Tag Archives: Easter

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

Church of God Missionaries to Sri Lanka Heartbroken After Easter Attacks

By Carl Stagner

Celebration of the risen Christ ended early and abruptly on Sunday, April 21, in Sri Lanka, as the deadliest violence in a decade devastated the island country south of India. More than 300 people were killed and another 500 injured in a series of bombings that struck churches and hotels in the cities of Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa. As investigations continue, the Church of God fervently prays for the injured, families of victims, first-responders, and churches affected both directly and indirectly. Steven and Peggy Beverly, missionaries for Global Strategy to Sri Lanka, were just beginning their home assignment at the time of the incident. Their updates on the situation reveal their broken hearts. They would prefer to be with the suffering people they’ve come to love than safe in the U.S. right now. 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

Spanish-Speaking Church Planted in Florida on Easter Sunday

Pastor Isaias Marquez speaks at the launch service on Easter.

By Carl Stagner

Now, more than ever, the Sunshine State is primed for the gospel. The normal flow of migration to Florida from Spanish-speaking countries presents a tremendous opportunity for Hispanic church planters. But, in the wake of last year’s hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico, Spanish-speaking people have left the territory for Florida in droves. Isaias and Laura Marquez, pastors of a congregation in Lake Wales, are always on the lookout for possible church plants. Observing the lack of Hispanic churches in the Winter Haven area, they reached out to First Church of God to consider hosting a new work. On Easter Sunday, Iglesia de Dios in Winter Haven was born, offering the hope of Christ to Spanish-speaking residents while extending the reach of First Church beyond what they could have ever imagined. Continue reading

Church Scraps Traditional Palm Sunday Programming for 33 Service Projects

Wildwood team serving at a local school.

By Carl Stagner

They’d never done Palm Sunday like this before. Instead of the usual Sunday morning programming, Wildwood Church of God in Ashland, Kentucky, dared to be different. The church has a history of serving their community but, until Palm Sunday 2018, hadn’t attempted something on such a grand scale. After gathering for a brief worship service, more than 700 people left the church building to go out and be the church in a wide variety of settings. Through 33 different service projects, they would demonstrate the love of Jesus in tangible and meaningful ways to their neighbors. In the end, however, it was clear that the congregation also experienced God’s love on a whole new level. Continue reading

From the Archives: Living the Resurrection

By Curtiss Paul DeYoung

Our time is traumatized by tragedy; people are looking for a word of triumph. Our day is darkened by despair; people are searching for a word of deliverance. Ours is an hour haunted by helplessness; people are seeking for a word of hope. We, as Christians, have that word: resurrection! 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

Twenty Pastors Combine Efforts, Offer Movement Free Holiness Devotional

By Carl Stagner

Three pastors walk into a restaurant. They sit down, enjoy lunch together, and chat about life and ministry. Then they start imagining. What if? What would happen if a handful of Church of God ministers came together to create a devotional resource on one of the Movement’s founding emphases, such as holiness? What if younger and older pastors, as well as missionaries and seminary professors, from different backgrounds, all contributed to the final product? What if, then, this resource were offered to the Church of God at no cost? No joke, no kidding! This meeting of longtime ministry colleagues John Mattern, Jonathan Frymire, and David Aukerman turned out to be the catalyst for the creation of a devotional on the topic of holiness, designed for use between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Continue reading

Creativity, Generosity, Boldness Characterize Easter Celebrations

Photo: Lord’s Supper drama at First Church, Inverness, Florida.

By Carl Stagner

As a pinnacle in the church year, some might get the feeling that it’s all downhill from Easter. But perhaps Pastor Paul Strozier of Madison Park Church of God in Anderson, Indiana, said it best last year in an article he wrote: “The baskets have returned to the attic, the plastic eggs are being recycled, somewhere in the house there is at least one purple Peep left unconsumed—at least until the toddler finds it…But can we really let the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ wait a whole year to be acknowledged and celebrated again? Easter never ends for the follower of Jesus Christ…Imagine how it might change our homes, our families, and our communities if we lived every day with resurrection power, hope, and joy.” For Church of God congregations across the country, Easter has only just begun! Here’s a look at how churches observed Easter week. Continue reading

Subject to Jesus: Louisiana Pastor Reflects on ‘Jesus is the Subject’

By Stephen Nelson

Jesus is the subject. Yes, a recurring theme on my blog, in my social media feed, in my sermons, and in my conversations. This is because this has become the constant theme of my life. It’s Easter weekend, and our senses are more in-tune with Jesus. It brings to mind questions about empires, crucifixion, and the resurrection. And also, are Jesus and the Easter Bunny friends? And, why do bunnies lay multi-colored eggs once a year? Continue reading

Church of God Gears Up for Easter

Photo: Cornwall Church’s Skagit Valley “Tulip Team” members.

By Carl Stagner

Jesus is the subject, no doubt about it. The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ—from birth, to death, to resurrection—is one we exalt from Sunday to Sunday, Christmas to Easter, and throughout the year. It’s no wonder that Church of God congregations across the country and around the world are pulling out all the stops for a week of worship, reflection, outreach, community service, and celebration. Throughout the movement, churches are preparing for community Easter egg hunts and festivals, Communion, Good Friday gatherings, Sunrise services, breakfasts and brunches, stations of the cross, special music and drama—and of course, footwashing. Continue reading

From the Archives: An Easter Gift for Jesus

By Richard L. Willowby

Happy Easter! Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord of the church. Jesus is the center of the universe. Jesus is raised from the dead. The church’s greatest thanksgiving pours out for the sacrifice of Jesus on the bloody hill of Golgotha. The church’s greatest celebration yet leaps to meet Jesus’ resurrection. The church’s greatest hope will be fulfilled in the consummation of the victory when Jesus gathers the church unto himself and to God for eternity.

In the meantime… Continue reading

Creative Easter Expressions Communicate Christ across Church of God

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Photo: Children lift the cross beam at Main Street Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

It might seem to some that the pinnacle of the church year has passed, but for congregations across the Church of God, the joy of Easter is celebrated every week. With increased attendance and greater curiosity from a lost and hurting world, opportunities abound from the beginning of Holy Week through Resurrection Sunday. Not unlike last year, Easter 2016 saw souls surrendered to Christ and new believers baptized in numbers too great to count. Jesus was clearly the subject of Easter, and the story of his death and resurrection was clearly communicated from the pulpit to the pew. Hundreds of our churches chose to communicate such truth in especially creative ways. A few of them shared their experience with Church of God Ministries leading up to Easter 2016. Continue reading

MACU to Present Holy Week Observance Event for Community

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Mid-America Christian University (MACU) Choir has recently returned from a very successful tour of the Midwest. The tour, which included performances in Illinois and Michigan, ended just in time for the MACU School of Music to host, “Beneath the Cross of Jesus: A Holy Week Worship Service of Scripture and Song.”

MACU faculty and students welcome the public to join in poignant reflection on the Lenten season and prepare for Easter through scripture readings, sacred music, and a homily by campus pastor Johnny Bland. Continue reading

Six-Week Devotional Journal Coming from Warner Press

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The six weeks before Easter are an ideal time to renew our Christian discipleship practices. In early February, Warner Press will release A Devotional Journal for Daily Spiritual Apps to guide Christians in this Easter season tradition. Continue reading