Wild West Welcome: Arizona Church Joins the Church of God Movement
By Kevin Spear
At 4,200 feet above sea level, Arizona’s Sulphur Springs Valley is a high-elevation, semi-arid area filled with history and folklore. It’s in the southeast corner of the state and borders Mexico, as well as New Mexico. The town of Cochise, Arizona, and the county are named after the famed Apache Chief. Tombstone, Arizona, is about an hour’s drive away.
The area inspires a love for nature and history, along with an independent streak. A ten-minute drive from Cochise, on US-191, will bring you to one of the newer churches to join the Church of God movement.
“Wynne Chapel was founded in 1976,” Pastor Gary Tucker says. “When I came in 2018, the church was in a period of mourning. About a year before I came, the pastor passed away suddenly.” Gary determined his role was to help the church through their mourning and bring a sense of vitality and enthusiasm back to the congregation.
He soon discovered the church was looking for a larger body of believers to join. They were affiliated with another church body. Yet, they didn’t feel supported. “Ninety percent of [that movement’s] churches were east of the Mississippi. They felt a geographical disconnect and the relationship had eroded over time.”
Two years ago, Pastor Gary called the Arizona Church of God State Ministries state pastor, Don Doe. Pastor Don said, “He and his congregation were interested in hearing about us. They had grown weary of their previous affiliation when they experienced a lack of support during two pastoral transitions. They were considering either going independent, staying with their previous affiliation, joining the Church of the Nazarene, or the Church of God in Arizona.”
Gary invited Don to preach and meet the congregation. “They were very receptive to the message,” Don says. “The congregation was flabbergasted that the Church of God was a voluntary affiliation and didn’t require set contributions. They also liked that we didn’t have to be on their property deed. They wanted a sense of independence. Yet, they also desired a sense of connection with a body of believers. [I assured them] their property was theirs and there is no [formal] membership. It’s all relational.”
Gary Tucker agrees. “We liked that we could maintain a sense of independence, yet be connected. We liked that leadership [from the Church of God] will only come when invited.”
This is exactly what the church was searching for. Pastor Don continues, “They jumped on board and have been one of most giving churches. They’ve participated in state meetings and have changed their bylaws to reflect the new affiliation.” He notes that in the two years since they’ve decided to join the Church of God, Wynne Chapel has worked with the state mission project in Honduras. “It has been a great partnership.”
Wynne Chapel is very active in their community. Because it is a very rural area with a large population of retirees, Wynne Chapel provides a transportation ministry. “The nearest shopping is at least thirty minutes away. Twice a month, we provide transportation to those with limited mobility. We also offer transportation to medical appointments,” Pastor Gary says. In addition, the church is a distribution point for the USDA food program and provides a monthly distribution of clothing and household goods.
If you find yourself in southeastern Arizona on a Sunday morning, Pastor Gary encourages you to visit them. He says, “You’ll find a very friendly, welcoming group of people. Our service is open to testimonies, and includes a blend of traditional and contemporary songs. You can sense an atmosphere of the Holy Spirit here. You will also experience unity within our body.”
Don Doe agrees. “It is a great congregation. They are sweet, sweet people!”
Kevin Spear worked for Warner Christian Resources (formerly Warner Press) and has regularly contributed time and talent to the work of Church of God Ministries. He is a ministry partner with his wife Paula, a kid’s director for the Christ Fellowship Church—Westlake, Florida, campus.
Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.