Tag Archives: Give Life

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

Black Woman Pastor Takes White Kansas Congregation to New Heights

Presephoni (center, middle row) with part of the congregation.

By Carl Stagner

Liberal, Kansas, never saw it coming. The city of only about 20,000 people couldn’t have imagined the day. Only 3.8 percent of the population is African American, and the new pastor of South Church of God is both black and a woman. Presephoni Fuller is, in fact, the first black pastor in the ninety-year history of the church. Still, Pastor Presephoni takes it all in stride. She doesn’t have time to ponder the uniqueness of her situation; she’s too busy reaching deeper into the community and taking the Kansas congregation to new heights. Continue reading

Fairfax, Safety Harbor Regionals Last but Not Least!

Worship at the Fairfax Regional 2018.

By Carl Stagner

Church of God pastors and laypeople who descended on Fairfax, Virginia, and Safety Harbor, Florida, in September were the last to experience the impact of the Church of God Regional Conventions this year. By no means, however, were they disappointed. They were, in fact, the first to hear featured speaker Kevin Earley and regional guest speaker Brad Lomenick. The tested strategies and insights of host pastor Rod Stafford were only available in Virginia, and the deeply personal dare to dream came only from host pastor Terry Rolen in Florida. Jo Anne Lyon and Jim Lyon spoke at all five Regionals, but instead of tired, overdone messages, they brought refined words, fresh with content, anecdotes, exhortations, and inspiration. After the third 2018 Regional, the events took a three-month hiatus. But based on the new life breathed into the Movement this September, it was a busy summer for the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

Safety Harbor Regional Day 2: Daring to Dream Again

Wednesday evening worship at the Safety Harbor Regional.

By Carl Stagner

Do you dream of a local church that is healthy and growing? Do you dream of unity across racial lines? Do you dream of those “greater works” that Jesus talked about, or victory in a particular spiritual battle? Wednesday, Day Two of the Church of God Regional Convention in Safety Harbor, Florida, was a day of rekindling the fire, reclaiming the passion, and resurrecting dreams once lost in a world prone to busyness, burnout, and a blurring of what matters most. Continue reading

Fairfax First Day a Joyful Celebration of Life

Tuesday evening led by a team from Celebration Church at Columbia.

By Carl Stagner

Earlier this year, an addition to the Fairfax Community Church facility was completed. The new wing, solely devoted to youth and children’s ministry, nearly doubled the size of the building. Gathering for worship and teaching sessions inside the new addition on the first day of the Church of God Regional in Fairfax, Virginia, afforded convention-goers a unique opportunity. While the five electives held on Tuesday afternoon demonstrated a rich depth of ministry insight on the part of the stellar host church staff, activity throughout the day under the church’s new roof served as a constant reminder of the life-giving DNA of Fairfax Community Church. The ideal setting for the kickoff of the fourth 2018 Regional Convention set the stage very well for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit through an interactive dialogue with Ben Hardman and Ben Sternke, moments of worship led by praise teams from Fairfax and Celebration Church at Columbia (Maryland), and an especially potent message from the general director. 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

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

Columbus Convention Calls Church to Courageous, Contagious Christianity

Altars in use at the Church of God Regional in Columbus.

By Carl Stagner

Salt does no good inside the shaker. A candle is useless unless it’s lit. Though Jesus called the church both salt and light, many in the Church of God have observed that we’ve not lived up to that description, often shirking back, afraid of the darkness. At the Church of God Regional Convention in Columbus, Ohio, pastors and lay leaders were present, but the especially powerful presence of the Holy Spirit was what really got people talking. The worship, the fellowship, the electives, and the spoken messages seemed finely tuned, clarifying the charge to the Church of God to boldly reclaim what hell has stolen. At a time when life is so widely taken for granted, when signs of true life are hard to find, and when lives are at stake for people around the world, the Church of God Regional Conventions this year are championing life at all stages, all ages, among all races, and under all circumstances. Perhaps like no convention before it, the Regional Convention in Columbus called the Church of God to courageous, contagious Christianity. Continue reading

Closing Day at Columbus Regional Catalyzes Church to Give Life

Harvey Carey speaks at the Columbus Regional.

By Carl Stagner

You would’ve thought you were in a sports stadium. The sanctuary at First Church of God in Columbus, Ohio, was loud—not because a celebrity athlete was making a great play, but because the Word of God was being preached with conviction and the Spirit’s presence was powerful. From the worship to the fellowship to the receptions, everything came together to drive home the theme of the Regional Convention and hint at next year’s Convention theme. For when God’s people are gathered with Jesus as the subject and begin to reclaim what hell has stolen, the life received is life that cannot be contained! Even Church of God Ministries staff who have attended two or three Regionals to this point have said there was something uniquely special about #LifeColumbus. Continue reading

From the Archives: Life Through Dying

By G. Q. Coplin

The student of botany is familiar with a species of plant known as the agave. This name is from the Greek, and means illustrious. The same plant is now commonly known as the century plant. It received this name because it was supposed to live one hundred years, at the expiration of which it put on its bloom. No one has seen this plant at its best without admiring its stateliness and beauty. However. the idea that the century plant does not bloom until it is a hundred years old is a mistake, for it often sends up its tall spike of flowers when only a few years old; but no sooner does it blossom than the plant begins to wither and die. It has reached the object and goal of its existence, and so it passes away. But from that tall spike falls the matured seed, and a hundred new plants spring up from the soil about the mother stalk. The parent plant gave up its life that new life might spring up in its stead. It meant sacrifice on the part of the old plant, but through its death, life has sprung up a hundredfold. Had the parent plant continued to live this would have been impossible. 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

She Went to Rehab Five Times, Now She’s Helping Others Recover

Tami Dean (photo courtesy Billy Watkins).

By Billy Watkins

It doesn’t take long to find someone who needs addiction recovery. “Just look in the mirror,” says Rev. Calvin D. Waddy Jr., of Central Community Church of God in west Jackson, Mississippi. “When we hear the word recovery, we automatically think about drugs, alcohol or gambling. But everyone—and I do mean everyone—needs recovery of some sort.” Continue reading