Tag Archives: church growth

Transformation Begins Outside the Walls in West Texas

Community block party at the new church facility.

By Carl Stagner

Deep in the heart of west Texas, surrounded by semiarid plains and prized oil country, you’ll find the small city of Odessa. Though it may not garner much media attention, a remarkable story of transformation is developing out of the city’s young Church of God congregation known as New Dawn Fellowship. Focusing more on discipling new believers and not simply packing the pews, the church has celebrated relatively slow, but healthy growth. The congregation, 90 percent previously unchurched, has rejoiced at more than 30 salvations, more than 30 baptisms, and multiple rededications in just three years. On August 5, after outgrowing its previous facility, the community-oriented church enjoyed a grand opening worship service in their new home, welcoming 154 people through their doors. Continue reading

Fairfax Host Pastor Furthers Family’s Influential Legacy

Rod Stafford preaching at Fairfax.

By Carl Stagner

Growing up in the shadow of his older brother isn’t an accurate description at all. Seventeen years separated the two of them, but very little else did. Sibling rivalry wasn’t an issue, neither was the need for either brother to be in the Church of God limelight. In fact, Gilbert Stafford was more of a second father figure for Rod, the senior pastor of Fairfax Community Church in Fairfax, Virginia. Rod Stafford considered Gil a role model, though he never planned to follow in his family’s ministerial footsteps. As the Church of God Regional Convention at his home church nears (September 18–19), Pastor Rod Stafford opens up about life, family, and calling. Continue reading

Rooster Brings Louisiana Church, Community Together

Gabriel, the rooster, just outside the church window.

By Carl Stagner

You’ve heard of the angel named Gabriel. But you probably haven’t heard of Gabriel, the rooster. Since November, the fine feathered friend of Pleasant Ridge Church of God has become quite the phenom across the small city of Hammond, Louisiana. Like a guardian angel, “Gabe” stands watch Sunday after Sunday at the front entrance to the church, seemingly crowing Amens at just the right moment during Pastor Sarah Morgan’s sermons. Adored by adults and children alike, the rooster has not only captured the hearts of the congregation, but also the attention of neighbors and passersby. Continue reading

Poplar Bluff, Missouri: Capacity Crowds Require a Coliseum

Worship on Easter at the Black River Coliseum (credit: Nico Cuevas).

By Carl Stagner

Last Easter, West Side Church of God in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, welcomed a crowd of about 640 people between two services. With average attendance running 17 percent higher this year than last, they expected about 750 people to be present on April 1. Leadership had to prepare for sufficient seating and ample parking, all of which could not be found at their facility. As they dreamed of the possibilities, they concluded that capacity crowds would require booking the local coliseum for their Easter gathering. Good thing they did—some 1,400 people showed up! That’s especially remarkable when you consider the church had declined to just 25 people less than four years ago. Continue reading

How a Growing Nontraditional Traditional Church Plant Began in Arkansas

Packed house for worship at Faith Fellowship.

By Carl Stagner

They have no formal training in church planting, but they’ve planted a church. Their worship and ministry style is neither flashy nor trendy, yet they’ve attracted a crowd. There was no market research conducted before their launch service, yet they’re already making disciples. Kevin and Danielle Edgar recently returned to a community they knew and loved, and simply began preaching the Word of God, singing a few gospel songs and hymns, and building friendships. Faith Fellowship Church of God is a growing, nontraditional, traditional church plant in Paragould, Arkansas. They may be doing things differently, but they’re certainly getting things done, and the results are both God-glorifying and hell-shaking. Continue reading

Partnership Vital to Ministry for The Church at Bradenton

Kid’s ministry is extremely important to the The Church at Bradenton.

By Carl Stagner

Pastor Ancil Abney says their church is all about “storming the gates of hell and making a difference for eternity.” For some, such a bold statement might be dismissed as a tagline without substance or a catchphrase without strategy. But for The Church at Bradenton, it’s not just theory; it’s practice. Something as dangerous as storming the gates of hell should not be attempted alone, though, and this Florida church knows it. That’s why they’ve strategically assembled a stellar staff, partnered with the city, and offered space and grace to other churches committed to advancing the kingdom. Especially as Easter 2018 approaches, they’re making it clearer than ever that Jesus is the subject. Continue reading

A Good Problem to Have: Richland, WA Church Outgrows Current Facility

Construction in the lobby.

By Carl Stagner

In May 2013, we shared the story of a Church of God congregation in Richland, Washington, that tripled its attendance in just four years. The church understood then, as it does now, that God gives growth to his church, but there are a number of things local fellowships can do to attract the interest of the community, while supporting numbers with intentional discipleship and follow-up. For some, the question nearly five years ago might have been, Could such growth—both numerical and spiritual—be sustained? Apparently so. We’ve followed up with Columbia Community Church—locally known as C3—and have discovered they recently encountered a big problem. Their current facility—particularly their lobby and restrooms—are too small for their weekend crowds. Continue reading

Côte d’Ivoire: From 25 People to 25 Pastors 20 Years Later

An early member of the church presenting a gift of a photo of the first congregation in Abidjan.

