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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Commitment Is the Key

Years ago, Susan and I left our pastorate in Cottondale, AL to plant a church in Anderson, SC.  Shortly after I published our decision, I received a letter from a friend, who was in Scottsdale, AZ.  It read:

Dear Paul,

We received your Review (church newsletter) this week and learned of your plans for church planting.  Congratulations on your faith and courage—and obedience.

May I share something from personal experience?  The work you face ahead is challenging, demanding, lonely, endless, overwhelming and, at times, painful.  We have learned it is more demanding to give birth to a new church than care for one that is already in existence and growing.  But let me hasten to add that the rewards are more thrilling, satisfying, exciting, meaningful, fulfilling and heartwarming.  Perhaps, in a very special way, the Lord will help you to bring into existence a spiritual family that before was not present.

If you are at all concerned about what lies ahead, let me assure you of a greater awareness of the Lord’s faithfulness and a greater appreciation for your calling and ministry.


Thirty years have come and gone since I received that letter.  This summer, Lakeside, the church we planted, celebrated 30 years of serving God and their community.

While reflecting, I was reminded that the key that unlocks the door to success is the key of commitment.  Someone wrote, Most frustrated quitters never achieve their potential, not because of bad breaks or unusual problems, but because of the failure to commit themselves to their goal regardless of obstacles.

The level of your determination to accomplish your work is measured by what it takes to make you quit.  Any reservation in your mind concerning the rightness of your plan will become a roadblock to you.  Every great endeavor has a price tag.  The greater the job, the higher the price.  That price tag is known as commitment.

It was during these days that I framed the quote by H. M. Murray and hung it so that I could see it everyday.

Until one is committed, there is a hesitancy, a chance to draw back.  But the moment one definitely commits oneself, then God moves too, and a whole stream of events erupt.  All manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, persons and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way, begins to flow toward him.  It all starts when he commits himself.

Last year about this time, our district committed to the task called District Transformation Project.  Through weekend consultations, year-long coaching, and periodic lay training events we are endeavoring to bring health to our churches, one at a time.

This weekend, our District Board and Leadership Team will meet to evaluate where we have been as a district, where we are as a district, and where we are headed as a district.  I value highly this Leadership Retreat!  Working with a group of committed leaders makes the journey more enjoyable and the task more doable. 

And as with all other worthwhile enterprises, the DTP demands and deserves our all.  Truly, commitment is the key.  The letter that I received 30 years ago is still applicable for today!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Turnpike Consultation

Dr. Borden and I completed ten intense days of consultations, pastoral coaching, and lay training.  It is thrilling to me to see the excitement come to congregations as the possibilities for the future are shared.  Following is the prescription that was given to the Turnpike Wesleyan Church yesterday.  Your continued prayers for the district and for me are greatly needed.  

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SEPTEMBER 16 – 18, 2011


  1. Pastor:  Pastor Norm Mesel is leading the congregation with positive energy.  The congregation is growing and people are becoming new believers in Jesus Christ.  He is and has been a healing influence in a congregation that had experienced some hurts and difficulties in the past.

  1. Evangelism:  People are becoming disciples of Jesus Christ on a regular and consistent basis.  The number of new disciples last year was almost twenty percent of the average worship attendance. 

  1. Facilities:  God has blessed the congregation with a newer building and land for expansion.  The facilities look nice and are well kept.

  1. LBA:  The Local Board of Administration is providing competent leadership for the congregation.  They are allowing their pastor to be a leader; serving his needs and standing with him when those who find it difficult to follow do not treat him or his spouse well.  They also are committed to congregational health and growth.

  1. Finances:  The leaders and congregation have worked hard to turn their financial deficit around in order to be in a strong financial position. 


  1. Mission/Vision:  The current mission and vision statements do not motivate the congregation for an exciting outward focused ministry to the community. 

  1. Small Church Mindset:  The congregation functions well in a small church mindset which however, inhibits future growth spiritually (evangelism) and numerically (providing influence in the community).

  1. Structure:  The current structure of the congregation does not marry authority and responsibility with accountability.

