Tag Archives: church growth

Restored and Resolute: Pastor’s Painful Past Redeemed for Purpose, Promise

Pastor Ray Hodges preaching the gospel at Resolute Church.

By Carl Stagner

Ray Hodges had personal experience with church; he’d never had personal experience with the risen Christ. Growing up Catholic, he’d acknowledged the existence of God but would confess there was no relationship with Jesus. Even when he began attending the Iglesia de Dios (Church of God) with his girlfriend, it was the kindness of the people, the lively music, and the relatable preaching that he came to know and love. Without the foundation of Christ in his life, the allure of drugs and parties soon became too much to bear. Thankfully, the patience and persistent prayers of his wife and pastor over Ray’s fifteen-year addiction paid off when Jesus Christ gloriously redeemed his painful past for a future of purpose and promise. Continue reading

Stories Merge with Greatest Ever Told at Texas Church Plant

Merge Church team members ready to invite you to “Join the Merge!”

By Carl Stagner

Two thousand five hundred people move to the greater Houston area each week. Efrain Cirilo, pastor-turned-church-planter now living in the metro area with seven million neighbors, says you could plant a megachurch every week and not keep up with the growth. Broad and diverse, such an influx represents the widest variety of stories—Where did they come from? What brought them here? What has their experience been with church? With God? Stories of those far from God tug especially on the heart of Efrain Cirilo. Such stories are but a part of the reason Pastor Efrain and his wife Megan were willing to leave their thriving congregation—and their comfort zones—behind in Kilgore, Texas. With the official launch of Merge Church only a couple months away, they’re rejoicing as stories, disconnected from Christ, begin to intersect with his. Continue reading

CHOG in Northern Brazil Grows at “Incredible” Pace, More Pastors Needed

Seminary student worships at regional youth convention.

By Carl Stagner

Though its roots are in church tradition, today’s festivities of Mardi Gras tend to reflect the worst of culture more than the person of Christ. In Brazil, the celebration of Carnival has similar Christian roots but, like Mardi Gras, hardly resembles its origins. Thankfully, as the Church of God in northern Brazil continues to grow, so does its influence on the culture, especially in the city of Itaituba. Missionaries Jonathan and Beth Todd have been blessed to witness firsthand the mighty move of God in recent years, which has resulted in a good problem to have—they need more pastors. Continue reading

Growing Spokane Church on Front Lines of Freedom Fight

Pastor Randy Hood preaches at New Horizons Community Church.

By Carl Stagner

The status quo isn’t good enough for New Horizons Community Church. Whether you’re talking about the congregation itself, the progress in the fight against human trafficking, or the condition of their surrounding community, the Church of God congregation on the northwest side of Spokane, Washington, believes God has more in store. So, as they finalize preparations to enhance their fifteen-acre property, they’ve determined not to pull back forces from the front lines of the fight for freedom. Instead, they’re all the more resolved to support anti-trafficking efforts to the point of putting other pursuits on the back burner. Continue reading

Canadian Church Invests in Kids, Seeks Community’s Welfare

Pastor Kevin (far right) hosts the dedication of the children/youth area.

By Carl Stagner

Compared to some of the major metropolitan destinations across Canada, the isolated city of Swift Current, Saskatchewan—population 18,000—may seem insignificant. But there’s really nothing insignificant about the community, home to Eastside Church of God, a thriving congregation actively making Swift Current a better place to live, work, and raise a family. Under the visionary leadership of Pastor Kevin Snyder, and without compromising their Jesus-centered message, the church has dealt a serious blow to the forces of darkness as they’ve reclaimed territory—including actual property—from the clutches of hell. Continue reading

Louisiana Church Planter: “The Struggle is Real”

Stephen Nelson at Awaken’s Easter Egg Dash and cupcake giveaway.

By Carl Stagner

Church planting is not for the faint of heart. Attendance ups and downs are normal. Emotional peaks and valleys come standard. Starts and stops are rocky, and twists and turns are plentiful. It’s a roller coaster of an experience and, as Stephen Nelson of Awaken Church, in Natchitoches, Louisiana, explains, “The struggle is real…but God is faithful!” With candor and confidence, Stephen opens up a window to the challenging but life-changing world of church planting as he’s experienced it over the past few years. Continue reading

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

Multiplication in the Midwest Changing the Conversation on Church Planting

Tom Planck leading a CHOG conference at Exponential 2019.

By Carl Stagner

We’re simply not keeping up. Statistics show 4,000 churches are planted each year in the United States and 3,700 churches close. That leaves a gain of only three hundred churches. The overall population continues to rise, while the number of churches to reach people with the gospel lags behind. Perhaps now, more than ever, it’s time to change the conversation on church planting. That’s precisely what Tom Planck and Healthy Growing Churches are doing. The Church of God pastor and church planter is now actively pouring into the hearts of churches and regions to reverse a trend through basic math—multiplication. The numbers are starting to turn in their favor, as multiplication in the Midwest has captured fresh interest and mobilized existing churches like never before. Continue reading

Church Planting Made Easy?

Mark Bane (center) cares deeply about his TLC friends.

By Carl Stagner

If the title of this article doesn’t get your attention, perhaps Mark Bane’s life goal will: “to win as many people to Jesus as possible, then die!” Mark Bane has a lengthy résumé, with everything from youth pastor to “church planting master,” and perhaps that’s why he’s qualified to make such a bold assertion. Can church planting really be made easy? The director of evangelism and new church development for the USA/Canada region of the Church of the Nazarene will join us at Church of God Convention 2019 & General Assembly to explain. A provocative question like this begs for an answer, so, in a recent interview with Church of God Ministries, Mark Bane offers some hints. Continue reading

Oklahoma Church Bursting at Seams Sees 2020 Vision Clearly

By Carl Stagner

When there’s not enough room for everyone in the Sunday school rooms and sanctuary, you’ve got a problem. But it’s a good problem to have when your church’s growth is also spiritual and healthy. The 107-year history of First Church of God in Pryor, Oklahoma, is one of vision, revision, stepping out on faith, and stepping out on faith again. Sure, there have been challenges and the congregation has faced its fair share of mountains. But God has proven himself true time and time again, revealing himself especially clear in recent years. Today, First Church of God is bursting at the seams as it celebrates steady growth from 248 to 409 over the last decade, and 27 souls won to Christ last year alone. This year, they’re seeing God’s vision clearly for all he will complete by the close of 2020. Continue reading

Called to Connect the Inner-City to Christ in Connecticut

Special moment of prayer at New Antioch Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

New Haven, Connecticut, is home to Esau Greene. He grew up in a family well-known to the community, achieving success in school, excelling especially in sports. After college, his story took a turn for the worse. But before it was too late, Jesus Christ not only rescued him from a life of drugs but also called him into ministry. Knowing what it’s like to live on the streets yet highly educated with a degree in human services, and coming from a family of influence yet familiar with the allure of drugs, Esau Greene is God’s man for the job—urban pastor in a college city. Though the church he leads is only three-and-a-half years old, it’s already grown from 5 to some 130 people. Continue reading

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