Showers of Blessing Welcome Church of God to Florida as Convention Dawns
By Carl Stagner
It rained. It rained again. Sunshine peeked through the clouds for a while, then the heavens opened to a deluge. Some dashed inside the dry, air-conditioned haven of the Tampa Convention Center, while others opted for a bite to eat within the sheltering confines of one of many excellent eateries along the Riverwalk. Several pastors and their families braved low-visibility highways bound for Tampa, while others braved congested airport terminals, navigating numerous delays. Thankfully, God brought them—and continues to bring many others—safely to the 2023 Church of God Convention and General Assembly. As the Convention dawns on Thursday, June 22, the extended forecast calls for showers of blessing.
Though the Convention hadn’t officially commenced on Wednesday, Church of God people from across the United States and Canada—as well as across the globe—were spotted in hotels, restaurants, shuttles, Ubers, convention center hallways, and downtown walkways. Some were on the scene for Christian Women Connection’s two-day LeadHer Power-Up experience. Some had arrived in Tampa several days early for family vacationing. Others spent time in the Convention center for various lengths of time during the day Wednesday simply to reconnect and reminisce ahead of a busy stretch of Convention activities. Whatever the reason, smiles, laughter, and the warm embrace of friends who hadn’t seen each other in years seemed to diminish the melancholy the soggy, gray day sought to spread. But the fellowship of the saints wasn’t the only sign of sovereignty seen in the prologue of Convention 2023’s story.
Meet Judy. Perhaps you already have. She epitomizes the hospitality of the Tampa Convention Center. She sits at the welcome desk nearest the Church of God Ministries registration table. Though her countenance may not seem like much at first glance, her welcoming presence quickly caught the attention of “base camp” staff upon arrival and throughout setup on Wednesday. Her friendly conversation and get-it-done attitude assured many a guest, upon entry, that Tampa was most suitable for a convention of international scope and impact. According to John Walters, Convention producer, the staff of the Tampa Convention Center have been arguably the best of any locations to date.
In Indiana, visitor’s bureaus like to espouse “Hoosier hospitality.” So far, Tampa’s hospitality has given Indiana a run for its money. Attendants of the hotels surrounding the Convention Center have gone above and beyond to ensure guests of the Church of God Convention feel most comfortable; similarly, many Church of God Convention-goers have already seized opportunities to exude the love of Jesus to hotel staff, restaurant servers, and passersby on the street. Way to go, Church of God! Way to go, Tampa.
But that’s only a glimpse of what’s to come. With a track record like God’s, it’s no wonder expectancy is high for a Spirit-filled, Christ-exalting, life-renewing gathering of the Movement over the next four days. The welcome the Lord has extended to his people as they enter his presence is palpable and potent; the invitation has been given to open hearts and minds to the present and future the Lord has in store for the Church of God. Through the business of the church, as exercised via the General Assembly’ s opening session Thursday afternoon, through the wide array of electives scattered densely through the day’s hours, and in the kickoff main session Thursday evening with Jo Saxton speaking, some of this divine plan for us is sure to be clarified, emphasized, and reiterated. The opportunities to be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to change the world in Jesus’ name are only beginning to emerge, and for Church of God pastors and lay leaders in Tampa for the Convention, there’s no telling what a limitless God can accomplish—even in just four days.
So, buckle up. Open up your hearts and minds to the possibilities. Whether you’re in Tampa with the rest of us or not, please pray for this incredibly important gathering. If you’re in Tampa, refer to your program book for times, places, and events that matter to you and the Movement about which you care deeply. Share a meal with old friends and be intentional about making new ones. The skies in Florida may be gray, but they signal showers of another kind.
“Mercy-drops ’round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.” —D. W. Whittle, 1883
Follow Church of God Ministries on social media for updates throughout the Convention, including daily news coverage. Visit www.chogconvention.org event details.
For further reading, check out our daily reflections from the Church of God Convention 2023 and General Assembly: