Tag Archives: West Virginia

Growing Churches Take Giant Steps Forward with Christ-Centered Lender

Catalyst Church ribbon-cutting ceremony.

By Carl Stagner

Two Church of God congregations, one in West Virginia, and one in Indiana. Both healthy, strong churches, but both facing “good” problems. Surges in attendance, coupled with distinct, significant transitions in each church, meant ministry momentum might no longer be sustainable without an outside voice and trusted partner. It wasn’t long before they discovered in Mark Senseman and CDF Capital an inside voice with experience not only in financial capital, but also spiritual capital. Southridge and Catalyst Churches had reached within the Church of God and found the crucial knowledge and outside perspective to take giant steps toward greater kingdom impact. Continue reading

Scarred but Restored: Ministry Gives West Virginia Women Second Chance

Lori Meadows baptizing one of the ladies she’s invested in.

By Carl Stagner

Often derided and dismissed, they’re considered the fringe of society. In chains and often in danger, they stand in need of rescue. Made beautifully in the image of God but scarred within, they are the “least of these” and must not be ignored. That’s what Lori Meadows recognized while riding the roller coaster of emotions when her daughter was nearly swallowed up by the quicksand of drug abuse several years ago. While walking alongside her daughter, God opened her eyes to the brutal world of women suffering from addiction. In time, she and the ministry she founded called Recovery Warriors became inextricably connected to Southridge Church, the Church of God congregation in South Charleston, West Virginia. In mid-November, the church hosted a spiritually potent “Beauty Day” for the ladies of the local recovery home. The occasion was yet another reminder that these “warriors” are totally committed to giving West Virginia women a second chance. Continue reading

Unstuck and Unleashed: Small Indiana Church Thinks Big

As First Church grows, they don’t forget to have fun together!

In the summer of 2016, First Church of God in Marion, Indiana, found themselves without a pastor. With only forty folks on average in attendance on Sunday mornings, they weren’t sure how to move forward. Determined not to give up on the mission they believed God was calling them to in their community, they sought a bi-vocational minister who could lead them in a restart. By September, they found just the pastor God had intended for them. Continue reading

Unexpected Journeys Lead Pastor to Niche in Teaching, Blogging

Scott Beha

By Carl Stagner

Southridge Church is a thriving Church of God congregation nestled in South Charleston, West Virginia. On Easter Sunday, they rejoiced to welcome over 700 for worship, an all-time high. Already this year, the church has celebrated the baptism of 20 believers. Eighteen months ago, small-group participation had declined to about 60; since then, the number of participants has topped 200. Outreach into a women’s recovery center has brought more than 150 additional guests, many of whom have since been saved and baptized. A strong partnership with an elementary school has helped the church make major strides in the advancement of the kingdom, even as the school permitted the church to host an Easter egg hunt for students during the school day! Lead executive pastor Michael Coker and lead teaching pastor Scott Beha are thrilled to be a part of Southridge during such an exciting time in the church’s history. But Scott wouldn’t have been there to experience it firsthand, except for a series of unexpected journeys that also helped him find a God-ordained niche in teaching and blogging. Continue reading

West Virginia Church Rises from the Ashes—Literally

Dedication service crowd fills the new sanctuary!

By Carl Stagner

It was nearing the middle of the night on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Instead of sleeping, several of the saints of Green Valley Church of God, in St. Albans, West Virginia, were wide awake. They’d gathered in the parking lot, gazing in horror as smoke and flame engulfed the place where they’d accepted Christ, got baptized, grew in their faith, and/or made lifelong friends. Thoughts raced through their minds: What’s next? How will this affect the ministry here? What in the world does God have in mind? In the trauma of the moment, God’s sovereign hand was hard to detect. But out of the bad, God was working for the good, ushering in a new beginning for Green Valley Church of God. Continue reading

A Sure Bet: West Virginia Pastor’s Kid Reclaims “Wasted Years”

Duane singing “He’s All I Need.”

By Carl Stagner

Duane Clarke was raised in a Christian home with loving, godly parents. As a PK—“pastor’s kid”—he heard the gospel preached more times than he could count, whether at Middle Grave Creek Church of God near Moundsville, where his father was senior pastor, or at Ash Avenue Church of God, where his father had served as Sunday school superintendent. At age fifteen, while attending youth camp, Duane went to an old-fashioned altar and asked Jesus into his heart. Soon after, he followed Jesus’ example in baptism. But when this young sports fan checked into a local bar to purchase Lakers tickets, he was inadvertently introduced to sports betting. It wasn’t long before he was thrust into the world of gambling, and for thirty years, he couldn’t find his way out. Hell stole much from Duane Clarke’s life, but Jesus would have the last word. Continue reading

Youth Pastors, Regions Unite to Prepare Students for Christ-Centered Leadership

Students worshiping the Lord at 3SLI.

