Tag Archives: turnaround

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

Pastor, Staff Chart New Course for Alabama Congregation

Children and youth at a South River Park VBS.

By Carl Stagner

Don’t assume a declining church is destined to die. God is in the reclamation business, after all. South River Park Church of God in Fairhope, Alabama, was experiencing decline, but God had a plan. Four years later, the congregation that dipped into the thirties is now averaging over one hundred. Approximately thirty individuals have been baptized, and the church is making an observable impact on the community. What was their secret to such a turnaround? A word that excites some, and terrifies others: change. Continue reading

Southern CA Church Restarts as Oasis in the Desert

The church’s worship team went from a pianist only, to a full band!

By Carl Stagner

Drought was setting at the church which had once been home to several high-caliber leaders, such as Herschel Rice and Dean Schield. Numbers had dwindled to thirty on a good Sunday, and a clear vision for the future didn’t exist. New direction was needed to make Oak Park Community Church of Claremont, California (formerly First Church, Pomona) the beacon of hope it once was. Under the pastoral leadership of Jeff Combs, could the congregation again become a wellspring of Living Water? Signs of life in the desert suggest an Oasis is on the horizon. Continue reading

Kentucky Pastor Embraces Movement, Celebrates Church Turnaround

Photo: Pastor Jason smiles during a baptism.

By Carl Stagner

Jason Johnson was not the only one. Whether an e-mail from Church of God Ministries about the latest movement-wide emphasis, a letter from “Anderson,” asking the local church to take up a special offering, or a phone call from the “national offices” asking for a donation, if it originated from central Indiana, it was met with skepticism. After all, the landscape of the Church of God resembled less and less the reformation movement of its earliest days, and it seemed that “Anderson” was largely responsible. This was once the sentiment of Jason Johnson of Prestonsburg, Kentucky. Fast forward a few years. Pastor Jason and Prestonsburg Church of God are some of the loudest champions of the movement today. What happened? Continue reading

Barney Warren, David Biggers, You, and Me

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Photo: David Biggers (far right) greets a member of the community.

By Carl Stagner

Barney Warren, Adam Miller, Eugene Newberry, Hollis Pistole, and David Biggers. David who? In a lineup of prominent ministers of the Church of God, the name David Biggers may seem out of place. But that is not the case at all. Transforming Life Church of God of Baltimore, Maryland, has a rich history of outstanding leaders, a history which continues to unfold. Before Pastor David entered the scene, the congregation had dwindled down to about thirty, mostly white believers in a predominantly African American neighborhood. Four years later, the church sees an average weekly attendance of about three hundred. Continue reading

Partnership Plots New Course for Georgia Fellowship

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Photo: Handel Smith, Joyce Smith, Jason McClendon, Jeff Robinson.

By Carl Stagner

Kingdom-focused ministries demonstrate a keen ability to look beyond their own plights, plans, and programs. They see God working out his big-picture plan on a much grander scale. Competition isn’t on their radar, and when another church or assembly needs a hand, they don’t hesitate to help. Sparse growth, little involvement with each other, and diminishing hope had characterized the Georgia Fellowship of the Church of God in recent years, but kingdom-focused ministries weren’t far away. Eager to see God on the move once again in the Peach State, Church of God Ministries, Florida Ministries, and Illinois Ministries have reached out with love, generosity, and a challenge to embrace a bold turnaround. Continue reading

Three Indiana Churches Unite for Urban Renewal

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Photo: Ad for New Life’s community block party.

By Carl Stagner

A Sunday morning and Wednesday evening preacher. That’s how Stephen Terry, pastor of New Life Church of God in Fort Wayne, Indiana, described his default function at the church for at least four years. As a bivocational pastor, Stephen Terry struggled with what most bivocational pastors struggle with—balancing work, continuing education, family, and the divine calling to shepherd a flock. While there are many great blessings that come with bivocational ministry, it wasn’t long before Pastor Stephen found himself working fifty hours per week in the school system and looking for remaining moments to keep up with his master’s program. Then one day when he was examining the declining health of his congregation and the continuing decline of the community around the church, he realized something had gone wrong. Without opportunity to lead the church, they’d come to a place in their life cycle that required immediate attention. That’s where Church of God Ministries, the National Association of the Church of God, and Indiana Ministries spoke life into the future of New Life Church of God—and ultimately two other Indiana churches. Continue reading

What Satan Meant for Evil, God Meant for Good in Sanford, Florida

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Photo: Worship at Crossings Community Church, Sanford, Florida.

By Carl Stagner

“The first couple of years, we were just trying to survive.” In June 1998, Keith Wilkins accepted the call to pastor the Church of God congregation in Sanford, Florida. The situation was not good. Legal challenges, insurmountable debt, and a small group of people isn’t exactly the description of an opportunity pastoral candidates would get excited about. Well-meaning individuals advised against it, not out of ill intent, but simply trying to be realistic. Bankruptcy and closure made the most sense at the time. But the God we serve loves to defy that which makes sense to us, particularly when he receives the glory. Approaching two decades and countless miracles later, Pastor Keith is glad he chose to stay. Continue reading

So Much to Celebrate: WV Church Nears 300 First-Time Decisions, Looks to Future

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Photo: This year’s community Easter celebration.

By Carl Stagner

You’re now a big church. You’ve poured your heart and soul into the people and the place, the church and the community. The service projects, carnivals, car shows, car washes, neighborhood walk-throughs, mission trips, Easter egg hunts, and “harvest festivals” are too many too count. It might be easy to kick back and relax, to feel like you’ve “arrived.” But nothing could be farther from the truth for Teays Valley Church of God in Scott Depot, West Virginia. Nine years have passed since Melissa Pratt became the senior pastor, and though attendance has jumped almost 500 percent and the number of first-time decisions for Christ is approaching 300, she’s not stopping to stare at the scenery. Don’t misunderstand—Teays Valley knows how to celebrate what the Lord has done like few other churches do. But until all of Putnam County experiences the transforming power of Jesus Christ, it’s full steam ahead. Continue reading

The Camp Warren Strategy: Illinois CHOG Campground Celebrates Turnaround

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By Carl Stagner

Crumbling and outdated facilities, financial hurdles, and declining attendance have prompted many states and regions in the Church of God to sell their campgrounds. But not Illinois. In the face of such obstacles, a steadfast belief in the timeless vitality and relevance of church camping ministry led the General Assembly to commit to the revitalization Illinois’ Camp Warren. After years of investment, research, networking, strategic planning, promotion, hard labor, and plenty of setbacks, regional pastor Eric Livingston says 2016 is on target to be their best year yet. Continue reading

Spiritually-Dying Church in Texas Receives a Breath of Life

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By Serena Ellens

In a town small enough to spit across, a church was dying. Growing stale after years of spiritual drought and disconnectedness among the congregation, the church was tired and desperately needed a miracle to turn its dry bones into an army. Continue reading