By Carl Stagner

Twenty years ago, the picture of the Church of God in Côte d’Ivoire looked nothing like it does today. Roughly twenty-five individuals, mostly English-speaking immigrant Christians from other African countries outside of French-speaking Côte d’Ivoire, composed the new fellowship. Near the end of November 2017, the Church of God in Côte d’Ivoire celebrated its twentieth anniversary, and the incredible kingdom gains that have taken place approximately twenty-five pastors—and two thousand believers—later. Missionaries Larry and LeAnn Sellers have been there since the beginning and were present at the anniversary. To mark the occasion, we offer the Church of God beyond Côte d’Ivoire a brief look back at how God has been at work over the past two decades in this West African nation, as well as a glimpse of where the ministry is headed. Continue reading

God is On the Move in Egypt

Jim Lyon speaks to leaders in Egypt.

By Ken Oldham

The birth of the Protestant Reformation is attributed to Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church (Germany) on October 31, 1517. All across the region, this 500th anniversary has been remembered, and the evangelical churches in Egypt began planning months ago to have a special event of their own, encouraging each church group to seek international guests to join the celebration. The Church of God in Egypt was delighted to have Global Strategy regional coordinator Patrick Nachtigall, U.S.-Canada general director Jim Lyon, and Pastor Marcus Archer of Crosspoint Church (Natchez, Mississippi) accept their invitation to join the celebration, November 17–19, in Cairo. Continue reading

Leadership and Longevity: An Alabama Pastor’s Personal Experience

Pastor Milan with friend Domique Billups, special needs ministry.

By Carl Stagner

Statistics don’t tell an altogether encouraging story when it comes to the average stay of a pastor. Some recent surveys suggest the average is on the rise, but the present picture of pastoral tenure in the United States and Canada could certainly improve. Milan Dekich accepted the senior pastorate at Fairview Church of God in Falkville, Alabama, when the size of the church was about twenty-five. Thirty-seven years later, he preaches to a gathering of 450 strong, and has helped plant two churches and assisted in the revitalization of a third. Just because the congregation is doing well today doesn’t mean the struggle hasn’t been real. In fact, it has, and there were times Milan might have preferred to throw in the towel. But a commitment to God’s plan kept him there, and today he’s blessed to share a few of the experiences he’s had, as well as a few of the lessons he’s learned along the way. Continue reading

Illinois Church Makes Jesus the Subject, Sees Record Growth

The community knows!

By Megan DeBruyn

From 17 to 100 in just a few short years, the congregation at First Church of God in Marseilles, Illinois, continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. According to Pastor Brian Hefner, the increase in both attendance and congregational participation was entirely the work of the Lord. “Words can hardly describe what has happened here, but I know this: if we can do it, so can you,” Hefner says. “If you are willing to step aside and let God actually take the reins, it can happen.” Continue reading

Cowboy-Turned-Preacher Spurs Church to Reclaim Health, Hope

Pastor Terry Ames

By Carl Stagner

His horse was one of his closest companions. From the hat on his head to the spurs on his boots, he fit the profile. He and his buddies would go from one town to the next to rob banks and end up in a shootout. But it was all an act—at least the robbing banks and shootouts part! From time to time, his acting job would include a minor role in historical movies and western television shows. He really did own a horse, however, and they were inseparable. He did also come from a small farm and enjoys wearing cowboy hats. The acting career is behind him now, though. Terry Ames has matters of eternal consequence to attend to. For the past couple of years, he’s carried out the task of turning around a declining Kentucky congregation which, at its lowest point, survived an attempted takeover. Continue reading

WV Church Reclaims Hope Amid Opioid Crisis, Prostitution, and Poverty

Clothing giveaway at Madison Avenue Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

In small towns, big cities, and everything in between, drug abuse is out of control. Especially dangerous is the increasingly popular opioid. Not limited to its common appearance as heroin, addiction to pain killers is also growing concern, as are the deadly additives fentanyl and carfentanyl. Far more complex than a cause-and-effect scenario, a vicious cycle connects the opioid crisis, prostitution, and poverty. Madison Avenue Church of God in Huntington, West Virginia, has declared war on these three products of hell. In the heat of the battle, they’re seeing bonds broken, hope restored, a once-declining church grow again, and a city slowly being reclaimed for Christ. They’re taking back what hell has stolen. Continue reading

Tenacity Tested: Texas Pastor, Church Poised for Turnaround

Fun at a drug awareness event sponsored in part by the church.

By Carl Stagner

It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. Pastor Lila Clay is acutely aware of the fact that leading a declining church into a new season of growth is no easy task. She pastors NorthPointe Church of God in Nacogdoches, Texas, a small-but-growing congregation on the cusp of turnaround. Though the congregation has grown from eight to an average of forty on Sunday mornings, they’re not taking a timeout to look back at their exciting journey. There’s too much kingdom work yet to do, and there’s simply too much at stake. Still, NorthPointe is one church whose struggles have met their match against a commitment to prayer, patience, and purpose. Continue reading

Church of God in Latin America Experiences Robust Growth

Photo: Bolivia national camp meeting, Easter 2017.

By David Miller

A report on the “220 Challenge”—Desafío 220 in Spanish—presented to the 2017 Inter-American Conference (IAC), a representative assembly of the nineteen countries in the region, suggests that the Latin American church has grown by nearly one-fifth since 2011. Continue reading