Tag Archives: church growth

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

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