  1. Assimilation:   There is no system in place to assimilate people new to the congregation.

  1. Facilities:  The current configuration of the facilities is not child friendly.


  1. Mission/Vision:  The pastor and leaders of the congregation will adopt the mission statement that Turnpike Wesleyan Church exists to honor God by making more disciples for Jesus Christ.  This mission will be adopted by November 1, 2011.  The pastor and his ministerial team will conduct a mission/ministry audit that will evaluate every ministry of the congregation.  Each ministry will demonstrate how it is making new disciples and if such is not the case, it will be changed or discontinued.  This audit will begin January 1, 2012 and completed by December 31, 2012.  The pastor in consultation with his coach and DS will create a vision statement that produces both excitement and accountability by January 1, 2012.  The pastor will lead the congregation to conduct four invitation bridge events in 2012 that help people move across the bridge of faith to become disciples of Jesus Christ.

  1. Small Church Mindset:  Upon the acceptance of this report the leaders of the church will begin to function with a large church mindset.  First it means being mission and vision driven (see prescription #1).  Second it means the pastor’s role must change from being the congregation’s chaplain to its leader.  His new job description is:

Spiritual Leader (Preach the Word and Call the church to maintain a Godly witness to other believers and the community)

Keeper of the mission and caster of the vision

Leader of the LBA and Ministry Team (Includes the appointing and removing of staff members-paid and volunteer)

Develop other leaders in the body

Represent the church to the community

The pastor will hire a half-time children’s person to oversee all children’s ministries.  This person will be in place by January 1, 2012.  The pastor will have a volunteer/paid staff in place by January 1, 2012 to cover all of those ministries people expect when they come into a church (worship and music, groups and making friends, care, age appropriate ministries, assimilation, facilities and finances).  The current assistant pastor will become the Spiritual Care staff member.  Some of her primary responsibilities will be hospital visitation and leading and preaching at the Sunday evening service.  Staff will be expected to set goals, including evangelism, growth and leadership development goals.  The pastor will hold the staff members accountable for goals and the LBA will hold the pastor accountable for goals.

The church will schedule two Sunday school hours to run concurrently with the two Sunday morning worship services.  Adult Sunday school will move to an elective model with classes scheduled at both hours.  The pastor will also lead the congregation to move to a small group model.  This will start the first Sunday in January 2012.

  1. Structure:  The LBA will read the book Winning on Purpose by Dr. John Kaiser.  This will be completed by December 1, 2012.  The congregation will move to the accountability model of governance described by Dr. Kaiser in his book.  This will occur on January 1, 2012.  This new model means the LBA consisting of five members will govern the congregation.  The pastor will lead the congregation.  The staff members will work for the pastor and manage the ministries of the congregation.  The congregation will do the ministry.  All other committees and boards (except the Trustees) will no longer exist.    

  1. Assimilation:  The pastor will create an assimilation process based upon the work of Pastor Nelson Searcy.  This process will be in place by January 1, 2012.  The system will cover all initial contacts with the congregation through the Yellow Pages, a new web site, newspaper ads, flyers, signs etc.  It will help new people connect with the church from the time they first drive on to the parking lot (e.g. visitor signs, a first touch ministry etc.) until they become mobilized for ministry.  The leaders will allocate up to ten paid hours a week for staff help, if it is deemed necessary, to establish the system and implement it with effectiveness.  The new system, including the new web site and computer programs required to track people, will be in place by January 1, 2012.

  1. Facilities:  The leaders under the direction of the pastor will dismantle the last four classrooms at the end of the upstairs hall and use the space to create an attractive children’s education area.  The entire hallway needs to be painted/decorated for children not adults.  Places need to be provided for parents to register their children and infants so the area is kept safe.  This renovation needs to be completed as soon as possible.  If it is physically possible it should be done by April 1, 2012.  The downstairs fellowship hall needs floor to ceiling room dividers that are sound proof.  The dividers need to be placed to create four rooms if necessary.  This work needs to be completed by June 1, 2012.


