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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

December 2013

Dear Friend,

The year 2013 has proven to be a one of change for the Eastern New York/New England team, as well as for the James family.  If you have a couple of minutes I’d like to share some of them with you. 

In August, Susan and I closed on a home in Ballston Spa, NY.  This is a quaint village 25 miles south of Queensbury, where we have lived for the past five years.  The district parsonage and office have been turned into a vacation rental/corporate retreat center called The Retreat at West Mountain.  Located in the heart of vacation country, the property is centrally located to Lake George and Saratoga Springs.

Moving the district office to our Corinth church, outfitting the retreat center and remodeling our ninety-year old home has kept us very busy this fall.  However, we thrive on projects and are excited about this new chapter in our lives.

Susan is busy writing a book.  The first draft is complete.  She is in the middle of the re-write phase now. Reliving parts of her traumatic youth have proved to be more painful than she anticipated, but she is confident that God will use this story to help others.

Paul still enjoys coaching and consulting with his pastors and churches.  Twenty-four of our churches have now completed the consultation process that we call DTP (District Transformation Project).  Doors have opened for him to share what we have learned with other districts.  He is thrilled with the miracles that are happening in churches where the revitalization weekends are taking place.  Making disciples for Jesus remains his passion.

David surprised us in February by announcing that Dana Wagner had become Mrs. David James.  David and Dana live in Overland Park, Kansas.  He is still involved in computer work and greatly involved in the lives of Peytan (9) and Kyler (6).

Beth and Pete are in the process of relocating to the Raleigh, NC area.  Pete will be managing an office for Jenkins Restoration.  Beth has many interests and friends, but is most active in interior decorating.  This is a hobby that has turned into a small business for her.  Kailey (11), Gabriel (9) and Josiah (5) are their children.

Kathy and Earl live in Clarksville, TN.  Earl is stationed at Fort Campbell where he is commander of Echo Company 5-101.  Kathy home-schools the kids, Hannah (15), Brianna (11), and Isaiah (7).   The disease, polymyositis, that Kathy has is in remission and we are grateful.

Dad and Mom James reside in Winter Haven, FL.  Dad is 87; Mom is 91.   We are grateful for the reasonably good health they are enjoying for their ages.  They keep up with family and friends through the Internet and are vitally interested in the lives of their three boys and families.

The last time that most of us were together for a picture was last Christmas.  Since many of you in the northeast know little of our family, I thought I’d dust this picture off and send it on to you.  We have added Earl, who was in Afghanistan at the time and Dana, who had not yet joined the family when the picture was taken.


Pastor Paul & Susan

Back Row: David, Hannah, Kathy, Kailey, Beth, Pete
Front Row:  Peyton, Susan, Kylar (Susan’s lap), Paul, Isaiah (Paul’s lap), Brianna, Gabriel, Josiah
Earl Morris
Earl Morris
David & Dana James

Monday, October 7, 2013

Ogdensburg - DTP Consultation

Ogdensburg Wesleyan Church
September 29, 2013


1. Pastor and Spouse
Although Pastor Jon and Jamie Wixson have been in Ogdensburg for only six weeks, they have won the hearts of the people.  Their youth, energy, faith and expectancy have injected fresh hope into a congregation that was near death.

2. Unique Facilities
The old schoolhouse that is now the church is well maintained for its age.  It is clean, neat, and offers a home base that can be used for the foreseeable future.  The congregation has high hopes of soon outgrowing this space in the Sunday morning service.

3. Core Leadership
A small leadership group refuses to give up even in the face of great adversity and unexpected events.  They cling to the hope that God is not through with this church yet and that it can have a viable ministry to this needy city.

4.  Financial Resources
Over the years, the church stockpiled financial reserves.  Without these funds, the church would have no future.  However, strategically used for outreach, they offer hope for ministry going forward.

5. Community Center
Located in the heart of a residential area that is full of children, the whole building and adjacent lot has great potential as a community center.  By faith, we see a multitude of uses that will build bridges to the needy and hurting lives surrounding the church.


1. Mission/Vision
The congregation has been inwardly focused; with many people more concerned about what the church can do for them rather than what the church can do for the city.  The mission/vision must be refocused and redirected.

