Final Day, Final Score: Sunday’s Convention Closing Session Declares, “God Wins!”

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

By Carl Stagner

“I just want to speak the name of Jesus…” Sunday morning may have signaled the conclusion of scheduled events for the 2023 Church of God Convention and General Assembly, but it certainly did not spell the end of the supernatural work the Lord is doing in the Church of God movement. While many are remaining in Tampa for the Global Church of God Alliance, others boarded trains, planes, and automobiles to make the short, or rather lengthy, trek back to homes, churches, schools, and businesses. Christ-centered sentiment has been the underlying constant throughout the seminal biennial event of our family of faith, permeating through the music and the messaging. Sunday morning’s worship gathering put Jesus, once again, front and center, not only through song and dynamic preaching from Pastor Rod Stafford, but also through participation in holy Communion.

It would be negligent to overlook the impact children’s programing has had over the past few days at the Church of God Convention. Sponsored by Warner Christian Resources, and led by a dedicated team from Bayside Church in Safety Harbor, Florida, the KidzLIVE! VBS-style morning program and evening childcare contributed indispensably to the family-oriented atmosphere at this year’s Convention. Families naturally opted to pair their Convention visit with various Florida-style vacationing, but some pastors were only able to make the trip because of the options available for children. But these ministries were absolutely more than babysitting; they were moments of seed-sowing with the gospel. We are exceedingly grateful for the investment these organizations and leaders made in the children present at the 2023 Convention.

Convention crowds enjoying fellowship upon their exit from the final service.

A symbolic passing-of-the-torch took place in the introduction of the morning speaker. Immense gratitude goes to Esther Cottrell for her exemplary leadership of the General Assembly in the present term; excitement is also building for the upcoming leadership of Geremy Dixon, chair-elect. On Sunday morning, his spoken introduction—not only as GA chair-elect, but also as a good friend of Rod Stafford—set the stage for expectation of both Rod’s sermon and Geremy’s upcoming leadership in the Movement.

Rod Stafford recalled how, in January 2022, he received a diagnosis of stage-four lung cancer. It came as a “complete and total surprise,” especially to one who never smoked a cigarette in his life. He said, “In a matter of moments, my world turned upside down.” But Rod’s message for the Movement revolved around the confidence we as Christians have because we know how the story ends; we’ve “read the back of the Book,” so to speak. Taking a closer look at the picture of glory in Revelation 21, Rod not only testified to the healing power he’s experienced in an otherwise grim prognosis, but also spoke of the power we can have in this life because we’re on the winning side.

“The best experiences of this life when Jesus comes back will be intensified beyond measure,” Rod preached. “Everything that is broken, unjust, and wrong in this world, all the pain will be made right. The old will give way to the new. The darkness will give way to the light. Brokenness will give way to complete and total wholeness. No more death, mourning, pain, or regrets. God is making everything new!”

Alluding to his experience as a close follower of his favorite sports team, Rod noted that he’ll watch the game after it’s over if he missed it live; his team doesn’t win regularly, so when he already knows that they won, peace overcomes him when fumbles take place watching the game later. “Knowing the final score changes the way we engage the darkness,” he related to the spiritual experience. “But it also changes our perspective on the tough stuff we go through personally.” Including cancer. Thank God—praise God—he has experienced the healing touch of the Great Physician.

And thank God “we know the final score, and God wins!”

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

Feature (top) photo: Rod Stafford preaching on Sunday morning at Convention 2023.

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