Tag Archives: community

Seeing God’s Vision, Joining God’s Mission: A Florida Church’s Radical Community Life

Pastor Shawn engages in conversation at a community event.

By Carl Stagner

“Church in the Palms” is spelled out in large letters on the side of the building at 3812 Jog Road in Greenacres, Florida. This does not mean the congregation that goes by the name feels any sense of ownership of the place. For them, the property is God’s to accomplish what he wants done on it. Is it really any wonder then that the ministry hub houses a variety of nonprofits, including ten other churches with worship services taking place in English, Spanish, and Creole? In the past few years alone, Pastor Shawn Allen has led the church to embrace a strategic vision that would inspire as many Christians as possible in Palm Beach County to see God’s vision, connect with God’s people, and join God’s mission. The radical, yet conceptually simple approach to what the pastor calls “missional unity” is already bearing tremendous fruit in and for the community. Continue reading

All-Volunteer Parachurch Ministry Meets Needs, Gives Life in Arkansas

Lines of people waiting to be blessed by Healing Waters.

By Carl Stagner

Consider what just happened the weekend before Thanksgiving. Three hundred thirty meals were served and over two hundred bags of food were given away. For free. No catch. Even more exciting—thirty-eight individuals accepted Christ. But this wasn’t a special holiday outreach. Revival services weren’t planned, and no traveling evangelist had been brought in to deliver an impassioned sermon. Obviously, this wasn’t Easter, yet numerous non-churchgoers were within earshot of the gospel. Far from an unusual occurrence at Healing Waters Outreach Center in Shannon Hills, Arkansas, these kinds of Holy Spirit-happenings take place on a weekly basis! The parachurch ministry supported by the Church of God in Arkansas now has a connection through one of its founding members to the Urban Missions team of Church of God Ministries. Robert Holt gives us a glimpse into the life-giving, far-reaching impact of Healing Waters, and why so many—at least 125 people—choose to volunteer their time every week for the work. 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

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

Church Pastored by CHOG Ministries’ Handel Smith Celebrates Urban Ministry Renewal

Handel Smith with Paul, sub-contractor for the church’s affordable homes ministry.

By Carl Stagner

Church of God Ministries staff are known for their roles they play in the collective work of the Movement. But among those who report to “base camp” day after day are individuals who are very active in their local churches. Some are Sunday school teachers, board members, worship leaders, associate pastors, and senior pastors. Others are laypeople who volunteer and get involved in numerous initiatives and projects at the local church level. When Handel Smith accepted the call to fill an executive leadership position at Church of God Ministries in Anderson, Indiana, he accepted a massive portfolio—oversight of the Movement’s influence and impact in the United States and Canada. His ministry Monday through Saturday—and countless Sundays, too—is extensive and expansive. Though a faithful attender of one of the Anderson-area churches when at home, it soon became apparent that he’d received a special leadership assignment that would both bring God glory and give life to a life-giving soul. Continue reading

Kevin Earley: Aspiring Psychiatrist, Banker Becomes Pastor Instead

Pastor Kevin (far right) with his family.

By Carl Stagner

Much of the Movement knows Kevin Earley. He’s served as senior pastor for the past nine years at the church in Detroit founded by Dr. James Earl Massey. For the past three years, he’s served as the president of the National Inspirational Youth Convention (NIYC). He serves on the board of directors for Anderson University, and he authored the book Every-Member Ministry: Spiritual Gifts and God’s Design for Service, a valuable church resource published by Warner Press in 2013. But many may not know the story behind Kevin’s call to ministry and the journey that brought him to such positions of widespread influence in the Movement today. 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

Japan Congregation Embraces Opportunities to Give Life

Children enjoying a meal provided by the church.

By Bernie and Akiko Barton

April is a time of new beginnings in Japan, with a new school year and the start of a new fiscal year. At Futsukaichi Eiko Christ Church, a new community outreach ministry began this April—Flowers of the Field Meal Service. With more families needing dual incomes these days, kids often don’t have family meal times. Throughout Japan there is a push for meal services to help provide kids with stable, nutritional meals. Our church has started the only meal service in our immediate community. We provide a low-cost, nutritious meal, two Friday evenings a month. The response has been surprising, with almost twenty coming each time so far. Please pray for our pastor’s wife, Kazuko Numa, as she leads this ministry and for church volunteer staff as we relate to our neighbors who join us for supper. 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

Michigan Church Courageously Combats Flint Water Crisis

Distribution of water at West Court Street Church of God.

By Megan DeBruyn

It has been four years, one month, one week, and one day since Flint, Michigan has had access to clean drinking water.

The crisis began back in 2014, when Genesee County implemented a new pipeline designed to deliver water from Lake Huron to the residents of Flint. Shortly thereafter, the city announced that fecal coliform bacterium had been detected in the water supply and issued a water boiling advisory to neighborhoods on the west side of town. The situation continued to escalate into early 2015, when it was announced that the water could be causing serious health issues and an increased risk of cancer. 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

The Clerical Collar-Wearing Pastor Who Planted a Church at Age 77

Pastor Dick Ogle

By Carl Stagner

Dick Ogle’s preferred daily dress is clerical attire—characteristic among some denominations, but certainly not common in the Church of God. Funerals are one of his primary methods of outreach—unusual, but surprisingly potent. Perhaps the most unconventional thing about this eighty-eight-year-old pastor is that he came out of retirement at age seventy-seven to plant a church in Hoisington, Kansas. Today, First Street Church of God is a healthy, growing, multi-ethnic congregation that proclaims the gospel with boldness, and sings straight out of the hymnal. Continue reading

Church of God-Christian Church Merger Still Loving, Serving Minnesota

Discovery Church providing a free oil change.

By Carl Stagner

In 2002, “the talks” started. Two churches, only about two blocks apart, in Saint Paul Park, Minnesota, were loving and serving in a strikingly similar fashion, with nearly identical theology and doctrine. The Church of God congregation was without a pastor at the time, and the youth groups had begun to participate in activities together, discovering they were better together than apart. As is often the case, the younger generation set the example, essentially paving the way for who would ultimately follow: the adults! Authors Barry Callen and James B. North had recently written a book about the similarities between the two Christian fellowships, and they’d heard about the possibilities in Saint Paul Park. Joining the meetings and helping foster dialogue, they celebrated when the Christian Church and Church of God congregation each voted unanimously to merge. A decade-and-a-half later, Discovery Community Church is still loving, still serving their community, state, and world for Christ. Continue reading

Building Up to IYC2018: Indiana Church Breathes Life into Students, Community

Renovation at the new NSpire Church location.

By Carl Stagner

The Latin word spīrāre inspired the name of the Church of God in Westfield, Indiana, now known as NSpire Church. In the Hebrew and Greek, its meaning is understood as having to do with breath, life, wind, and the Spirit. Building up to IYC2018 (July 2–5), the church is preparing to work with IYC students by hosting an Indianapolis-area Impact Day project. As the church transitions out of a season of building and expanding, their partnership with the International Youth Convention is but an extension of who they already are. Leading into a new season of outreach, NSpire Church is breathing life into their community and will soon breathe life into the lives of teenagers attending IYC. Continue reading