Tag Archives: Illinois

Pastors Partner to Plant Urban Church, Reach Diverse Demographic

Josh Wagner (left); Keith Spencer (right).

By Carl Stagner

Two are better than one, especially when it comes to church planting. Perhaps nowhere is this more abundantly clear than at United City Church in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Josh Wagner and Keith Spencer share the pastoral responsibility. Yes, one pastor is white and one is black, and this is intentional—they’ve set out to be a diverse congregation; leadership must reflect the congregation they want to be. But it’s not a forced partnership. A common mission binds the dynamic duo, and they don’t just love each other with the love of Christ—they like each other! By learning each other’s strengths, passions, and gifts, they’ve discovered how to maximize their unusual but effective leadership for the glory of God and the betterment of their city. Continue reading

Illinois Church Makes Jesus the Subject, Sees Record Growth

The community knows!

By Megan DeBruyn

From 17 to 100 in just a few short years, the congregation at First Church of God in Marseilles, Illinois, continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. According to Pastor Brian Hefner, the increase in both attendance and congregational participation was entirely the work of the Lord. “Words can hardly describe what has happened here, but I know this: if we can do it, so can you,” Hefner says. “If you are willing to step aside and let God actually take the reins, it can happen.” Continue reading

The Power of the Cross to Take Back a City


Photo: Crosses displayed with victims’ pictures inside the church.

By Carl Stagner

Approximately eight hundred murders rocked Chicago in the last year alone. Gang violence is on the rise in many large cities across the country, and Chicago is no exception. While many would rather retreat to the suburbs and write off urban centers as a loss, there is a growing movement of people that won’t give up on the youth, the children, and the families of densely populated areas. The grim statistics might suggest the forces of evil have completely taken over cities like Chicago. But soldiers of the cross like Greg Zanis are fighting side-by-side with congregations like Restoration Church of nearby Aurora, Illinois, to take back their cities. Recently, this reclamation effort took the form of one cross built for each of the eight hundred victims. Continue reading

A United Church for a Divided World: An Illinois Snapshot


Photo: Gathering Place Church of God marriage retreat.

By Carl Stagner

Remember that slogan? “A United Church for a Divided World.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? But it doesn’t have to be just a slogan, and it doesn’t have to only represent a theme of days gone by. For The Gathering Place Church of God in Fairview Heights, Illinois, it represents present reality. They’re the product of two churches coming together; that is, a predominantly black church and a predominantly white church. While the rest of the world is busy arguing over this, that, and the other, this unified church across the Mississippi River from St. Louis is preoccupied with communicating Jesus to a lost and hurting community. Continue reading

Illinois Church Prioritizes the Lost, Celebrates Revival


Photo: First Church of God (Hoopeston, IL)

By Emily Ploetz

One of the most recognizable signs of life is growth. Growth indicates inner strength, stability, and maturity. As a parent wishes for his or her child to grow up big and strong, we as Christians should long for our churches to be growing, healthy ministries. Though this longing for growth may be fervent, growth in a church is often easier said than done. In 2011, Church of God Ministries celebrated the tremendous growth of Hoopeston First Church of God in Hoopeston, Illinois. In the past five years, 250 baptisms have taken place! As astounding as this is, Pastor Micah Mobley says they’re not done yet. Continue reading

Highview: A Priesthood-of-All-Believers, Disciples-Making-Disciples Church


Photo: Disciple-making disciples at Highview, ready for baptism.

By Carl Stagner

Since when is it the pastor’s job to do all the work of the church? Unfortunately, the notion isn’t too far-fetched for a lot of congregations. But the task of the people-in-the-pew goes beyond making sure the yard gets mowed and the bathrooms are clean every Sunday. Brent Farmer, pastor of Highview Church of God in Washington, Illinois, reminds us that ministry is the work of all the saints. Discipleship, in particular, is a job all growing believers can do. At Highview, disciple-making efforts recently culminated in a festive baptism celebration. In a departure from what has become common practice, the pastor performed none of the baptisms. Continue reading

