From Alabama to Destination Unknown: Church Launches Leaders Around the World
By Carl Stagner
Regional consultant for Latin America, Abby Torgeson. Missionary to Germany, Joshua Weiger. Missionaries to Japan, Christy and Terence Van Dam. Pastors to the Middle East, Ken and Keli Oldham. Matt Anderson, pastor of the thriving desert oasis in Scottsdale, Arizona, McDowell Mountain Community Church. Besides their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, each one of these has something unique in common: Riverchase Community Church. To one degree or another, these and numerous other Christ-centered leaders were formed and/or launched into ministry from this modest-sized Church of God congregation in Birmingham, Alabama. Considering the church’s heart for missions and intentional discipleship strategies, it’s no wonder that they can’t hang on to their brightest and best. But, they wouldn’t want to.
That’s because they understand that it takes the body of Christ, with all its varying parts and functions, to reach the world with the love of God. Often that means the return on a church’s investment in an emerging leader won’t be realized at home. Instead, it may be realized several states to the west. Or across an ocean. Wherever Pastor Tony Weiger has served, he’s content to know that “it takes every one of us, working together, to change lives.”
Abby Smith, now married to Jason Torgeson, grew up at Riverchase and was an active part of the youth group. Joshua Weiger, Tony’s son, was also an active part of the youth group before attending Anderson University and serving for five years as the youth pastor at Park Place Church of God. Christy and Terence Van Dam were part of the congregation as Christy (Snowden) served as children’s pastor. Before Ken and Keli Oldham left for Egypt, he served as the youth pastor of Riverchase. Matt Anderson also has an important connection to Riverchase: his father Wayne was their first pastor. Tori McCain Davis grew up in the church and is now the youth and young adult pastor. Then there are Megan (Scollard) and Johnathan Brown, who now serve in youth ministry in Kingsport, Tennessee. No doubt, there are more, and will continue to be more.
Riverchase Community Church doesn’t just assume spiritual growth and leadership development will happen. They utilize specific discipleship and mentoring programs for growing believers. They also offer developing leaders an internship program for their worship ministry, as well as their youth and young adult ministries. Recognizing their part in the broader movement of the Church of God, they point visitors on their website to the Church of God Convention as a discipleship resource. Among their local outreach opportunities for generosity and involvement, they support a shelter for women and children, in addition to other ministries that care for the poor. But to produce so many missionaries, Riverchase had to be a church with arms that reach across the globe. And indeed, they are.
Not only does Riverchase currently support the Oldhams, the Torgesons, the Van Dams, and the Weigers but, between the church and individual families, they sponsor nine Children of Promise children. That support continues to grow, as well; Pastor Tony explains that their sponsorship coverage will soon climb to eleven. The church has sponsored mission trips in past years, and a few in the congregation continue to travel to different parts of the globe in the name of Christ. Among other local and international missions efforts, Riverchase also regularly supports Church of God Ministries and the Church of God in Alabama.
“We believe God has called each of us to love God and people,” Tony reflects. “We are compelled to follow Jesus’ words to feed the hungry, give drink to those who are thirsty, and have compassion for those who are lost and hurting. Our church is an extremely loving and giving church. We don’t see it as a chore or a burden, but as a gift of God that we are able to help others…Yes, at times we are stretched and obviously can’t help every need. We have no millionaires in our church, but we have people who are generous. With the size of our church (about 125), we are doing all that we can to minister to the needs of individuals so they can experience the joy and blessings of loving and serving God through his Son, Jesus Christ.”
Where will God lead the next leader(s) he’s preparing at Riverchase? Only time will tell.
In Alabama, across North America, and around the world, God is on the move in the Church of God. Join the movement. Reach our world. Donate today at give.jesusisthesubject.org. Learn more about opportunities to extend your reach globally at www.chogglobal.org.