Tag Archives: multicultural

Big Apple is Mission Field for Regional 2020 Host Church

Brooklyn Bridge, New York City

By Carl Stagner

Home to more than 8.6 million people, New York City is the most populous city in the United States. The “Big Apple,” as it’s commonly called, is also the mission field for the Church of God of East New York, a congregation which has had a growing influence on the borough of Brooklyn for ninety years. Before a portion of the Church of God descends on the “city that never sleeps” next September 18–20 for the third-and-final Regional Convention 2020, ministry leaders from across the city and places far beyond will return for an anniversary homecoming at the church pastored for the last thirty-eight years by Clifton McDowell. A recent interview with Pastor McDowell shed light on what healthy, enduring ministry looks like among millions of neighbors in such a diverse, fast-paced, and densely populated environment. Continue reading

English + Spanish + Arabic = 3 Congregations Under 1 Roof

Pastors Tim Gould, Huber Maxwell, Mounuir Soliman leading prayer.

By Carl Stagner

While race, language, culture, and politics are just a few of the things that often keep people apart, at 14400 Northwest Freeway just off US Highway 290 in Houston, Texas, Jesus Christ brings people together under one roof. Houston First Church of God, Houston Primera Iglesia de Dios, and Arabic Christian Church offer weekly ministries separately in English, Spanish, and Arabic, but each of these Church of God congregations come together for different purposes throughout the year. One recent example of such unity took place in early October when the three churches gathered at the table for their annual “International Feast.” Continue reading

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

Louisiana Church Planter: “The Struggle is Real”

Stephen Nelson at Awaken’s Easter Egg Dash and cupcake giveaway.

By Carl Stagner

Church planting is not for the faint of heart. Attendance ups and downs are normal. Emotional peaks and valleys come standard. Starts and stops are rocky, and twists and turns are plentiful. It’s a roller coaster of an experience and, as Stephen Nelson of Awaken Church, in Natchitoches, Louisiana, explains, “The struggle is real…but God is faithful!” With candor and confidence, Stephen opens up a window to the challenging but life-changing world of church planting as he’s experienced it over the past few years. Continue reading

Mississippi Church Makes Jesus the Subject, Rallies with Churches Statewide

By Carl Stagner

Two-and-a-half years had built up to this single moment. Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi, would be the location of a church unity event bigger than any in recent history, and representing the widest spectrum of church and cultural backgrounds. Trey Hammond, who pastors Crossroads of Life Church of God in Byram, Mississippi, has held a special place in his heart for unity in the body of Christ. With this in mind, it was a no-brainer for he and his church to support and participate in the April 27 event, and the preparation leading up to the big day, which made Jesus the subject every step of the way. Continue reading

Hispanic Church Coming Soon to West Side of Indianapolis

By Tom Planck and Israel Munguia

The story of the community surrounding Westlake Church of God on the west side of Indianapolis, Indiana, is familiar to many churches across the state. The culture has vastly changed over the past several years. A once mostly Caucasian community has now shifted to include a large population of African American and Hispanic people. Continue reading

Quadrilingual Argentinian-Brazilian Pastor Called to Lead California Congregation

Norberto Obermann (right) with wife Claudia, son Pedro.

By Carl Stagner

It all began with a prayer. A big and bold prayer—that God would lead Norberto Obermann to do something so challenging it could not be done alone. That, without God, it would simply be impossible. Born in Argentina, and having pastored there and in Brazil for the better part of three decades, Norberto would soon see what happens when such prayers are offered up in faithful surrender. Through a variety of unfolding events, he and his family would be called to pastor North Modesto Church of God in Modesto, California. The quadrilingual pastor—yes, he can speak four languages!—was a perfect fit for the rapidly evolving demographics of the north-central California city. It all made sense to the church and the Obermanns. But God didn’t answer their prayer in the way they were expecting. Instead, they embarked on an adventure that would last two years. Continue reading

Virginia Church Commemorates Arrival of First Africans in English North America

By Carl Stagner

Four hundred years have passed since the first recorded African landing in English-occupied North America. It was in 1619 at Point Comfort, now part of Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, that twenty-some Africans from Angola stepped off the transatlantic White Lion and set the stage for the slaves of the subsequent two-and-a-half centuries of American history. Joynes Road Church of God in Hampton has played an integral role to-date in the official commemoration of the pivotal events that unfolded so long ago. Though the special activities and events began during Black History Month this year, community and social involvement is nothing new for Joynes Road. Pastor Simeon Green provides a closer look. Continue reading

Alabama Pastor Installed as President of Korean Seminary

Installation of CHOG pastor Loren Sutton as United Bible Seminary president.

In March 1965, Loren and Elouise Sutton, with their four children, were commissioned to plant a Church of God congregation in Opelika, Alabama. They established Airview Church of God where he served for a season but returned later in life for another season of pastoral leadership. In the six decades since his call to ministry, Sutton has continued to preach as a pastor, evangelist, youth speaker and, for a season, he served as the southeast recruitment and development representative for Anderson University. The most exciting turn of events in Sutton’s sixty-five-year ministry began to take shape in the spring of 2018, however, which ultimately led him to become the president of a Korean seminary. Continue reading

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