Honoring, Loving, and Serving with a New Mission
By Kevin Spear
Two years ago, when Pastor Christopher Alexander came to the Englewood, Tennessee, First Church of God, he discovered a church that was rich in history, yet seeking a new mission.
For ninety-six years, First Church has been the light of Christ to eastern Tennessee, and twenty of those years had been in a new church building on beautiful acreage two miles west of town. The blessing came with a huge responsibility. Pastor Alexander said, “About five years ago, the congregation faithfully paid off the mortgage. With this weight gone, they began asking, ‘What’s next?’”
Indeed, they didn’t realize it, but the responsibility caused the church to focus inward. Now, they realized they desired to refocus on serving the community they cherished.
Pastor Alexander accepted the call to First Church three years into the refocus. He loved that the church asked these questions and desired to make a difference. “The previous pastor and congregation began by observing the foster care system. Children caught in the system are a big problem in our area. Kids brought into foster care rarely transferred out. There weren’t enough people to help the kids, nor room for them.”
The congregation began responding by providing backpacks filled with clothes and toiletries. Next, they got involved in a project called Isaiah’s House. This is a place where children go while they await placement. “The church has responded so well by providing birthday cakes for the children and providing for their needs. Last year, the church raised $60,000 to support Isaiah House.”
Pastor Alexander was encouraged when he answered the call in 2021. While the previous pastor began a great foundation, he knew there was so much more to do. The congregation skewed older. He observed there wasn’t much for youth and young adults at the church. He also noticed multiple committees governed the church. It took much effort and time to make any changes.
He proposed that the church move to an elder board form of governance. With the congregation’s approval, he worked with the elder board to offer a new mission. “Our Tennessee State Minister, Bob O’Dell, walked us through the next steps. We looked at the DNA of the church. We also honored the past while we dreamed about what God still had in store.”
Eventually, the elder board came up with the following mission statement:
- Honor God
- Foster Love
- Serve All
Excited, Pastor Alexander and the elder board, launched the new mission statement on September 27. The congregation has embraced the new focus and is prompting them to dream.
“When the church bought this property twenty years ago, it included twenty-five acres. Now we ask, ‘What do we do with the land God blessed us with?’ We could host intramural sports teams. We have a gym and have offered it to the community. The church proposed a school when they first bought the land. Now, we are dreaming and seeing if God wants us to do this. Plus, we are reviving a mission-minded focus.”
First Church is also working with other churches in the community. “We’ve found the more, the better. The more you welcome others outside the congregation into your mission, the better. When you get involved with others, it spreads the mission.”
The church is planning a mission trip next year. Pastor Alexander, the elder board, and the congregation are enthusiastically dreaming about the next steps and seeking out needs in their community. All agree that Englewood First Church of God has a renewed mission and focus.
Kevin Spear worked for Warner Press and has regularly contributed time and talent to the work of Church of God Ministries. Today, he is a content creator and storyteller for OneHope in Pompano Beach, Florida. He is also a ministry partner with his wife Paula, ordained pastor in the Church of God.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.