2. Reputation/Outreach
Unfortunately, stories are told of behavior by church attenders that have alienated those in the immediate community.  Emphasis on repentance and healing must take place to recapture respect from the greater community.  Also, it is believed that the greater Ogdensburg community has no idea that the church exists.

3. Facilities
The limited space in the building is not equipped for the multi-purpose use that is envisioned.  Reaching the young families and children means reconfiguring the largest and most useful spaces.  Also, the field beside the church must be leveraged to aid in the mission/vision.

4. Finances/Cash Flow
Weekly tithes and offerings are only $300-$400.  Unless this increases the church will struggle to stay on mission and to stay alive.  Supporting the pastor, maintaining the property, and funding a vision will take many more dollars weekly.

5. Ministries/Structure
Limited ministries now exist, and those that do exist focus almost exclusively on “us.”  This must change or death is near.  The three ministries that a church this size must focus on are excellent Sunday morning worship, assimilation of guests, and innovative ministry to children.


1. Mission/Vision
The congregation, under the leadership of the pastor, shall be called to a consecrated day of repentance.  On this day, prayers will be offered asking God to forgive the congregation for being inward focused and failing to regularly reach souls for Christ.  The fact that year after year, few if any souls have come to know Christ as a result of OWC ministries should bring pain to hearts and tears to eyes.  This service will take place by December 31, 2013.

Following this day of repentance, prayer drives and walks throughout the community shall awaken a burden for the lost and hurting of this city that is often described as a spiritually dark place.  The attendees of this church must believe that they are part of God’s plan to bring light and hope to broken lives.  By April 30, 2014 every street in the city will have been prayed over.

The target area will be selected, demographic studies and goals set for the two vision numbers as taught by the vision team—one of how many lives will be touched by kindness and one of how many souls will come to Christ.

The pastor will lead the congregation in house-to-house visits.  Rebranding the church to change its image will be a priority.  Whenever there is a decision to be made regarding whether to use resources and energy on “us” (those already in the church) or “them” (those in the world who need Christ), “them” shall receive the priority.

2. Reputation/Outreach
During the next year, 80% of the pastor’s time will be spent on outreach and evangelism.  Every day, he must be out in the community meeting influential people, joining key organizations, knocking on doors and meeting folks and neighbors.  Attention must be given to repairing broken relationships with neighbors who have experienced unloving attitudes and conduct by church members.

During the month of December, tins of cookies and hand-written Christmas cards will be delivered to homes in the area between State Street and the river, Highway 37 and Lafayette St.

Also, the pastor will lead the congregation in 3-6 bridge events.  The events must have strategic follow-up dates (not date) as taught by the consultation team.  Touching people, changing lives must be the theme every day, all year.

3. Facilities
The building is now configured to be used two or three hours a week.  In order for that to change, the worship center must become a multi-purpose room.  The pews will be removed and replaced by stackable, interlocking chairs.  This will make this space available in various configurations for children’s clubs, community activities, community meetings, exercise, youth events, etc.  Two large-screen TVs (60” or larger) will be mounted on the walls to enhance the worship experience.  To add warmth, hospitality, and to encourage fellowship, a coffee bar will be placed in the lobby.  These renovations will be completed by February 28, 2014.  The congregation is encouraged to raise the money as soon as possible for the 75 chairs.  As soon as $3,000 is raised (approximately 65 chairs), the District Vision Fund will contribute $500 for the final 10 chairs.  It is expected that chairs will be in the worship center by January 15, 2014.

Attention will be given to utilizing the lovely park-like lot by the church for ministry.  Soccer, enlarged playground, outdoor movies, community campouts, etc. are all ideas to help the community view this place as a place to belong.  As this develops, the congregation will move to “build bridges” to the families and children who begin to use this space.

Continual upgrading of the basement space to better serve children and youth will also take place.

4. Finances/Cash Flow
The congregation will read the book The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn and a series of messages on this spiritual topic will be given.  This month, known as Stewardship Month, will take place in January 2014.

In addition, the leadership team and pastor shall set aside a $4000 Emergency fund and divide the remaining reserves into 24 equal amounts to be used for ministry over the next 24 months.

Also a coach will be provided for the pastor by the District and paid for by the church.

