Impact of California Regional Reverberates, Stirs Interest in Upcoming Gatherings

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

By Carl Stagner and staff

Revelation 3:8 frames the 2024 Regionals with intriguing context: “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut…” (ESV). Collaborative in nature, collective in experience, and Christ-centered in emphasis, all three were scheduled to glorify God, encourage and equip the saints for ministry, and connect Church of God people from near and far. That was certainly accomplished with the first of three events this year, which commenced in California in the middle of May. The open door to innovative, life-transforming opportunities became clearer in the hearts and minds of guests through the compelling and insightful teaching at the gathering which spanned four days and strategically brought together two dynamic events into one.

The thing about doors you’ve never walked through before is that you can’t be sure what’s on the other side. Just the thought of the unknown makes us uncomfortable, let alone that which lies on the other side of the door. Even before the official start of the Misfits portion of the California Regional held at Center of Hope LA in Inglewood, innovation, strategy, creativity, and an embrace of the uncomfortable emerged as prominent themes. Though the iconic West-Coast sunshine seemed elusive for these Church of God pastors and leaders—in addition to many who arrived especially for Misfits—the Son shone brightly on all the developments of what would turn out to be a week to remember—and act courageously upon.

Rod Stafford speaks during Misfits 2024.

The speakers for the Church of God Ministries-hosted portion, for instance, each encapsulated the epitome of the early church, demonstrating a need to return to the fervor and urgency of the disciples as they seized the cultural moment of their day to turn the world upside down. Paul Sheppard did this well, as he challenged listeners to take careful stock of methods that may not be working to advance the cause of Christ in the current epoch of history, not to mention those which may tire and expire in the near future. Thinking ahead, all while maintaining the bond of love through our prized doctrine of unity, matters greatly to Paul Sheppard, who continues to lead a bustling congregation with increasing influence in the Bay Area, only six hours north of this year’s Regional host site. Such introspection is rarely comfortable, as are the steps which must be taken following careful introspection.

Sometimes this kind of “looking inward” prompts churches to conclude they’ve been negligent toward the next generation. Handel Smith, in illustrative and gripping fashion, demonstrated the desperate need (along with tangible tools) to reach youth and young adults for Christ, the Kingdom, and the Church of God movement, too. Vulnerability is often key to these relationships essential to passing the torch and keeping the ministry going for generations to come. No major change can be effected without the power of prayer, though, which Gary Kendall expounded upon in powerful prose with Scriptural support. Similarly, Ken Love stressed the indispensable practice of the presence of God, by which we slow down enough to sit with God, hear his voice, and ultimately respond to the leadership of the Holy Spirit—promptly, decisively, and boldly.

Other leaders rounded out the pre-Misfits experience with important sessions, all admonishing and exhorting the church to be at her best, such as Jim Lyon, on the topic of sexual ethics, and Julieian-Alexis Roberts, on the topic of digital discipleship. Neither topic light nor easy to grapple with, but each one necessary for the church to advance in the present age.

Geremy Dixon on the platform during Misfits 2024.

Misfits, born in the heart of Center of Hope LA through their fearless leader, Geremy Dixon, only further pounded the drumbeat of thinking outside the box, getting outside comfort zones, and entering into the marketplace where the kingdom culture intersects with society. Jay St. Hilaire-Smith, of Church of God Ministries, describes the inspiration of Misfits for those “who want to make the world better and create safe spaces for those of use that do not fit in (hence the name Misfits).” She continues, “We are called to be a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9), to be in the world and not of the world (John 17), and to teach others about Christ (Matthew 28:20). Why stand in the background and waste away the gifts that God has given you? Step into the discomfort, the abnormal, the godly way of being obedient and willing to show up and be an example to others.”

About half of those who attended the Church of God Ministries-hosted portion of the event had also purchased the “bundle” registration, remaining in Los Angeles for the Misfits conference. Innovative and motivational, Misfits proved precisely why it’s capturing the interest of so many “market-disruptors” all over the world.

Scott Beha, pastor of Southridge Church in Charleston, West Virginia, “thoroughly enjoyed” the featured speakers of the kickoff Regional, especially Handel Smith. He also noted the inspirational moments of worship and the excitement of the idyllic southern California location. Lorenzo Peterson, student chaplain from Warner Pacific University, recounted the practicality of the teaching throughout. Lori Fast, executive director of Leadership Focus, concluded appropriately: “For me, there’s value in many components of these gatherings, including the presentations and the opportunities for the breakout sessions. One of the most valuable things for me is just the people connection, as well as being able to be reminded of our common heritage and our shared faith.”

It’s not too late to register for the Oklahoma Regional, June 18–20 at Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma. Visit www.chogconvention.org for all the details, including how you can plan to attend the third Regional of the year, October 2–4 in Columbus, Ohio!

Feature (top) photo: Julieian-Alexis Roberts leads a session on digital discipleship at the California Regional.

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