Tag Archives: multicultural

CHOG Congregations Celebrate Black History Month

Church of God of East New York dressed for Black History Month.

By Carl Stagner

Cultural traditions and observances have long been a part of the church calendar. While they don’t demand acknowledgement in worship settings, they’ve been used effectively to establish connections between Christ and community, and between the present-day congregation and faithful servants of the past. From “Souper Bowl” Sunday to fall (Halloween?) festivals, from Labor Day picnics to celebrations of God and country (Independence Day), celebrations of otherwise secular occasions are often used by the church to reach neighbors, encourage fellowship, and/or put into practice biblical values. Each February, numerous Church of God congregations celebrate Black History Month and, in so doing, build bridges between church and society, often shining a light on topics sometimes overlooked or ignored by popular culture. Three Church of God congregations in the Northeast offer a snapshot of Black History Month in the Movement. Continue reading

Laying Foundations of Faith South of San Francisco

Ladies celebrate the church’s 60th anniversary in 2018.

By Carl Stagner

San Francisco is well-known for a variety of things. The Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, Chinatown, and the hit song about leaving one’s heart there would probably make the list—to name a few. The Bay Area is probably not well-known for the presence of the church, however. But the Church of God does have a strong presence in the region, and it cannot be discounted. One of the vital works of the Movement in the area is only five miles from the city in a community called South San Francisco. There, Hillside Church of God is actively laying foundations of faith early, across cultural divides, to the marginalized, and over the Internet. Continue reading

Spanish-, English-Speaking Congregations Unite at Altar

Pastor Karen Kier speaks at Altar’s name-change celebration.

By Carl Stagner

Over time, a model of planting Spanish-speaking churches has emerged. Often English-speaking congregations are drawn to the prospect of partnering with a Spanish-speaking church as a missional means to touch a demographic otherwise beyond their reach. In doing so, the Spanish-speaking church uses the building owned by the English-speaking church to conduct worship services. When the Spanish-speaking church gains traction and becomes self-sustaining, they may then choose to purchase their own facility. At that point, the relationship between the two churches can somewhat cease to exist, though it may never have truly materialized in the first place. Tampa, Florida’s English-speaking Oak Grove Church of God and the Spanish-speaking Arbol de Vida have decided to do things differently. Reflecting their heart’s desire to be one church with two cultures, they’ve united at (the) Altar. Continue reading

Rejuvenating the Church of God in New England

Peace Dale Church of God (Rhode Island) elders in fellowship.

By Angela Sagesse

The Church of God in New England consists of ten congregations dispersed between Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. All six states that comprise “New England” consistently are ranked within the top ten of the nation for having the lowest church attendance, thus making this the least-churched area of the country. Yet, the New England Church of God is wanting to turn that around! 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

Renewed into the New Year: NIYC Gives Believers Wintertime Boost

Worship at the NIYC.

By Carl Stagner

In the Church of God, the summer months are known for conventions and camp meetings. A variety of retreats and conferences often take place in the spring and the fall. But as the chill of winter sets in across much of the country, few spiritual retreats and getaways are available. In the wake of the commonly exhausting Christmas season, in view of the blues caused by all the grays outside, and in response to cabin fever, perhaps winter is when retreat is most vital! Thankfully, the Church of God has an answer—the National Inspirational Youth Convention (NIYC). Between Christmas and the end of the year, believers spanning generations and racial lines come together for an annual experience of worship, community, and renewal as the New Year dawns. 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

Students Exemplify Unity Amid Diversity at ONE Event

ONE Event 2018 scenes (credit: Handel Smith).

June 20 and 21, 2018, marked another historic event for youth ministry in the Church of God. The ONE Event was designed to celebrate unity among students, and was sponsored by a leadership team that included representation from the Hispanic Council (Concilio Hispano), IYC, and NIYC. 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

Harvey Carey: Snapshots of an Inner-City Pastor, Church Planter

Harvey Carey’s heart is for all ages in the city.

By Carl Stagner

Jesus is the subject for Harvey Carey. The urban pastor and church planter—also an avid amateur photographer—isn’t affiliated directly with the Church of God, but he’s a familiar face to many in the Movement. The former IYC speaker was invited to speak again to the Church of God, this time at the Regional Convention in Columbus, Ohio (June 19–20). His firsthand experience shining the light of Christ in the inner-city not only informs, but inspires listeners young and old, from downtown to down yonder. This product of the inner-city, turned proponent of the inner-city, challenges Christians to give life to their community—population three, or population three million. 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

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

Reclaiming Life, Kingdom Territory in Central California

By Carl Stagner

Like the dawning of a brand-new day, the Holy Spirit is breathing new life into the Church of God in central California. Over the past five months, several structural and functional changes have been received warmly by a family of congregations seeking direction and revival. Under the leadership of their new regional pastor, Michael Guzman, the Central California Association of the Church of God has since developed strategies to increase efficiency, maximize potential, and take back what hell has stolen. The gates of hell have no doubt begun to shake, as these strategies are already beginning to bear fruit. Continue reading

Pastor of All People: Ministries Council Secretary Called to Lead Amid Diversity

Pastor Vincent Miller and family.

By Carl Stagner

“Everybody has a different fingerprint. I just think this is my fingerprint.” At Church of God Convention 2017 in Wichita, Kansas, many were first introduced to Vincent Miller, who accepted the role of secretary for the Ministries Council earlier this year. But he isn’t new to the Movement at all. Vincent’s ministry in the Church of God has spanned several states, as has his fingerprint, as he puts it. What is his fingerprint? To pastor ethnically and culturally diverse congregations. Because Jesus is the subject, Vincent knows that diversity does not have to equal division. Because Jesus is the subject, not skin color or language, unity amid diversity can be a powerful witness to the amazing love of God. Now entering his second year as pastor of First Church of God in Tampa, Florida, Pastor Vincent Miller is more eager than ever to give witness to the love of God available in Jesus Christ. Continue reading