New Life Breathed into CHOG District

 In All Church of God, Northeast

Photo: (L to R) Patricia Vines, Handel Smith, Kevin Johnson, Maxwell Ware in November 2014.

By Carl Stagner

When the term life cycle is uttered, many pastors and leaders quickly scatter. It’s an all-too-common scenario that plays out in churches and Christian organizations. Wrestling with societal evolution, advances in technology, and keeping up with the latest marketing techniques, have left many organizations struggling with identity, reach, and dollars. In recent years, grim prospects threatened to spell the end for one Church of God district organization. Now it’s plain that it was just the beginning of what God had in store.

Handel Smith, now chief domestic officer for Church of God Ministries, knows the desperate situation firsthand. He was an elder for the Chesapeake, Delaware, Potomac (CDP) Ministries of the Church of God and recounts the complexities surrounding the organization’s decline in health. “We were going through some major changes—culturally, with personnel, and concerning our vision,” Handel explains. “There were conflicts as to where the CDP was in its life cycle.” Consultants had warned that the CDP had moved into the declining phase of their life cycle and that serious decisions needed to be made about the organization’s future. Many were offended by such a diagnosis, which only made matters worse.

Stories like these often end with a period. Thanks to the grace of God, Church of God Ministries, and some devoted believers fighting in the trenches, new pages are now being added to the CDP story. Because of the networking and support system of SHAPE, area pastors agreed to come to the table to discuss options and strategize possible catalysts for change. Discussion was key, and a lot of listening had to take place. Trust was rebuilt, and Dan Turner and other leaders helped facilitate meetings that would culminate in a relaunch of the CDP. The team also consulted with Cheryl Sanders, pastor of Third Street Church of God in Washington, DC, and Maxwell Ware, pastor of Cornerstone Church of God in Columbia, Maryland, about the possibilities. In November 2014, a new elder board was voted into place at a celebration service and general assembly meeting at Fairfax Community Church in Fairfax, Virginia. Cheryl Sanders gave the keynote address and inspired the area pastors to embrace accountability and partnership.

“Max Ware, who is now the new chairperson of the elder board of the CDP, further inspired the general assembly by casting vision for the reactivation and revitalization of the CDP,” Handel recounts. Since that gathering, leaders have met again to establish a new vision statement, mission statement, and organizational structure for supporting new life in the organization. Church of God Ministries has offered support through networking resources, sharing of best practices, pastoral support, training, coaching, and bringing the CDP to the regional pastors’ roundtable. In summary, the CDP believes they can make a greater impact in the region for Jesus when they work as one. A new meaning for the CDP acronym hints at the dawning of a new day: Celebrate, Disciple, Partner.

Maxwell Ware, though serving as a local pastor, is excited for the opportunity to offer leadership for the new CDP. “It was a challenge for me because I do have a lot going on,” he explains. “But I really felt like it was a worthwhile organization. It is a visible extension of the Church of God out of Anderson. Most of my congregation has no contact with Church of God Ministries, but they do all have contact with the CDP. We’re not trying to plan things for churches and give instructions. Rather, we want to hear ideas and see how we can move things forward, together.”

No relaunch of an organization, even if faith-based, is easy. There are bumps and bruises along the way, but when love reigns, new life emerges. “It was a painful process,” Handel admits. “There were mistakes made along the way, but what the devil meant for bad, God has turned into good. He’s turning our scars into stars, our pain into purpose, and our mess into a message.”

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