Submitted by:

Dr. Paul D. Borden
Pastor Paul James 

(A Recommendation but not a prescription – This means that the vote on the report does not require this recommendation to be carried out).  The leaders need to remove the pews and replace them with chairs as soon as it is financially and physically possible).  This will provide more flexibility and usage of this space.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Malone Consultation Complete

One of our goals for this year was to engage with Dr. Paul Border in eight weekend consultations.  Consultation five is now complete.  This past weekend we were with Pastor Marc Watkins and his team at the First Wesleyan Church of Malone.  The report, including strengths, concerns, and prescription follow.  We came away believing that the best days for the Malone church lie in the future. 

Another added lesson was churches from all across the north country that joined us for a lay training event on Sunday afternoon and evening.  From East Pitcairn in the west, to Waterbury Center in the east, our pastors and people turned out enthusiastically.  For four-and-a-half hours of training and fellowship, 150 individuals listened to the voice of God (even without electricity.  The town of Malone was without electricity for 24 hours.) 

This weekend we ask for your prayers as we move to Plattsburgh and the Turnpike church.  These are busy but rewarding days, and your prayers and support are felt and appreciated.

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SEPTEMBER 9 – 11, 2011


1.     Pastor Marc Watkins: Pastor Marc Watkins is valued highly by everyone we spoke to during the consultation process.  People appreciate his leadership, enthusiasm, servant’s heart and commitment to evangelism.  God is using Marc to lead the congregation in healthy growth.

2.     Becky Watkins:  Becky is valued for her leadership and excellent work with children.  She has been used by God to create, staff and lead an effective children’s ministry in a relatively short period of time.  The congregation is growing in large measure due to the effective children’s ministries.

3.     Growth:  The congregation has doubled in worship attendance in the less than two years that Marc and Becky Watkins have come to lead.  What is even more impressive is that a congregation that recorded no baptisms for a decade, has now baptized eight in 2011. 

4.     Giving:  Those who give to the work of the congregation do it generously when compared to other congregations in the United States.  The 17 giving units gave almost double the national average of other congregations.

5.     Resources:  God has given this congregation a number of significant resources that can be leveraged for growth.  These resources are:  location, the absence of debt, a committed core of leaders and a pastor and spouse who are leaders.           


1.     Vision:  The mission of the congregation is clear.  It is to fulfill the Great Commission and the Great Commandment (GC2).  However, there is no clear vision that produces accountability for the fulfillment of this mission.

2.     Worship:  The Sunday morning worship service though improving in its development is not meeting the need many have for a meaningful worship experience.  Some want it to be more traditional while some visitors do not return because it is viewed as too traditional.  There are multiple agendas that are often in conflict with each other.

3.     Developing Status:  The congregation was put into developing status some years ago because of declining attendance and other issues.  Some see this status as punitive in nature and want to see the congregation returned to its status as an established congregation.

4.     Staff Members:  The three key ministries that help a congregation grow (worship, children and assimilation) are not resourced properly for growth.

5.     Building:  The building is not conducive for developing the key ministries that will enable growth.


1.     Vision:  The pastor will call the congregation to a day of prayer for God to provide a vision for the future.  This day of prayer will occur on a Sunday morning during a worship service.  Time will be given to ask God to break the heart of the congregation collectively and individually for the needs of those who are not yet disciples of Jesus Christ to become His followers.  Prayers will be offered for those who comprise different segments of the community e.g. teachers, first response personnel, those who work in the prisons, etc.  Also, the people will pray that God will open their hearts to a compelling vision for the future.  Following the worship service leaders will invite the congregation to join them in a prayer drive throughout the community.  This day will occur by October 30, 2011.  Following this day the pastor will initiate two weekly prayer events to pray for the community, the vision and the salvation of those apart from God.  These prayer groups will begin the first week of November.  The pastor, in consultation with his coach and DS will develop a vision statement for the congregation.  This statement will be in place by December 31, 2011.

2.     Worship:  The pastor will take on as one of his primary responsibilities the planning and execution of the Sunday morning worship service.  He will function as both the producer (determining who participates) and the director (determining how worship will be carried out).   Each worship service will be creatively planned in that there will be different formats(including the seating and lighting in the auditorium), often asking those in the congregation to participate in using their various senses as part of the worship experience.  Various styles and kinds of music will be used on different Sundays.  These services will be designed to help those who do not normally attend church feel safe and unthreatened in the worship environment.  The services will be missional in that people will be provided constant information as to what is occurring and what is expected, while helping them cross minimal cultural barriers to have a deep experience with God.  This new style of worship service will begin the first Sunday in January 2012.