5. Ministries/Structure
The pastor shall lead the congregation in focusing on three ministries this year: Sunday Morning Worship, Assimilation, and Children. These must have all the attention and focus.

The pastor is the director of the worship service and must see that all is done with excellence - so that guests will have a wonderful experience with God and new friends.

An assimilation team following the plan of Nelson Searcy will be put into place.  Church management computer software will be purchased, mailing list developed, and a deliberate follow-up, marketing plan put into place.

A weekday children’s club, children’s church, and children’s sermon are three points of emphasis that will be put in place almost immediately.

The Kaiser Model, as taught by the consultation team and explained in the DTP town hall meeting, will be the way the church is governed going forward.

The congregation will vote to accept or reject this report by October 20, 2013. All regular attenders will vote. If rejected the District will not work with the congregation in relation to the report since the congregation will have spoken. However, if accepted the District will provide whatever resources are within its power to give assistance for the congregation to achieve the prescription.

Submitted by:
Rev. Paul James
Rev. Stephen O’Dell
Rev. David Norman
Rev. Juanita Brooks

Cornerstone - DTP Consultation

Cornerstone Wesleyan Church
September 29, 2013


1. Momentum
In his book Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby wrote that followers of Christ should discover where God is at work and then join Him. It is evident that Cornerstone Wesleyan Church (CWC) is such a place at this season.  God's Spirit is moving, resulting in transformed lives!  The team is very aware that their job is simply to address issues that bring frustration to a congregation that is experiencing many changes brought on by the movement of God.

2. Prayer
Many expressed that the congregation was known for its prayer meeting.  Sixty people recently attended a prayer service that focused on a severely injured attender.  The altars are being used more frequently as a place for meeting with God.  Many are discovering spiritual power and peace in doing so.

3. Pastor and Spouse
Pastor Rusty and Sally are perceived as a perfect fit for this congregation.  Rusty's messages are anointed, practical, interesting and used by God for life change.  His ability to move through the community, connecting with people from all walks of life is greatly admired.  He has a unique gifting from God to gather people.  Sally is loved and respected for her willingness to take on the systems and structures so desperately needed in a growing congregation.  Keeping up with the details brought on by a movement of God is almost impossible, yet with her lovely smile, she bravely tackles the "stuff" every day.

4. Children/Men/Connection Groups
These three programs are particularly successful in reaching people.  The children's ministry is growing rapidly and filling its newly renovated space.  Young families are attracted to its vibrancy.  Several men's groups are flourishing.  Wives and mothers joyfully speak of transformed husbands and sons!  Connection groups offer folks of all types and interests a place to belong.  Fellowship is vital at CWC.

5. Big Events/Guest Flow
During the past year, several big events have been extremely successful.  This has raised the visibility of the church and brought scores of guests through the doors of CWC.  Many have returned.  Assimilating new folk into the congregation has become a major priority.


1. Systems/Structure/Communication
It would be fair to say that almost all with whom we spoke mentioned the lack of organization as the main thing that needs to be worked on.  The rapid growth and blessing of God has strained the systems/structure/communications and those involved almost to the breaking point.

2. Staff
Churches this size should have at least two full-time pastoral staff members and a church secretary.  CWC is playing catch-up in this area.  Much of the lack of organization, communication, and structure can be addressed by staffing the church properly for future growth.  Since the appropriate staffing level may be unattainable at present, some modification that addresses at minimum the need for both clerical support and ministry support should be implemented.

3. Finances
The giving is below average for a church this size.  In order to fund the ministry opportunities that God is giving, emphasis must be given to scriptural teaching on the tithe. Jesus speaks of giving more than any other topic, therefore we must study and obey His teachings to be blessed by God.

4. Facilities
The ongoing projects and renovations have taken a toll on the energy of the congregation.  Rapid completion of the many unfinished projects will free time and energy to invest in people and systems.

5. Discipleship
Because of the large influx of new believers into CWC, it is easy for spiritual growth and discipleship to fall through the cracks.  This leaves spiritual babies adrift in their new lives.  One of the systems that must be addressed is discipleship - moving individuals from spiritual new birth to spiritual maturity.


