Missouri Church Marks 125 Years of Ministry
By Carl Stagner
Centennials are certainly cause for celebration, especially when they communicate what Christ has done in the life of a local congregation of the Church of God. Though several have done so, fewer churches have hit the 125-year milestone. Portageville, Missouri, is home to one Church of God congregation that has reached a century-and-a-quarter of Christ-centered ministry and influential impact. In early September the church, whose history is rich with notable leaders of the Movement and remarkable stories of spiritual significance, pulled out all the stops to mark 125 years of ministry.
Dr. Charles Brown, former president of the Gospel Trumpet Company, held a tent revival at First Church of God in Portageville, Missouri, when he was just twelve years old. O. C. Lewis, after which the gymnasium at Anderson University is named, was originally from East Prairie, Missouri, and shepherded the flock at First Church for a season. D. C. Stafford, father of beloved Church of God orator and mentor-the-masses Gil Stafford, also served as an interim at various points along their path. Even Mort Crim, iconic journalist and media personality, served as a pastor of the church in the 1950s; his presence was most welcome at the celebration service as guest speaker this September. But the most important name to the church throughout their years, however, has been the Name above all names—Jesus Christ. His presence was especially palpable in worship, fellowship, and festivities.
David and Jan Dittman serve as pastors of the Portageville congregation today; they’re presently in their fifth year of ministry at the historic church. Jan notes that their guest speaker, Mort Crim, not only served as a former pastor there, but started the first radio station in their town. Among other ceremonial moments, a plaque was presented to the church’s oldest parishioner, Mrs. Inell Robinson. One of her remarkable claims to notoriety within the congregation is that she has attended in all the various buildings the church has gathered in over the years!
“The worship service was followed by a catered meal,” Jan goes on to explains. “During the meal, church histories were given to anyone wanting [copies], there was also a photo presentation of past times, and a church timeline for people to explore.”
First Church of God made sure to celebrate their centennial when it came around twenty-five years ago, but many were interested in bring back former congregants to celebrate a homecoming at this most special juncture. Jan describes it as a “family reunion for many across the years.”
In consideration of that Name above all names, who is the “same today, yesterday, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), the church is eagerly awaits what the Spirit will do next in their midst. David and Jan pray fervently for the church today and into the future.
“My prayer for the next 125 years,” Jan reflects, “is that the people of the congregation will open their hearts, arms, and minds to celebrate what Jesus has done and what he can do. David’s common statement is, ‘It’s all about God.’ I would pray that everyone will learn to live their lives with this as their guiding mantra.”
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.
Feature (top) collage: (left) Pastor David presenting the resolution from the State of Missouri; (right) Inell Robinson and her son as she was awarded.