Transforming Culture Is for Every Congregation
By Carl Stagner
What if…? The question, often asked by children, floods the imagination with possibility. Often the answer to this question appears out of reach. However, with God all things are possible, and with God, the question can become Why not? Whole Life Church of God in El Cajon, California, has taken a giant first step toward seeing the What if question answered.
Transformation of culture may seem like a goal too lofty to pursue, especially for smaller congregations, but the vision and mission of Whole Life Church of God compels them forward. Donna Rothenberger, lead pastor, asks the questions, “What if the divorce rate went down? What if grades went up? What if drug dealers went out of business? What if every child had socks? What if every boy and girl had access to medical care? What if addicts knew about God’s plan for spirit, mind, and body healing through addiction to him? What if a child didn’t grow up witnessing abuse? What if parents could save money? What if grandparents could help the neighborhood? What if we reclaimed the arts? What if haters could stop?” She came to the conclusion that God wants to “transform our world, but not just our church life—the whole of life: spirit, mind and body.”
Whole Life Church of God is less than a year old. They simply do not have the resources of a large congregation. They don’t have the numbers to support the development and management of a variety of programs and ministries. Yet their culture, in need of a Savior, also desperately needs proper health care, meals, clothes, counseling, and addiction recovery—to name a few. Whole Life Church longs to live out the love of Christ in their community, but they can’t do everything.
“Our mission or how we would achieve this seemed overwhelming,” Donna recounts. “I went back to the book of Acts, the book of how the word spread. Revisiting Acts 2:42–47, I was again reminded of how the word spread after Pentecost: reaching out, discipleship, serving, fellowship, and worship.” With a strong emphasis on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, Whole Life Church formed a unique partnership with a variety of community nonprofit organizations. Donna contacted twenty organizations and met with several to discuss the possibility of working together to meet mutual goals. The purpose was to work with organizations that could “embody and complete” the mission of the church, and offer hope and healing to the community.
Although only nine of the twenty organizations agreed to partner with Whole Life Church, the church now has access to established resources offered by technically skilled laborers that it did not otherwise have. Some indicated that they did not wish to partner with a certain religion, while others were attracted to the possibility of cross-promotion. Others appreciated the mutual interest of making the community a better place to live.
As a result of these partnerships, Whole Life can feature logos and contact information on their own brochures, letterhead, and other promotional pieces. The community sees a connection between the church and valuable ministries that could not be offered by the church alone. Rather than reinventing the wheel, the church has built an instant and growing relationship with the community, and residents receive the help they need for spirit, mind, and body.
“We call ourselves Whole Life Church and ‘Mission Station,’ because we’re in a needy culture that’s not always open to God,” Donna explains. “Everything we do is built about the whole-life concept. God has called us to be a church of hands and feet, more than just heart and soul.”