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Prayer, Passion, and Following the Holy Spirit Leads to Church's Stunning Turnaround

In just six months, God transformed Century Assembly from a church teetering on closure to one of the fastest growing congregations in the U.S.

Pastor Damien Giacchino looked from the platform out into the sea of people packed into the Century Assembly sanctuary Easter morning. Church leadership and lay people had prayed and fasted, asking God for a miracle attendance — and God had responded beyond all expectations.

If Giacchino had crumbled on the platform in gratitude, let out a whoop of praise, or even danced down the aisles in celebration, only a few would have fully understood why. Yes, the prayer was to see the congregation of 500 swell to 800 for Easter — and God’s overwhelming response was an attendance of more than 1,000 — but God’s response takes on a far greater significance when placed in context.

Just six months prior, on Sept. 24, 2023, Giacchino stood on the same Lodi, California, platform and gave his first message as the pastor of Century Assembly . . . to a congregation of 50!


Prior to accepting the pastorate at Century Assembly, Giacchino had served as associate pastor at Real Life Church in Sacramento under the mentorship of lead pastor Dean Deguara.

“When pastor Damien initially came on staff, he had a call to be a lead pastor one day,” Deguara says. “We spoke of a three- to five-year window of time (at Real Life), and in that fifth year, he began to look at different opportunities that came his way.”

Century Assembly, formerly known as Glad Tidings with a rich history that exceeds 100 years, was now a church in sharp decline and in significant financial distress. When the position was offered to Giacchino, he placed the decision in God’s hands, seeking His counsel. Moving from the stability of Real Life with a strong congregation of roughly 1,000 to a dying church, in need of repairs, and with a host of financial challenges — it would require God’s clear confirmation.

Giacchino says that God gave him a heart for the church and the community of Lodi.

“God gave me Nehemiah rebuilding the wall,” Giacchino says. “Now, Nehemiah isn’t a book of miracles, except the miracles of leadership and God’s favor, but it is about how Nehemiah took ordinary people and did extraordinary work.”

With that vision, Giacchino and his wife, Stacey, shared their decision to accept the offer with Deguara and Century Asssembly.

At that point, Deguara met with the Real Life board and they determined that for the first time, they were going to “send” a minister into the ministry. In addition to receiving very generous offerings to help support the Giacchinos in the move and to help with church repairs, they also asked for volunteers.

“We asked the congregation for volunteers to prayerfully consider going with the Giacchinos to Lodi (an hour’s drive away) as part of their team for three months, six months, a year, or even move there,” Deguara says. “Fifteen people volunteered to become part of their ‘relaunch’ team and invest in their ministry.”

Sending off dedicated volunteers, as most church leaders know, isn’t a simple gesture — good volunteers are often hard to come by.

However, Deguara says, the investment not only helped establish a new culture and provide momentum for Century Assembly, God has blessed Real Life in return.

“Before we sent pastor Giacchino and the team out, we were running about 1,000 in attendance,” Deguara says. “Now we’re running 1,200 on Sundays, and Easter Sunday we set a record with over 1,800 attending the morning services. We have seen an increase financially, numerically, and even with our number of volunteers – in all aspects, exponential growth. I do think it’s connected (with the sending of the Giacchinos). You sow into good ground, and I believe it comes back to you, and not just with finances!”


In speaking with long-time Century Assembly member and board member, Anna Garza, she shares that the board, as a team, prayed, fasted, and sought godly counsel believing that God would bring the right pastor to the church.

“As a board, we felt united in what the Lord had for the church — that He wanted to move not just at Century, but in Lodi and the surrounding area.”

So, when Giacchino came and interviewed for the position, and shared the vision the Lord had placed on his heart for Century Assembly, it was almost like it was scripted.

“What he had to say confirmed just what the Lord was saying to us,” Garza says.

Deguara also strongly believes Giachinno was God’s pick for the position.

“He is a super-gifted, multifaceted leader that also has business sense, which Century needed as in addition to the church building, it has a 40-unit senior-living apartment complex that needed to ‘bounce back,’” Deguara says. “It would take a person like pastor Damien, with his entrepreneurial spirit and great communications skills, to do this . . . talk about a guy you want on your team — he’s one of the best!”


“The vision God gave me for the church was to rebuild, restore, revive, and then re-present Century Assembly to the community,” Giacchino says. “However, in doing that, we wanted to see Century be a multiethnic, multigenerational, and multifaceted church — a place anyone could come, no matter the ethnicity, no matter their socio-economic status.”

However, when Giacchino arrived, the church was in survival mode.

Jim Cordero, the assistant pastor at Century Assembly for the past eight years, says the church had a hard time coming back after COVID. However, following the retirement of the previous pastor, the church really began to dwindle.

