Local Baptist Church Joins Church of God Movement, Embraces Mission
By Carl Stagner
When a little white church house that once affiliated with a Baptist denomination realizes its true identity in the Church of God; when natural disasters wreak havoc on the community, but the saints of God rally in response; when lost souls start accepting Jesus as Lord and the baptistery is wet again; and when people start asking questions like, “What in the world is going on in Blaine, Kentucky?” you know little is much when God is in it. You know revival is breaking out. According to the latest census data, the population of Blaine, Kentucky, is only 47. Despite its small size, the impact of what’s been transpiring in the small town over recent months is anything but insignificant.
In 2015, Daniel Castle was serving as the pastor of Prestonsburg Church of God until a stroke, related to brain trauma sustained while in the military, rendered him unable to continue in such a capacity. Though healing would take time, no stroke could ever revoke the calling God had placed on Daniel Castle. After a couple of years and a stint in men’s ministry leadership in a neighboring town to his own, Daniel felt the tug of the Spirit to zero in on the people in his own backyard—his neighbors, his community: Blaine, Kentucky.
While earning his degree online from Mid-America Christian University, Daniel knew he needed to get connected to a local congregation, even if it was outside the Church of God movement in which he’d been ordained and previously pastored. One day, as he and his wife were passing by an old country church they’d passed many times prior, Daniel remarked how he could never see himself being a part of that church. He pointed to the small print on the church’s sign that read, “SBC.” Through an ironic set of circumstances that unfolded after that conversation, including his wife’s recollection of having visited that church years prior, the couple found themselves participating in weekly services and being identified—at least by the retiring pastor at the time—as a suitable successor.
“I explained to him that it wasn’t my intention to seek out a congregation to lead,” Daniel recalls. You may have heard some time in the past that if you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans. Well, I planned to take time off until I finished my degree at Mid-America Christian University. My intention was to get plugged into some type of congregation that was active in the community so I could network and prepare for the future. But God had other plans.”
Sadly, the pastor of the little Baptist church passed away from cancer about six months later. Daniel’s increasing rapport with the congregation positioned him well to facilitate the funeral, not long after that, the flock there asked him to accept the baton of leadership from their late shepherd.
As the new pastor, Daniel had no intention of convincing the church to “come out of sect Babylon.” He simply taught the Bible from his Wesleyan-holiness perspective. “I worked diligently to facilitate conversations that brought an open an honest evaluation of truth concerning differences found in the Bible and doctrines many of them were accustomed to,” Daniel explains.
He would soon discover that eschatological issues and the kingdom of God were common eye-opening topics. Comprehension grew, but the little church seemed to lack the mission and vision to take significant forward strides. After taking a LifeGivers course based on Dan Turner’s research (and book) about church restarts, it occurred to Daniel Castle that a “strategic death” of the former church was necessary for new life to grow.
Earlier this spring, the church voted unanimously to leave the denomination. Blaine Church of God was born, and has since seen the Spirit move in some pretty incredible ways.
“We become a hub of sorts for our community,” Daniel explains. “Our congregation has accepted that we are missionaries for our area. We are in a poor rural area of Appalachia that sees generational poverty, as well as severe effects from decades of addiction. The ministry focus paradigm shift has led to organic community service and outreach beyond my expectations. Since we transitioned to the Church of God, our little congregation has added multiple families, baptized six, served as a warming center and operations center for back-to-back natural disasters, held multiple community events, started a ‘narcotics anonymous’ meeting, as well as coordinated with other congregations and para-church organizations to further impact the region.”
The church’s “warming center” and “operations center” were vital to their community this year in the worst of circumstances. While God was working wonders within the new church, weather was wreaking havoc on their building and homes and businesses surrounding. Downed trees and powerlines had to be cut away for elderly and disabled in the community. Then flooding left four feet of water in the church basement and caused widespread damage in their community, too. As the new Blaine Church of God was trying to get established, it’s growth and development came about in the midst of disaster. To the community, this new church was a beacon of hope and a source of help when hope and help were in short supply.
Daniel Castle recently graduated from MACU with a degree in Christian ministries and is currently working on a master’s degree in public administration on a nonprofit and grant-writing track through Eastern Kentucky University. “My goal is to help other communities such as ours capture the essence of what it means to be the local embodiment of the Church of God,” Daniel says. “I feel it is time we come out of ourselves. A missional mindset should not simply be a buzzword, it should be the culture we foster.”
“Amazing” is the word Daniel uses to describe his feelings when considering all God has accomplished. “I’ve read about God-driven revival in communities,” he concludes. “I never thought, though, that I would witness one or play part in it. The Church of God is alive and well in our community. Reformation isn’t a thing of the past!”
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.