Tag Archives: creativity

Java and Jesus: Michigan Ministry Does Discipleship Differently

Cultivate Coffee & Tea storefront in the mall.

By Beth Ehlert

Editor’s note—In July, Healthy Growing Churches began publishing a series of articles called “Fresh Expressions of the Church.” Since then, they’ve shared the stories of visionary leaders thinking “outside the box” about church. In the following article, Beth Ehlert introduces you to Matt Chesney of Eagle Ridge Church of God in Midland, Michigan. The story’s not about Eagle Ridge so much, however, as it is about a separate creative ministry given to Matt and his senior pastor, Bill Greiner. This unique, fresh approach to church isn’t a once-a-week gathering; it’s an outreach that’s making a daily impact on their community.

The Calling

The moment Matt became a Christian, he began to hear little whispers saying, “You need to be a pastor.” Over and over again, the Voice would call, and Matt would push it away, believing he already had his dream job as a teacher, school builder, and principal. What more could he want?

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Thanksmas

By Jennifer Neal

As an accountant, my approach to Scripture can be pretty formula-driven. I read a text like 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus,” and I see three parts. First, give thanks; second, in all circumstances, and third, it’s God’s will. This is really straightforward in my mind, but let me tell you a story of just one way this can be demonstrated in our daily lives. Continue reading

Fresh Expression of Church Empowers Everyday Missionaries

Amanda (far left) and team wearing aprons symbolizing servanthood.

By Carl Stagner

They don’t have their own building, and they won’t be renting a school or a movie theater as they grow. They have no ambition to get big; in fact, they’ll multiply before they ever attract a crowd. They’re not looking to raise up associate pastors who will open a second campus. If they had a website, you wouldn’t find service times listed. The Foundry, based in Columbia City, Indiana, is not your typical church plant. It’s a “fresh expression” of church, and it’s designed to train disciples to use their spiritual gifts to make more disciples—at home, at work, and at play. Continue reading

Church of God Commemorates Veterans Day, Remembrance Day

Veterans Day 2019 tribute at Teays Valley Church of God, Scott Depot, WV.

By Carl Stagner

When cool, crisp breezes begin to blow through the colorful spread of autumn across much of the United States and Canada, you can be sure that anticipation for the Thanksgiving holiday is on the rise. Many may not know that Canada’s Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday of October and doesn’t resemble everything the American holiday has become, especially Black Friday shopping—and that’s probably not a bad thing! But on November 11, the United States and Canada set aside the same day to honor the sacrifice of servicemen and women, and such an occasion should not be bypassed for turkey and football. Canada’s Remembrance Day may look a bit more like Memorial Day in the United States, as they seek to honor those who have fallen in service but, like Veterans Day, many in the Church of God choose to acknowledge and utilize this cultural observance as an opportunity to show the love of Jesus in tangible ways. Continue reading

Art Exhibit Enhances Church’s Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

Portrait of a martyr at Maiden Lane Church of God. Credit: Julia Armstrong.

By Carl Stagner

Before this year’s General Assembly resolution about prayer for the persecuted church ever passed, the next International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church was already on Pastor Mark Martin’s radar. Maiden Lane Church of God in Springfield, Ohio, had already made the November observance an annual occurrence, but this year’s event took on a life of its own, raising the bar for years to come. Leading up to the first weekend in November, Maiden Lane Church of God transformed their activities center into a prayerfully interactive art exhibit, wholly dedicated to the persecuted church across the globe. Continue reading

Pastor Appreciation Month: Fifty Creative Ways to Bless Your Pastor

By Brian Kluth

Across America and the world, pastors and church staff members faithfully serve and love their congregations. Many pastors and staff members have followed God’s call on their lives to serve the Lord and their churches, regardless of the sacrifices they make. National research shows that most pastors are operating with limited financial resources to meet their families’ current and long-term needs. Fortunately, God is bigger than church paychecks and has many ways he can provide for his shepherds and workers through the generosity of God’s faithful people this Pastor Appreciation Month and throughout the year. Continue reading

Christmas Outreach on a Small Budget

By Tammy Tilley

Everybody tunes in to Christmas. On December 25, stores close, work shuts down, and everyone stops what they normally would be doing to celebrate.

What, exactly, they’re celebrating is a different story. As culture grows more post-Christian, no longer can we assume families know the story of Christ coming to earth as a baby; if they do know the story, they may see it only as a legend or myth.

