In 1969, Charles Blake began pastoring a COGIC church of 100 members in Los Angeles. It had been founded in 1943 during the denomination's golden age of expansion out of the South. Blake represented a new generation, and though he had personally seen and heard COGIC founder Charles Mason, he was not of the pre-World War II generation. He was armed with college and graduate degrees and fresh ideas.

All those ideas seemed to blossom in 1971 during a life-changing visit to Robert Schuller's Garden Grove (Calif.) Community Church (now the Crystal Cathedral). As Blake sat in the massive congregation, God grabbed his attention. "My mind was suddenly opened to the possibility of pastoring a big church," Blake recalls. "All of the boundaries were removed. I could conceive of being as big as God would make me."

Today, Blake's West Angeles Church of God in Christ has 13,000 members—the largest in the denomination—with 155 paid staff, an $8 million budget, more than 100 weekly ministries, four Sunday morning services, and a new 5,000-seat auditorium in the works.

Blake, 54, is a shining example of COGIC's success at growing big, urban churches. He notes that virtually every major American city has at least one, and often two or more, COGIC churches with more than 1,000 members.

In a day when many denominations point with pride to one or two "mega-churches" in their midst, how has COGIC managed to grow them en masse? George McKinney, 63, pastor of the 3,000-member Saint Stephen's COGIC in San Diego, offers an analysis similar to his colleague's. Both he and Blake say the key to COGIC's growth as a denomination as well as to individual COGIC churches' impressive growth is the fact that the denomination has held to a high view of Scripture, ...

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