By Carl Stagner

IYC and state youth conventions do a tremendous job inspiring students to come to Christ, to rededicate their lives to the Lord, and to accept the unique call God has placed on their lives. Most of the students leave these mountain-top experiences having experienced life change to one degree or another, but some also leave recognizing God has called them to lead. Just after the turn of the new century, several youth pastors from the Midwest came together to identify the best way to prepare such students for lifelong Christ-centered leadership. In 2003, 3SLI (then the Tri-State Student Leadership Institute, now Tri-Level) was launched to serve students in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. When West Virginia was added, the name 3SLI didn’t change—and neither did its resolve to come alongside emerging leaders. Continue reading

Motorcycle Ministry and the Church of God

Bikers gearing up for a ride at Owingsville First Church.

By Carl Stagner

The Church of God movement is known for making Jesus the subject—looking past ethnic and cultural differences for the Lord’s sake. Recognizing that the call to ministry doesn’t distinguish between male and female, and reaching our hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one—regardless of color of skin, or name over the church doors, for example—the Church of God has placed a premium on unity, holiness, and the mission of reaching anyone and everyone with the gospel. It should be no surprise then, that over recent decades Church of God congregations across the country have developed motorcycle ministries that really make a difference. Often stereotyped and frequently feared by a four-wheeled society, the distinct culture and community of bikers has proved a field ready for harvest in the Church of God. Continue reading

Warner Press Releases Groundbreaking Book by CHOG Woman Pastor

Warner Press continues its strong relationship with the Church of God by publishing the first book of longtime, influential pastor, Melissa Pratt. Pratt’s new book, Impact: That’ll Leave a Mark, adds a new resource for women (and men, too!) by a woman to the Warner Press repertoire. Impact shares how you can use your role as a disciple of Jesus to change and impact others’ lives for the better. Continue reading

WV Church Reclaims Hope Amid Opioid Crisis, Prostitution, and Poverty

Clothing giveaway at Madison Avenue Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

In small towns, big cities, and everything in between, drug abuse is out of control. Especially dangerous is the increasingly popular opioid. Not limited to its common appearance as heroin, addiction to pain killers is also growing concern, as are the deadly additives fentanyl and carfentanyl. Far more complex than a cause-and-effect scenario, a vicious cycle connects the opioid crisis, prostitution, and poverty. Madison Avenue Church of God in Huntington, West Virginia, has declared war on these three products of hell. In the heat of the battle, they’re seeing bonds broken, hope restored, a once-declining church grow again, and a city slowly being reclaimed for Christ. They’re taking back what hell has stolen. Continue reading

Unfinished Business: God Orchestrates New Beginnings through WV Plant

Inside the sanctuary of New Beginnings.

By Carl Stagner

Sunday, September 17, will be celebrated by several church networks as National Church Planting Day. Just in time for such an observance is the news that West Virginia’s first Church of God plant in thirty years is another step closer to its January 2018 launch. West Virginia is excited to boldly get back into the multiplication business! Their focus is on Kenova, where three-fourths of the community is considered “de-churched.” Though the doors to the Church of God at 1616 Polar Street were once closed, they find themselves open again, with nothing but new beginnings in store. Continue reading

The Church of God in the U.S. Celebrates Thanksgiving

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Photo: Turkey giveaway at Jubilee Christian Church, Boston, MA (courtesy jubileeboston.org).

By Carl Stagner

In the Church of God in the United States, Thursday, November 24, 2016, will not just be another day to stay home from work. While many must clock in on Thanksgiving Day, others who don’t have to are choosing not to sleep in, kick back on the sofa, and watch football all day. Instead, they’re choosing to give back. Ephesians 2:10 is written on the tablet of their hearts, and their appetite for serving others is greater than their appetite for turkey and all the trimmings. They understand that thankfulness and giving go hand-in-hand, and that such values must not be restricted to the fourth Thursday in November. Nevertheless, in worship, in teaching, in good works, and in fellowship, the Church of God loves to celebrate Thanksgiving. Continue reading

Changing Gears: Pastor Takes Wheel of Bus Ministry

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Photo: Pastor Jonathan Secrest at the wheel of a bus.

By Carl Stagner

God doesn’t call everybody to drive a forty-five-foot-long double-decker bus. That’s probably a good thing. But Jonathan Secrest was not just called to drive a bus. He was also called out of a career in youth ministry to steer a bus ministry toward a brighter future as its director. Unconventional? Perhaps. But not at all unqualified. Jonathan’s journey of experiences has prepared him for this moment, and opportunities to reach the lost and strengthen the believer abound around every curve. 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

UPDATE: Disaster Relief Following West Virginia Floods

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Photo: Teays Valley Church volunteers loading relief supplies.

By Carl Stagner

Sometimes the greatest ministry moments happen in the midst of the greatest tragedy. Bob Daniels, pastor of Highland First Church of God in Rainelle, West Virginia, says it’s their story. It’s also been true for Scott Beha, who serves as teaching pastor of Southridge Church in South Charleston, West Virginia. Though Highland First Church suffered some structural damage, they’re doing what they can to help others displaced and in great need. Though Southridge Church didn’t suffer structural damage, they’ve dropped everything to reach out to homeowners and churches—whether a part of the Church of God movement or not—and make a difference in the name of Jesus. Christ-followers in West Virginia are now rejoicing that, in addition to homeowners receiving help and hope, some are also receiving Christ as Savior and Lord. Continue reading