Capacity for Better: Church of God Day One Delivers Doses of Reality and Expectancy

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Church of God Convention, Southeast

By Carl Stagner

There’s nothing flawless about a movement of fallible people. Sure, God’s one universal church—the glorious bride of Christ—is holy and blameless, but the organized activities of mere mortals down through the history of the Church of God family haven’t always been entirely smooth, funded adequately, or accomplished with one voice. The first day of the 2023 Church of God Convention and General Assembly demonstrated this reality, but not without offering a healthy dose of expectancy. After all, the Lord is still on the throne, and the Church of God was his brilliant idea. From the pre-conference electives to countless compelling conversations in the Tampa Convention Center hallways, from the opening session of the General Assembly to the kickoff worship session with receptions that followed, one common thread emerged: God has lavished blessing after blessing upon the Church of God movement, and we have the capacity for better.

Did you attend one of the many electives that began as early as 8:00 Thursday morning in the Tampa Convention Center? If you did, you probably noticed a wide variety of options, possibly even wrestling with how to narrow down competing, intriguing possibilities. The atmosphere in each conference room was warm and engaging, signaling a selection of topics pertinent to the ministries pastors and lay leaders care about most. In large part, the electives covered issues relating directly to the work of pastors and local congregations, but always in the context of the broader work of God. Attendees faced the grim reality of statistics concerning burnout in ministry, but also unrelenting hope that the necessity of soul care is spreading rapidly in ministry circles. Convention guests heard about the excruciating reality of widespread depression and suicide, but were offered good news about efforts made toward prevention—as well as strategies to mitigate the malady in one’s local sphere of ministry. Others attended seminars detailing the reality of church conflict, congregational decline, and a lack of emerging leaders in God’s church; thankfully, each problem posed in each elective setting was met with practical solutions, grounded optimism, and reason for great expectancy. Indeed, we can be better.

The Sunshine State lived up to its nickname on Thursday during the Church of God Convention.

The first meeting of the General Assembly at Convention 2023 took place Thursday afternoon, attracting quite a crowd in the Brotherhood Mutual Ballroom at the Tampa Convention Center. Interest was especially high in a year when myriad topics in the Church of God and the society at-large threaten to divide, yet present an opportunity to strengthen our bond of perfectness. In addition to engaging reports about disaster relief and credentialing, as well as testimonies to God’s hand at work in the stewardship of the Movement’s dollars, two major addresses were offered—each offering, again, a dose of both reality and encouraging expectancy.

With such a sobering reality check on the challenges we face as a family of faith, the chair of the General Assembly asserted confidently, “Let us remember: this is not our church, this is God’s church. And God has called us to have a unique place in the kingdom.”

Esther Cottrell’s message to the Movement set the stage for Jim Lyon, the general director of Church of God Ministries, to speak from the heart. Citing the experience of the apostles, Jim insisted from firsthand experience, “When you follow the call of God on your life, you will always encounter a storm.”

But remember, Jesus is with us in the boat. And he’s neither flustered or flummoxed. That’s just one reason Jim Lyon sees our collective capacity to flourish. But there is a role we must play.

Jo Saxton preaches on Thursday evening.

Enter Jo Saxton. God’s messenger of the hour, the speaker appointed for the first main session of Convention 2023, was poised to preach, and certainly she did preach.

“When the King is involved, captivity is taken captive!” she exclaimed.

“I wonder if you and I are living in to our God-given name, our God-given identity. Are we living in to our God-given purpose, or are we named by the things around us?” she added.

“What dreams aren’t being dreamt…what businesses aren’t being started, what [messages aren’t being preached], what books aren’t being written, and what songs aren’t being written and sung because they’re buried under the rubble of yesterday?”

Of course, a challenging sermon with wry humor interspersed throughout, clearly inspired and animated by the Holy Spirit, didn’t come from nowhere. It came from a heart opened to the Lord’s leading, bathed in prayer, and primed by congregational worship that exalted Jesus.

Thank you, Jo Saxton. And thank you, Sarah Scharbrough McLaughlin and band!

Are you living in expectation for the Movement? How about for what God can do at the 2023 Church of God Convention and General Assembly. Friday’s schedule ignites the imagination—morning electives and a Town Hall, various luncheons and receptions, another session of the General Assembly, more children’s programming sponsored by Warner Christian Resources, and two powerful preachers: Mark Jackson and Walter Kim.

Follow Church of God Ministries on social media for updates throughout the Convention, including daily news coverage. Visit event details.

For further reading, check out our daily reflections from the Church of God Convention 2023 and General Assembly:

Feature (top) photo: Congregational worship Thursday evening, “…I am a child of God!”

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