From Prison to the Pulpit of a Growing Multicultural Church


Photo: Aurora First Church of God

By Carl Stagner

For a number of years, it appeared hell had laid claim to Manny Rivera’s life. But this man, created in the image of God, was reclaimed by Jesus Christ in 2006. Since then, God has increased the spiritual responsibility of this ex-con and former alcoholic. In addition to broken addictions and miraculous healings, the church he now pastors in Aurora, Illinois, has seen more than thirty people saved since Manny stepped up to the pulpit about a year-and-a-half ago. God is using this Church of God pastor in some incredible ways—ways that would have never come to pass had the bullet meant for his life actually taken it. Continue reading

When Faith and Education Collide: Illinois Church Invests in Local School


By Carl Stagner

Cannon Elementary School is exactly one mile from Community Church of God in Danville, Illinois. One mile was just too close to ignore the ten-mile long list of difficulties a school faces from year to year. A couple of years ago, the Holy Spirit placed a burden on the hearts of the missions team at Community to begin reaching out to the faculty, students, and staff of Cannon Elementary. Today, the school has come to recognize that if they are in need, the church is available. Now the church has discovered that the school is there for them, too. Continue reading

Harvesting Hope in Chicago: Mother Carr’s Organic Farm


Photo: Working at Mother Carr’s Farm brings joy to all.

By Carl Stagner

There’s an ongoing harvest of hope taking place in Chicago today. Vernon Park Church of God carries on the legacy of one woman whose impact on the city during World War II can still be felt today. Mother Carr would be overjoyed by the unique ministry of Vernon Park that seeks to grow faith and community—one vegetable at a time. The community garden, which bears the hometown legend’s name, certainly needs no Miracle-Gro. Yet God, whose love is demonstrated by willing hands of those who till the soil, delights in working everyday miracles through Mother Carr’s Organic Farm. Continue reading

Never Underestimate the Power of a Congregation Challenged


Photo: Pastors and children at Pekin First Church of God praying over the books for Yap.

By Johnny Creasong

When the Pekin First Church of God accepts a challenge, they accept it in a big way. While many congregations support missions, the central Illinois congregation has taken on the support of a missionary on every continent through the Living Link program. Now in its third year of raising funds, the Pekin First Church of God supports Dwayne and Kara Goldman in Australia, Jon and Karen Lambert in Ecuador, Ernie and Lori Nicholas in Kenya, John and Jodie Ackerman in Haiti, and Gary and Gwen Bistritan in Micronesia. Continue reading

Boldly Choosing to Build Life: Two Churches Merge in Illinois


By Carl Stagner

One church was a beacon of light in the heart of the city. Another church was an assembly of believers on the edge of town. One church was considered white collar, while the other was considered blue collar. One church was used to doing church a certain way; the other had slightly different tastes. Both churches longed for revival, and both churches served the same Lord. So when Jesus is the subject, culture and preferences fade to the background. When Jesus is the subject, two different churches can come together, build life together, and function together as a single body of Christ. Continue reading

NACOG Unites for 2013 Joint Conference


By Mary Baker-Boudissa

What better way to celebrate a year of worship and service, challenge and change, than coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ for a celebration of our commitment to one another! The 2013 Joint Conference of the National Association of the Church of God, held December 27–30, 2013, was the third such event, bringing together the National Men’s Ministry (NMM), the National Association Women of the Church of God (NAWCG), the National Inspirational Youth Convention (NIYC), King’s Kidz Convention, and the National Association Seniors of the Church of God. The theme, “Holiness and Humility,” was the culmination of NACOG’s yearlong focus on “Advancing the Kingdom through Holiness and Humility.” From conferences to worship services, the Joint Conference focused wholly on equipping and encouraging attendees to experience the fullness of life in Christ. Continue reading

Church of God Brings Disaster Relief to Tornado-Stricken Midwest


Since the late-February, early March onslaught of severe weather across the Midwest, the Church of God has been hard at work in the office and on the ground, restoring broken homes and hearts. Tornados that wreaked havoc on communities in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky did not spare Church of God congregations. With damage ranging from minimal to severe, church buildings and homes of church families were affected at Henryville First Church of God in Henryville, Indiana; First Church of God in Harrisburg, Illinois; Carrier Mills First Church of God in Carrier Mills, Illinois; First Church of God in Salyersville, Kentucky; and Broadway First Church of God in West Liberty, Kentucky. The relief effort is ongoing, but continues to require the support of the body of Christ. Continue reading