What do we do to redeem the season in our communities? How do we point our neighbors, schools, and family members back to Jesus in any sort of resonant, meaningful way? Continue reading

Daughters of the King: Missouri Church Leads Effort to Reach Girls for Christ

High-energy worship experience at Jesus Girls 2019.

By Carl Stagner

Four years ago, the children’s pastor at First Church of God in East Prairie, Missouri, was in the middle of a conversation with a group of moms about issues their daughters were facing. It seemed that a common problem among the church girls was the presentation of an image at church on Sundays that didn’t match the one they lived out during the week. Dawn Walters recounts how she and this group of moms envisioned an evening experience designed especially for girls where the gospel would be presented clearly, where such topics would be addressed from a biblical perspective, and where the girls would make wonderful memories. Considering prevalent bullying, stressful relationship dynamics, social media craziness, and more, it was clear something needed to be done, particularly before those trying teenage years, to instill in the hearts of girls the love, acceptance, and security found in Jesus alone. Continue reading

Midnight Meditations: Gethsemane Experience Draws Church to Watch and Pray

Maiden Lane congregants gather to “watch and pray.”

By Carl Stagner

Unless you work third-shift or suffer insomnia, chances are you were asleep at midnight on Good Friday this year. Not Pastor Mark Martin and a good crowd of people from Maiden Lane Church of God, in Springfield, Ohio, though! With the aid of the Holy Spirit—and perhaps an extra cup of coffee—they could be found gathered at church, embarking on a unique adventure like never before. Inspired and challenged by Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:36–46 to “watch and pray,” even for just an hour, they took a spiritual journey back to the Garden of Gethsemane to reflect on the gravity of that historical moment, and ultimately prepare the way for a victorious Easter celebration. Continue reading

Arkansas Church Reclaims Dance as Expression of Worship

First Church worship dance ministry in action!

By Carl Stagner

Though dance appears twenty or so times in the Bible, and usually in the context of worship, it’s encountered some resistance in the church over the years. Certainly dance, like other artistic expressions, can be used in ways that bring dishonor to the Lord. But like so many Church of God congregations today, First Church of God in Paragould, Arkansas, has found a way to reclaim what hell has stolen. They’ve redeemed dance, and use it regularly to worship the Lord and communicate the message of Christ. Continue reading

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

A Year of Living with Less: Ohio Pastor’s Family Accepts Radical Challenge

The Deeter family.

By Carl Stagner

No more trinkets or toys. No more new clothes or that pair of shoes you’ve just got to have. No more DVDs, home décor, or kitchen appliances—even if they’re on sale! Absolutely no more trips to the department store or the mall simply to browse the selection—that would be too tempting. Josh Deeter, pastor of First Church of God in Tallmadge, Ohio, and his wife Emily, accepted the challenge early this year to make 2018 their “year of living with less.” The goal: to stop buying things for an entire year. Don’t worry—they’re still buying deodorant, tooth paste, food to eat, and necessary items that break. Half-way through the year, they’ve learned a lot about themselves, how much God has truly blessed them, and that living with less can mean living for so much more. Continue reading

Kentucky Church Sews Quilts of Comfort, Reaps Harvest for Community

Quilting at Meade Station Church of God.

By Betty Thacker

Meade Station Church of God has a quilting ministry that began in 2009. This ministry consists of a group of women who make lap quilts for hospice patients that are in the hospice center in Ashland, Kentucky. We also give quilts to people in the church that are sick. Over the past nine years, we have given away hundreds of quilts. Last year alone, we gave away approximately two hundred quilts. Continue reading

Florida Pastor Offers Fathers, Husbands Tools for Life

Joshua and family celebrating the ministry of Man Wisdoms.

By Carl Stagner

Meet Joshua Zarzana. The young pastor from the Northwest has recently moved to the Southeast, accepting the lead pastor role at Spirit Lake Community Church of God in Winter Haven, Florida. But just because his ministry setting and title have changed doesn’t mean one of his greatest passions has dried up. In fact, Joshua’s heart for men’s ministry remains strong and seems only to be growing. And it shows, as his ongoing platform to reach men can now be accessed anywhere WiFi or data is available! Through regular video posts, Joshua’s “Man Wisdoms” outreach offers nuggets of wisdom tailored especially to the particular needs of men at home, work, church, society and more. With Father’s Day in view, the need for godly husbands and dads is perhaps arguably greater than ever, and Joshua Zarzana has chosen not to sit on the sidelines. He’s cheering his fellow man on to the goal set before them through Jesus Christ. 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