Tag Archives: West Virginia

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

Church of God Responds to Deadly West Virginia Floods

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Photo: Volunteers load disaster relief supplies into a trailer at Teays Valley Church of God.

By Carl Stagner

It’s one thing to see the news coverage of the West Virginia floods from a television screen or handheld device, but each photo and video clip represents a living nightmare for the residents of the Mountain State. According to the latest reports, at least 23 people have lost their lives, hundreds—if not thousands—of homes have been destroyed, and rising waters have wiped out bridges and made roads impassable. Forty-four of fifty-five West Virginia counties were under a state of emergency after more than a foot of rain fell in some parts. Experts suggest that such an enormous amount of rain in a short period of time is likely to happen only once in a thousand years. Sadly, Church of God congregations were not immune to the loss of life, homes, and church property. Praise the Lord for the local churches that banded together almost immediately to bring aid to the region! Now you have an opportunity to come alongside those who are bringing disaster relief to West Virginia. Continue reading

Holy Cow! WV Children Tackle Hunger with Livestock

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Photo: Tyler Weiford, ready to support sustainable hunger relief.

By Carl Stagner

Imagine a world where a McDonalds or a Taco Bell couldn’t be found on every corner. Recent news coverage cited a report that showed, for the first time in history, Americans spend more money on eating out than on groceries. In stark contrast, the convenience of a fast food restaurant—let alone, a supermarket—just doesn’t exist for some three billion people around the world. Even where fresh food is available, extreme poverty only prohibits adequate nutrition. The children of Teays Valley Church of God in Scott Depot, West Virginia, have decided to do something about the problem. They’ve raised money to purchase a cow. Continue reading

On the Cutting Edge: West Virginia Church Offers Free Haircuts

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Photo: Free haircut at Teays Valley Church of God, July 2014.

By Carl Stagner

We were created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10). The best kind of good works are the kind that meet real needs. In July, Teays Valley Church of God in Scott Depot, West Virginia, hosted a day of free haircuts, free hair products, and plenty of free hugs and expressions of God’s love. In a culture that often questions the authenticity of churchgoers, the compassion behind these friendly faces was genuine. Continue reading

WV Church’s Dream a Step Closer to Reality

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On Sunday, April 6, at 2:00 PM, Teays Valley Church of God in Scott Depot, West Virginia, will be one step closer to seeing their dream of a new community center realized. The church will break ground to develop the seventy-four acres of property they own, known as Teays Valley Acres. The fast-growing church has plans to develop the seventy-four acres into a recreation park, conference site, and community center. “God has given us a vision to serve our community by meeting the needs of the whole person,” said Dr. Melissa Pratt, the church’s pastor. “This is the first step in a multiphase plan to create a space that is open for our community to use every day of the week.” Continue reading