1. Systems/Structure/Communication
Upon adoption of this report, the Local Advisory Council (LAC) and the ministry leadership team will immerse themselves in the eight systems necessary for a healthy church.  It is imperative that these systems (the weekend system, evangelism system, assimilation system, small group system, volunteer system, stewardship system and leadership system) are implemented.  All leaders will read the book or complete an audio version of Nelson Searcy's Healthy Systems, Healthy Church by December 31, 2013.

Cloud-based PowerChurch software that brings all administrative functions into one program will be subscribed to. An experienced consultant will be obtained to expedite the process by November 1, 2013.

In order to educate the congregation regarding the Kaiser Model of Church Governance, the district superintendent will offer a presentation during the DTP town hall meeting on October 12, 2013.  This will enable the congregation to understand who is in charge and how decisions are made.

Each quarter, a "church chat" will take place.  Led by the pastor, this will be a time of questions and answers.  It is believed that an informed congregation is a happy congregation.  Financial reports will be posted regularly and minutes from the LAC will be made available upon request.

2. Staff
A part time assistant to the pastor with gifts that are complimentary to the lead pastor will be hired to give attention to systems, organization, recruiting and leadership development. Additionally, the church will obtain a volunteer or part-time secretary who will focus on clerical details.  These individuals will be selected, hired and report to the lead pastor.  Both individuals will be in place by January 1, 2014.

The pastor and newly-hired assistant to the pastor will lead the church in implementing a ministry team that meets at least once a month for prayer, planning, goal-setting and accountability.  All ministry leaders will be recruited and trained by April 15, 2014.

Once leadership for the ministries is in place, a ministry fair will be held so that people can sign-up to serve in areas of expertise and interest.  This ministry fair will be held by May 1, 2014.

The pastor will continue his coaching relationship with David Cook.  CWC shall pay for this service.

3. Finance
The pastor will lead the church in a study of the book The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn.  Small group lessons, Sunday School classes, and sermons will all focus on this important biblical teaching.  There is a reason that the Jesus talks more about money than any other subject.  We must understand God's plan for giving.  This study will take place by February 28, 2014.

In addition, the Financial Peace course by Dave Ramsey will be offered to the church constituents and the greater Heuvelton area.  Attention will be given to money management and debt reduction.  The course will be completed by summer of 2014.

4. Facilities
CWC shall continue to maximize its current facility until it is no longer feasible to do so.  Some adaptions to the schedule of Sunday services and spaces will be necessary.  Children will need to spend the entire hour in children's classes and overflow cafe space will need to be utilized.  Only time will tell how long it will be until the facility is 75% full on a regular basis.  When that occurs, the congregation will seek an alternative site off-campus for their a.m. service.

Meanwhile, attention will be given to completing with excellence the projects that are now underway in the building.  Once the cafe/overflow space is complete and the sanctuary carpet installed, the biggest part of the renovation will be completed.   CWC is to be commended for paying cash for the egress, AC, chairs, etc.  In order, however, to quickly finish the renovations, the LAC and pastor should consider borrowing up to $20,000.

The front of the sanctuary is really cluttered and does not make a great impression when you first walk into the room.   Exploration and study should take place to reconfigure the platform.

5. Discipleship
It is imperative that CWC implement a Next Steps process to assist those that are new in Christ in moving toward maturity. A discipleship team will be formed to design and implement a clear and concise plan for intentional discipleship at CWC. The plan will include a definition of discipleship and the characteristics of a fully devoted follower of Jesus, as well as clearly identifying which connections or classes meet particular steps of discipleship.  Immediate attention should be given to launching a 6-12 week New Believers Class to be offered a minimum of twice in the coming year, beginning no later than January 2014.

Additional classes to be implemented will include baptism and membership. Other discipleship classes will be determined by the needs within the congregation. Classes/workshops to be considered would be premarital counseling and spiritual gift discovery.

Given the needs of the surrounding area, the pastor's experience with recovery ministries, and the presence of professionals with expertise in counseling, CWC needs to launch a recovery ministry such as Celebrate Recovery or another similar ministry by fall 2014.


Team Members:
Rev. Paul James
Rev. Steve O’Dell
Rev. Juanita Brooks
Rev. David Norman