When Giacchino and his team arrived, a fresh wind of the Spirit seemed to accompany them, with Giacchino pointing back to the mentorship and invaluable training he received through serving at Real Life under Deguara.

“Many of the things we’re doing here, I learned through my experience at Real Life,” Giacchino says. “I’m not replicating Real Life here, but we’re taking many of the same principles and framing them into our context here at Century.”

Giacchino says that the staff and ministry team work together to help establish “habitudes” — where habits and attitudes align with their belief about Jesus.

“First and foremost, we must love God personally,” Giacchino says. “And then we have to learn and prioritize empathy. I like to say, ‘Before you try to put somebody in their place, put yourself in their place.’”

Other habitudes include living abundantly through the fruits of the Spirit, leading humbly as servants, and lifting humanity by caring for your neighbor and sowing into missions and other worthy causes.

“Pastor Damien is very gifted,” Cordero says. “He’s a leader who knows where he’s going and has worked with the team we had in place. And now, the Spirit of the Lord is just drawing people in.”

Giacchino confirms Cordero’s observation of the Spirit’s work, stating that they have done very little promotion, online or otherwise, and are only now looking to establish a stronger social media presence. The majority of “promotion” has been simply through word of mouth.

But what’s remarkable is people aren’t just coming to check out what’s going on at Century — a significant percentage keep coming back!

As the weeks turned to months, Giacchino says it was vital for to communicate what he believes is God’s vision for the church.

As Cordero observes, “Everyone who wants to serve or be a member has to go through our Discovery Tract class, which meets on Sunday mornings. There people get to know who we are, what we believe, and learn the vision we have for the church and community.”

Giacchino says, those who volunteer for ministry in the church are now referred to as visioneers — volunteers who carry the vision.


What can only be referred to as the unimaginable growth of Century Assembly, Giacchino unequivocally credits to the presence of the Spirit of God.

“We don’t watch the minutes, we watch for the moments,” Giacchino says. “We are ok without rushing out of those moments — we believe in the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and we believe in letting Him lead.”

“Pastor Damien is very adamant about (the staff) guarding our personal devotional time,” Cordero says. “If you’re not close with God, you will not sense the move of the Spirit and move with God’s flow.”

Garza says, “As the church gathers together, it feels as if the Spirit is moving upon everyone’s soul . . . the preaching of pastor Damien has been a source of inspiration and guidance, leading many to a deeper and renewed commitment to spiritual growth. The Word is touching our souls to the depths of our hearts.”

Garza has also noticed that with the presence of the Spirit combined with Giacchino’s honest vulnerability from the pulpit, people have responded without hesitation.

“It’s not just young people, but those of all ages on their faces before the Lord,” she says. “It is all just amazing, and I feel blessed to be a part of it!”

As Giacchino, Cordero, and Garza will attest to, as Century Assembly has waited upon the Lord and allowed Him to do what He wants to do, God has blessed the church, and in turn the church has looked to bless others.

Giacchino says that the church has begun sowing into other local churches and organizations that aid the community.

“We’re not able to provide the manpower to help yet,” Giacchino says, noting how most of the congregation has only been attending a few months, “but we believe the best way to turn the church around financially is to sow into places where God is working . . . we trust Him at His Word and give bountifully.”

And the numbers reveal that God has blessed bountifully in return.

“In six months, we have had over 30 baby dedications; more than 50 baptisms; we see five, 10, 15 salvations every week; our Discovery Tract has dozens of people in it; and we have grown from 50 to more than 500,” Giacchino says. “And, when I first got here, we didn’t have a youth group. Now we have a youth director leading 25 to 40 youth every Sunday and Wednesday.”

“Never in my experience have I seen what’s happening here right now,” Cordero says. “There’s an excitement in the air . . . it’s something I’m humbled, blessed, and excited to be a part of.”


There’s little doubt that God is doing something remarkable at Century Assembly, with only the future yielding what kind of incredible impact the church will have on its community.

But as Giacchino constantly referred back to, Deguara and Real Life Church prepared him and then sent him with a team and finances. Those acts made his transition far easier and opened the door to many other possibilities that otherwise may have taken years to develop.

Deguara believes that as more church doors are being closed than being opened, and with more churches on the verge of closing, established churches need to not only be mentoring and raising up strong new leaders but sending them out as well.

“We have these strategic properties in strategic places and when you have leaders like pastor Damien, even though they bring so much to your church, we can’t hold on to talent and anointing that God wants to use to build the Kingdom,” Deguara states. “And what we’ve experienced is when we sow leaders, God continues to bring quality people to take their place . . . we’re looking forward to continuing to sow leaders several times over.”

Dan Van Veen

Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he and his wife, Lori, teach preschool Sunday School and 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls on Wednesdays.