Dear Vision Fund Supporter,
Pastor Paul James asked me to share my story to thank and encourage you in your support of the Vision Fund.
I was very skeptical about pastoring in the Northeast district because I had heard of several of the churches’ struggles through my wife’s relatives in the district. But when we found out we were pregnant with our second son, I sent my resume to Pastor Paul to see if there might be a possibility of pastoring near my wife’s parents.
Over that summer of 2012, I spoke with Pastor Paul three times about the tiny, struggling churches that were available. Two of those times, I shrugged off the opportunities as ridiculous options. The third conversation came when Pastor Paul called me just 20 minutes after I told my Kansas DS that I was ready to leave my church. His timing caused me to reconsider my availability and permit him to submit my resume to the church I now serve in Vermont.
My church is similar to many of the churches in the district that struggle to survive decades of unsuccessful strategies, unproductive habits, and unhealthy attitudes. District gatherings could easily become incubators of negativity where pastors commiserate about their struggles and frustrations. But I have witnessed a very different phenomenon at our district gatherings, and a significant reason for that is the Vision Fund.
- Nine times a year, pastors gather in two regional groups called Success University to share their stories, discuss a book, and work through a leadership curriculum together. This monthly meeting has become the highlight of my month for several reasons:
- I don’t feel alone
- I see that other pastors are grappling with similar issues as me
- I hear how God is moving not all that far from me…it makes me think that my church can catch the wave of revival, too
- The book discussions (subsidized by the Vision Fund) contextualize new thoughts and approaches into settings similar to my own
Attending these meetings is almost a three-hour drive one-way. It is worth every minute of travel and every dime of expense.
As great as the monthly SU meetings are, I’m a huge fan of our revivalist roots and have a corresponding penchant for great preaching and subsequent altar calls. Pastor Paul uses the Vision Fund to bring in top tier speakers to Unleash and the Ministerial Retreat. He has these speakers share not only their successes, but also their struggles and how they overcame them. Exposure to other ministries that have overcome similar trials is so encouraging!
Early this year, we remodeled our children’s space at a time when things were tight for our church. Pastor Paul offered to tap the Vision Fund to buy a flat screen TV to help us with the project. I can hardly express how encouraging the gesture was to our church. A TV is not something we could borrow for, it’s not something we could afford, and our church had never been a team player with the district in terms of paying our district tithe. To have a TV offered despite being undeserved was like Annie finding Daddy Warbucks. In that simple gesture, our church learned that it wasn’t an orphan import from the Canadian Standard Church, but that it was part of a team that cared and wanted to help.
The fruit of these investments in our ministry and church are remarkable. In the last year, 11 people decided to follow Jesus and five (5) were baptized in water, compared with only two (2) salvations and two (2) baptisms in all the years since 2006. Giving is up 70% and attendance is up 20% through November compared to the same point last fiscal year.
I could not serve effectively without the constant encouragement from Pastor Paul, my colleagues in the district, and the various personal investments the Vision Fund makes possible.
Your giving to the vision fund bypasses formality and equips Pastor Paul with the resources he needs to shift the culture of our district and our churches. Thank you for touching our church and my life through your investment in the kingdom through the Vision Fund.
In His Grace,
Rev. David Norman