3.     Developing Status:  The District Superintendent will recommend to the District Board to return the congregation to the status of an established congregation when certain milestones are reached.  These milestones will indicate that the congregation is ready to take its rightful stance as a full fledged established Wesleyan Congregation.  This will occur when the congregation’s giving averages $6000 a month for four months in a row and at the same time the worship attendance averages 75 people two months in a row.  The DS in consultation with the pastor feel that these milestones are easily doable within the next nine months and will demonstrate the congregation’s commitment to be a healthy one fulfilling our Lord’s command to make disciples.  These milestones will also evidence that the leaders are committed to having a congregation that is viable and open to the pastor’s leadership.  The leaders will also create an annual budget by the beginning of the next fiscal year.  Also when the congregation goes back to its established status it will be organized on the Accountability Leadership Model proposed by John Kaiser in his book Winning on Purpose.

4.     Staff Members:  The pastor will assume the primary role of planning and implementing creative worship services beginning January 1, 2012.  The congregation will hire Becky Watkins as the Children’s pastor for $1000 a month beginning November 1, 2011.  She will also continue to serve in her janitorial role until funds are available to hire her replacement in order to let her focus entirely on children.  The pastor will require a volunteer to help him with the administrative side of the assimilation process.  This key volunteer position needs to be filled by January 1, 2012.

5.     Building:  The entire inside of the building upstairs and downstairs needs to be painted to provide a new fresh look.  The upstairs needs to be lightened up and the downstairs needs to be painted to appeal to children.  Once the painting is completed the District will send the congregation a gift of $1000 to be put towards the carpeting of the downstairs.  This work (the painting and the carpeting) needs to be completed by December 31, 2011.

As the congregation looks  to the near future and the possible purchase of near-by real estate, they need to consider how finances will be sought that will also allow them to update the rest rooms that are downstairs and build a restroom on the upstairs level.  The upstairs restroom needs to be built as soon as it is financially possible.  This will require the relocation of the nursery to a clean updated space.


Respectfully submitted by:

Dr. Paul D. Borden
District Superintendent - Pastor Paul James

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Round Three

Across the years I have struggled with taking time away from ministry.  I grew up in a household where a good work ethic was applauded.  At twelve, I had my own lawn-mowing business.  At fourteen, I drove a laundry truck for Fowler Bros. Dry Cleaners, Spartanburg, SC.  At sixteen, I worked the service desk at the Sky City (a store similar to K Mart).  The service desk, which also served as a complaint department, was where I learned a lot about people and how to get along with them.   At eighteen, I was building Coke and Pepsi machines at Beverage Air.

When I started my ministry, it was difficult to take a day off each week or to get away from the church for a real vacation.  Fortunately, across the years I have learned the principle of rest and have come to understand that I function better when rested physically and emotionally.

Several years a go, I heard Rick Warren describe this principle by advising pastors to...

  • Divert daily--short breaks that renew, 
  • Withdraw weekly--a day away that refreshes, and 
  • Abandon annually--a couple of weeks to let the batteries completely recharge.
In late August, Susan and I were able to do our 'annual abandoning'!  We spent two weeks in Florida; one week visiting family and the other watching the waves roll in on an Atlantic beach.

Now it's back to the District Transformation Project!  Dr. Borden arrives this week for the third round of consultations.  Malone and Turnpike will be our focus.  In addition, we will hold three Success Universities for pastoral training and one lay training event for the North Country.

The lay training event entitled, Developing Healthy Churches, will be held on Sunday, September 11, from 3p-8:30p at the First Wesleyan Church of Malone.  Approximately 150 individuals from our north-of-the-Adirondacks churches have indicated their attendance.  I am impressed!  The hunger to see life change and community transformation is palpable.

Please pray for all of these events, and for Dr. Borden and myself over these next ten days.  It is an intense period and we need wisdom from above.  Watch this column for updates on the consultations.  Audio files of Dr. Borden's teaching is available for download at the district -> Church Multiplication Tab -> District Transformation.