The Church of God in Miami, Florida, is a congregation that has a special emphasis on reaching Spanish-speaking people. Formerly with the Church of God International, they went independent five years ago after checking into the revelations about the personal activities of Garner Ted Armstrong.
Starting with about ten members, their weekly attendance now ranges from 35 to as high as 50. There were 36 at the recent Passover service. Their minister, Tony Fontao, reports that they have many visitors. Their service consists of songs plus a live-speaker sermon, generally given by Tony, alternated with taped sermons from Tom Justus, John Shavers, and Ron Dart. Many of the members wanted the service to be conducted in Spanish, but Tony felt that was not right since they are now in the United States. So services are in English, with a simultaneous translation into Spanish.
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The congregation is heavily involved in distributing the Spanish editions of the booklets printed by the Tom Justus group in Little Rock (see the Jan/Feb 2000 edition of Servants’ News for more information). Tony’s wife, Alieda, started translating these booklets into Spanish when the group was with CGI and has carried on her translating work ever since. They put these booklets in Post Offices and supermarket locations. The congregation also has a web site (www.godschurch.org) that Tony reports is receiving a good response. They also send out videotapes of their services, and now send out a total of nine per week.
Tony feels God has blessed their work since going independent. He is especially personally thankful because, after 24 years of being in the church by himself, his wife, Aleida, was baptized four years ago. In addition, his mother, who hated the church for so many years, was baptized last year in March. Another church member, Wally Elder, was diagnosed with cancer. Not having enough hospitalization insurance, he realized that as a veteran he was eligible for VA hospital benefits. The VA confirmed the cancer diagnosis and a date was set for an operation. Tony relates that prayer was requested from as many church members as possible, including the prayer list published in The Journal. Wally was re-tested shortly before the scheduled operation and no cancer could be found. A second test revealed the same results.
The Church of God in Miami hosted a Feast site last year with the House of God Daytona congregation. They met at Treasure Island, Florida. There were about 120 in average attendance. These two churches will be keeping the Feast together again this year. However, there will be a change of location to the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites in St. Pete Beach, Florida.
Tony tells of an interesting occurrence at last year’s feast. One of the church members staying at a nearby hotel happened to be talking to another hotel guest. It turned out this other guest was part of a group of 40 or so people also meeting to keep the feast. This group had found out about the feast days by their own study, never having had contact with the WCG. The group visited the CoG services and was provided with many booklets explaining our CoG beliefs.
The Church of God in Miami meets at 2:30 pm at the Embassy Suites, 3974 N.W. South River Drive, across from the Miami International Airport. Tony Fontao can be reached at 305-385-6306 or call Nelson Moreno at 305-385-2137.
— “One-third Century In CoGs”
[There are two very vital lessons in this message:
1) Many “Church of God” members find that relatives have a complete change of heart when they leave the corporate churches. These relatives were not against the Bible truth as much as they were against the control exercised by corporate ministers. When the member switches to an independent fellowship, it removes the obstacle, and the relatives can come to grips with just what the Bible says.
2) An independent fellowship like this can share the feast with another group and help them. I know of cases where a group learned about the Sabbath and feasts on their own and were overjoyed to find a Church of God group and its literature—then greatly saddened when they found that the only way they could have any ongoing relationship with the CoG group was to completely accept all of their doctrines, send all their money to them, and come completely under their control. How could one expect these small groups to buy the line “God works only through one man” when they have been so obviously taught truth directly from Christ and their own Bibles? — NSE]
The Church of God New Mexico started in 1980 as a small group of people who broke away from the WCG. Their attendance now ranges from 25 to 40, doubling on the Holy Days. A large percentage of their congregation is children and teenagers.
They send out audiotapes and videos of their services. They also do other evangelism work by distributing the booklets printed by Tom Justus and the Fayetteville-Springdale AR Church of God (see the Jan/Feb 2000 Servants’ News). These are placed in doctor, dentist, and other offices where church members are customers. Noticing that the rented hall where they meet is used throughout the week by many other groups, the Church of God New Mexico also leaves booklets throughout the hall. These are picked up by the general public as they attend the various meetings. John Shavers, the minister, however, feels the best evangelism still is word of mouth, one-on-one personal evangelism.
Comment: In the context of one-on-one evangelism, this writer recalls Ron Dart of Christian Educational Ministries saying that, despite the billions of dollars spent by the WCG, half or more of its membership increase came about as a result of personal evangelism: a member bringing someone else into the church.
I recently evaluated my own acquaintances still in the Churches of God. It surprised me to realize how many are related to one another by blood or by marriage. It seems evident each such family structure is a result of a person who was influential in bringing in one, two, three, sometimes four or more new people.
As Mr. Dart further points out, the WCG increase came about even though the organization strongly discouraged members from reaching others on their own. He then goes on to ask, What could have been the results if church members had actually been encouraged to invite others?
John notes that their church is listed in the Yellow Pages under Seventh Day Church groups. He reports that this listing brings in a large number of telephone inquiries. About ten percent of the callers will visit a church meeting.
The Church of God New Mexico meets at 1:30 pm every Sabbath at the Learning Lab, 1224 Pennsylvania N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico. Sabbath School starts at 1:00 pm. John Shavers can be reached at (505) 883-1614.
— “One-third Century In-CoGs”
Heartland Fellowship is a Church of God group in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area. They started in March 1996 as a result of the changes that took place within the Church of God International. They have an attendance that averages from 18 to 20.
Before the worship service, from 1:30 to 2:15pm, they have an interactive Bible study. The worship service begins at 2:30pm. It consists of Bible readings (anyone can volunteer for this, men or ladies), songs, and then a sermon, generally given by the pastor, Len Neubert.
The Heartland Fellowship is using the latest technologies in their evangelistic efforts. For example, they are using public access television to sponsor a one-hour long video sermon from Christian Educational Ministries (Ronald Dart). This is shown over Warner Cable Cincinnati Channel 15 for those subscribers with a box, Channel 22 for those without the box. It is shown on Sundays at 9:30am. They also sponsor the Christian Educational Ministries radio program, “Born to Win”, on local radio station WPFB, 910 on the AM dial, Tuesdays at 10:00am, and Fridays at 1:00pm.
They also have a web site: http://home.fuse.net/heartland
They were able to purchase their own building in July last year, buying a church building formerly used by a Baptist church. Len emphasizes that visitors are always welcome. Having their own building that holds 120 people, there is plenty of room! The address is 3200 Manchester Road, Middletown, Ohio. Len may be reached at 513-777-8260, or Wayne Schatzle may be reached at 513-777-1756.
— “One-third Century in-CoGs”