Tampa Speaker Articulates Movement’s Message, Kingdom Agenda
By Carl Stagner
He’s authored a contemporary review of timeless Church of God teaching. He moderates a social media group designed especially for discussion of Church of God theology and doctrine. He’s a highly sought-after speaker for camp meetings, conferences, and revivals, and his Ohio congregation is seeing several signs of the Spirit’s soul-stirring activity. This June at Convention 2023 and General Assembly, Mark Jackson is also slated to preach the message the Lord has laid upon his heart for the Movement.
Since 2016, Mark has served as lead pastor at the Church of God situated just off Towne Boulevard in Middletown—also having served as associate pastor for nearly seven years, several years earlier. Towne Church, which suffered significant strain at the peak of the pandemic, is demonstrating resiliency sourced beyond this realm. “We are seeing a new upward trajectory at our church,” Mark explains. “COVID was devastating to our congregation. We had several members die from COVID, and many others who died during COVID.”
Tragically, Mark’s own secretary and her husband both lost their lives to the disease. “The morale of the church was hit hard, as was the attendance,” he continues. “But we are seeing growth, both numerical and spiritual. Small-group attendance is up. We’ve baptized several folks this year. We have new young families attending and getting involved. Babies are everywhere. We went from being on an upward trajectory prior to COVID, to a decline, to eventual stabilization, but now to a new upward trajectory.”
Out of great grief, and under the seasoned leadership of Pastor Mark, Towne Church is becoming a hub of hope and deployer of disciples. “I’m excited about what God is doing now and what he will do in the future,” Mark reflects, stressing the promise in Matthew 16:18, that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against” what God is building.
A cumulative total of more than twenty years in ministry prepares Mark for the pulpit at Convention 2023, but it won’t be the first time he’s been asked to accept an invitation like this. “I spoke at the Convention once before …,” he recounts. “I was pretty nervous at the time, but God gave me strength and courage to share his Word with his people. I feel inadequate in myself and humbled that I would be asked again. But I’m excited, too! I have no agenda of my own—I simply want to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit.”
Mark then quotes Revelation 2:7, concerning “whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” and adds, “I pray that, through me and the other speakers, the Spirit would speak clearly and powerfully.”
Anyone who’s encountered Mark in person, perused his writings in a book or online, or listened to his sermons knows he loves the Lord, theology, and the Church of God movement. His great-great-grandfather W. F. Chappel was an early Church of God minister, though Mark openly testifies to the vitality of the Lord getting ahold of his life on a personal level. Today’s he’s thankful for the greater family of God and his spiritual upbringing in the movement of the Church of God. Mark comments, “Providentially, I was raised in the Church of God movement…. Personally, I appreciate, as R. Eugene Sterner pointed out, that our goal as a movement is to be open to all God’s truth and open to all God’s people. We are orthodox in our beliefs, yet non-creedal. We have a passion for both truth and unity.”
Truth matters for Mark, which is why he loves to explore theology—on his own and with others (in person and online—in a spirit of unity!). Mark finds theological discussion and pursuit incredibly meaningful and accessible. Though some may shy away from it, Mark suggests possible overcomplication.
“Theology is simply thinking or talking or writing about God and things related to God,” he notes. “I’m not sure how you can be a follower of Jesus and not be theological or interested in theology. That doesn’t mean you have to read theology books all the time or have a degree in theology. But we should all be interested in thinking about God and having a clear, biblical understanding of his identity and ways. I think a lot of pastors assume that their members are not interested in theology or will be bored by it. I’m afraid we underestimate the person on the pew and the power of God’s Word. I think theology, touched by the Spirit of God, is exciting and contagious, even among individuals who would never consider themselves theologians. We just have to be careful not to be too technical in speaking on theological matters. If we can break it down in an understandable manner, our members will be engaged by sound theology and strengthened by it.”
And so, attendees of Convention 2023 and General Assembly should anticipate accessible theology with practical tools for application in the Church of God today. Mark looks forward not only to speaking, but also availing himself of the many opportunities the seminal event—this year intentionally international in composition and content—offers.
“The fellowship of the Church of God is one of its strongest characteristics,” Mark concludes. “Isolationism is not historically or biblically a Church of God practice. Being able to worship with Church of God pastors and believers from all over the world is not an opportunity we get very often. Let’s take advantage of it!”
“He’s got the whole world in his hands.” What an encouraging reality! Be inspired by it, be challenged by it, and experience it firsthand at Convention 2023 and General Assembly, June 22–25 in Tampa, Florida. Learn more and register at www.chogconvention.org. Hurry—early-bird registration ends January 31!
Feature (top) collage: Mark Jackson is a bona fide fisher-of-fish and a fisher of men and women!