations have come up with a variety of creative means to share the reason for the season. A number of churches have already reported lives won to Christ, too! The following are just a few of the ways Church of God congregations are celebrating. Continue reading

The Gift Goes On: California Church Captures the Essence of Christmas

Pastor Eric knows by name many who attend Jackets for Jesus.

By Carl Stagner

Sometimes we’re compelled to offer the spare change from the car console, though our default response might be to look the other way. Homeless people are a part of our towns and cities, yet even the Christian community too often turns a blind eye. Everybody’s encountered a homeless person at some point in life, but few choose to respond. Fear isn’t always the cause; it’s often simple lack of know-how. How do God’s people effectively minister to those who don’t have a place to lay their heads at night? Pastor Eric Denton and Central Community Christian Fellowship, a Church of God congregation in Riverside, California, wholeheartedly embraces Jesus’ command to love “the least of these.” Perhaps that’s why they’re willing to hang out on the streets of downtown Los Angeles every Sunday night. Continue reading

Church Steps Out in Faith for the Children, Teens of Atwater, California

Some of the youth group of First Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

Take a look at 2100 Fruitland Ave, Atwater, California, on Google Maps. What you’ll find is that First Church of God is literally a stone’s throw away from Atwater High School. The front-row seat the California congregation has to roughly 1,800 students and their families is certainly incredible, but the church hasn’t sat down to enjoy the scenery. They’ve seized a number of opportunities God has presented them to minister to these teens and their families. What’s more, through their preschool established in 1964, they minister to children who one day accept their diplomas right across the street. Recently the church stepped out in faith to expand the preschool facility, as teachers reap the benefits of a Fruitland Christian School early education, and as parents on a waiting list eagerly knock on the door. Continue reading

Healing, Salvation Follow Intense Week of Prayer at California Church

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Photo: Prayer circle at the Church of God of Exeter.

By Carl Stagner

Have you ever launched a new Bible study, started an outreach project, or tried something totally new, only to see its initial success fall flat? Was there a time when you realized that all the strategic planning and quality efforts going into something just wasn’t leading anywhere? Has it been a while since a powerful move of the Spirit brought healing, salvation, and deliverance into your place of worship? Michael Guzman, pastor of the Church of God of Exeter in Exeter, California, knows the feeling. A week of intense corporate prayer, five times a day, was just what the Doctor ordered. Continue reading

Convention 2017 Speaker Reclaims Destiny Once Stolen by Hell

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Photo: Paul Sheppard

By Carl Stagner

“I am a witness that, not only does God’s grace save us and give us right standing with him when we first accept Christ, but it reclaims and restores us when we’ve failed as believers.” Paul Sheppard, longtime Church of God pastor and scheduled speaker for Church of God Convention 2017, knows firsthand that God is not only in the saving business, but also the reclamation business. His story of failure and forgiveness that we first broke in November 2015 melts even the heart of stone. But more than a year later, the message of reclamation radiates now more than ever from his renewed life and ministry in the one of the largest communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. Continue reading

Miracles in Homeland: California Church Rises from the Ashes

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Photo: Fire engulfs Community First Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

A raging inferno blazed all around it, but it did not burn. The roof collapsed above it, but it didn’t budge. Thousands of gallons of water poured onto it, but it remained in place. The seven-foot wooden cross in the sanctuary of Community First Church of God in Homeland, California, which stood tall in the midst of piles of charred rubble, has since become a visible reminder of God’s faithfulness. Over the next few months, the church’s nightmare would set into motion a series of developments leading to a stronger, healthier congregation and community. Several hours earlier, however, Pastor Mike Gratzke found himself staring in disbelief at the sickening orange glow that illuminated the night sky. Continue reading

Church of God in San Francisco: An Outpost of Grace

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By Carl Stagner

“This definitely isn’t the Bible Belt,” Pastor Mike Moberg explains, as he considers the unique aspects of the prevailing culture in San Francisco. “But when you find yourself saying somebody ought to do something, it’s kind of a dangerous thing.” Mike and his wife Ann began ministering at the Church of God in San Francisco, California, in 1994, and haven’t let up since. While it’s not glamorous spreading the gospel in the city of the Golden Gate, it’s certainly of eternal significance. Like other urban ministry centers, Church of God Outpost struggles for income and attendance, yet celebrates stories of life change you won’t hear anywhere else. This San Francisco ministry team isn’t concerned about a full house, however; they’ve realized they were the ones God was calling to be bold and offer grace to the “least of these.” Continue reading

Hindus Convert to Christianity under CHOG Pastor’s Leadership

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Photo: Indian-American family at Bellflower Church of God picnic.

By Carl Stagner

Eight out of every ten men and women in India identify as Hindu. But did you know that an estimated 2.3 million Hindus live in the United States? Pastor Joel Kant has made evangelism to Hindus paramount as he serves Bellflower Church of God in the heart of the Los Angeles metro area. He’s passing along the baton of faith to anyone who will listen, all because one missionary took the chance on his grandfather in India many years ago. Leaving his secular job in 1985, Joel entered full-time ministry in India and witnessed divine healing, multitudes come to Christ, and the establishment of several new works. Over the past six years, Joel’s evangelism through Bellflower Church of God in Bellflower, California, has produced similar fruit. Continue reading

California Pastor, Former Church Reconcile in Renewal of Fellowship

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By Carl Stagner

Six years ago, the congregation heard the news they never expected to hear. Their pastor had confessed to a moral failure and would resign immediately. Without the sovereign hand of God at work in both the pastor and congregation, this could have easily been the end of the story. Instead, biblical reconciliation, humble hearts, and an unquenchable love for one another prompted what happened next. God’s plan would involve a marriage that held together and now thrives, the complete restoration of a minister of the gospel, and a renewal of fellowship between a pastor and the congregation he’d once served. The story of Pastor Paul Sheppard’s impact in the Church of God and beyond has only just begun. Continue reading

California Pastor Operates ‘Hospital’ for Those Hurt by the Church

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By Serena Ellens

“Everyone who comes to the center is a broken believer. Most of them quit the church, caught in one church fight or another, and hurt by the results. This was their church, and was supposed to be the body of Christ. Everyone who comes here wants a relationship with God, but doesn’t want the church anymore.” These words, from Pastor Daniel Steigman of the Believer’s Spiritual Recovery Center in Corning, California, epitomize one of the greatest struggles the church has ever faced. How can we reach those who have been hurt by the church, and no longer trust in this essential community of believers? Continue reading

House Church Reaches Out to Atheists, Agnostics in California

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By Carl Stagner

What do you get when you take away the church building, the multipurpose gymnasium, the praise band, the flashing lights, and the giant projection screens? If you gather to worship, teach, and witness to unbelievers, you still have a church. For the atheists, agnostics, spiritualists, and deists who connect regularly with the Church of God in Tracy, California, you’re left with just the kind of church they need. AtHome Church has scrapped the “if-you-build-it-they-will-come” notion for one that’s devoted instead to building authentic, long-lasting relationships with those farthest from the faith. Continue reading