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January 10, 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is my belief that God has a purpose for our church family. We can come to understand the path of God’s purpose for us by observing where we are as a church family, how we have arrived here, and projecting that path into the future.

As I begin, let me say that Lillian and I are blessed to be with you all. We are enjoying getting to know each of you. We thank you for how you have welcomed and supported us. We look forward to spending a long time with you all.

Lillian and I have been through a lot of changes in 2010. We moved, changed church families, and gained a new circle of friends. I retired and transferred denominations. Change can be disruptive and stressful, but we know that this particular change has been a part of God’s direction and blessing of us.

You all have been through some changes. Not only do you have a new pastor, but there have been other changes that come with having a new pastor. You all have been very gracious and open to these changes. Your acceptance and help show what a wonderful spirit there is in our church family.

Where We Have Been

The records for Breckenridge Chapel do not lend themselves to providing a detailed narrative of our church. What we know is that our church (or society in Free Methodist terminology) has been in existence for over a century - since 1902. The church is only forty-two years younger than the denomination!

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Many of you have been a part of this church for many years and are “keepers of our story.” I hope you will be able to fill in the blanks for the rest of us.

We can get a better picture of the immediate past of Breckenridge Chapel. Of course, statistics are only a part of the picture. Again, many of you can recall the fine spirit and fellowship of recent years.

The statistics that I track most of all are average worship attendance, church membership, and income. These charts below give us a visual of these statistics. What they show me is that Breckenridge Chapel is a stable, generous, and small church family.

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Where We Are

A closer look at 2010 gives us a picture of where we are now. Of course, our look at 2010 needs more than charts and graphs. We need to some how include the friendships and the spirit that is shared here. When we do that we know that Breckenridge Chapel is a healthy fellowship of followers of Jesus. We are a church family in a very real and healthy way.

I can say all of this because I am the “new guy.” By the time you receive this report I shall have been with you as your pastor for twenty-six Sundays - exactly half of a year. What we are together is what God has done with you and through you; what God has invited you to do and to be; and how you have responded positively and generously to His invitation to join Him in His work.

With all these things in mind we can look at the charts and see what is behind them. What I see is a healthy, loving, and generous small church that has what many people around us need - a loving fellowship with one another and with God through faith in Jesus Christ.

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You will notice that I have included an item called “Virtual 2010.” Virtual Church () is a website that delivers ten minute worship services over the Internet. In 2010 Virtual Church averaged 32 page views per week and cost $15 per month to maintain.

My Work as Your Pastor

At this point I feel that it is appropriate to discuss my work with our church family and in the community. I debated on whether to include this information, but I like to report on my work “outside” the church to you because I believe that everything I do is a ministry on behalf of God and of Breckenridge Chapel. I do not freelance my ministry. I want to be held accountable to you for my various activities.

When I retired from the United Methodist Church (officially on 1 July 2010) I promised Lillian that I would act retired. The three years prior to my coming to be your pastor, I was in an unusual appointment supervising several ethnically and geographically diverse ministries in Jefferson County. I was driving about 500 miles and working an average of sixty-five hours per week.

This retirement was actually my third. I retired from the Marine Corps in 1996; I retired from High School coaching in 2007; and I retired from the United Methodist ordained ministry after thirty-two years in 2010.

I had made a decision to transfer my orders to the Free Methodist Church regardless of any possible openings at churches. I told our superintendent and the appropriate committees that I would be happy to sit in the back pew and be supportive of your pastor or serve where and in the manner they thought appropriate.

Lillian and I felt very blessed when the appointment as your pastor became open. I am able to continue serving as a pastor in my new denomination in a community I love, and with a wonderful congregation to which I am called, while I give Lillian more attention.

I keep track of my work hours in several categories. The chart gives you an accounting of my weekly hours and percentage of time involved in these ministries.

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Breckenridge Chapel - I spend about 23 hours per week (52%) as your pastor. This includes activities such as sermon and worship preparation, meetings and administration, denominational activities, and pastoral visits as needed. Our website is .

Virtual Church - I spend a little more than 8 hours per week (19%) with the Internet ministry that I continue to develop and explore. The websites are and .

Sports Officiating - I spend almost 5 hours per week (10%) as a high school sports official. This activity is a seasonal. I have been a volleyball official for fourteen years, and I am considering adding lacrosse and field hockey. I am allowed to designate days that I am available, so that it does not conflict with my work as pastor.

Writing and Publishing - I spend almost 4 hours per week (8%) writing. This is another hobby of sorts that is also a ministry. I have three books in print, and five books published in electronic format. I write when I have the time and the urge.

St. Matthews Police Chaplain - As a chaplain with the Saint Matthews Police Department I function as a pastor for the department and the community. I spend about 3 hours per week (7%) in this activity.

The Moral Side of the News - This program consists of a panel of clergy who discuss current issues in the news. It is taped on Friday morning and airs on WHAS-TV and the Faith channel, as well as WHAS radio and several other radio stations. I appear on about half the programs through the year. If you would like to view a taping, just let me know. The website is . I average about 1 hour per week (2%) with “Moral Side.”

Crusade for Children - Residents of Louisville are aware of the Crusade’s work for special needs people. Most of my work with the Crusade occurs March through June when a group of twelve clergy of which I am a part hear grant requests and allocate the funds. I also serve on the Crusade Endowment Board. Through these last six months I averaged less than 1 hour per week (1%). The website is .

Where We Are Going

When you read the Bible - especially the Old Testament - you will find that whenever God’s people had a significant encounter with God, they would stop, praise God, and mark the place to remember it. These significant encounters were times when God gave the people either an indication of where they were to go in the future, or a confirmation that they were on the right path.

We can do the same in our own lives and in the life of this congregation. God gives clear indication to each of us and to churches of His particular path for us - how we are to join Him in His work. As we look back over our “markers” we can see the trajectory of our path and see where we are going by the grace of God.

Of course, I have not been able to experience our history as you have. I have been able to observe from the outside, however. Here are three things that I recommend we do in the immediate future.

Community Ministry. I have already shared with you my belief that our church is a healthy, loving, and generous small church for which God has an important purpose. Your generosity shines when any one looks at our support for missions around the world. Your love is displayed in how you follow Jesus’ command and take care of each other in a loving spirit.

I am sure that many of you also have ways that you serve the community and your neighbors - giving witness to God’s love and helping others either formally through community organizations, or informally on your own. I would like to see us grow in our understanding of the community around us as a field of missions to which God is calling us.

I am not certain where or how God wants us to grow our ministry, witness, and presence in our community. I would simply ask that in the near future we discuss where God is inviting us as a church to serve our community.

Visibility. God has blessed us with so much at Breckenridge Chapel. We need to let others know what we have here and what God wants to give to them. I have been praying for God to send us persons who need what we have received here.

We need to make ourselves more visible in our community - not to draw attention to ourselves, but to make visible God’s love for others through us. We have been doing some simple things to remind the community that we are here for them. We have been improving the lighting for the building and placing articles in the Neighborhood Section. We have recently printed brochures that will be mailed this month to every residence in the four square block area surrounding Breckenridge Chapel.

I would encourage us to consider taking responsibility for this small area of our community - four square blocks around our building. I recommend that we make this area a focus of our prayers; that we make certain every person in this area has the opportunity to know Jesus Christ; and that everyone knows that our church invites them to be a part of our fellowship of faith.

Church Health Assessment. The third thing I encourage us to do in the near future is to assess the health of our church. I am familiar with a process called Natural Church Development that will help us identify our strengths and weaknesses through a self-survey. I believe that taking this survey will assist us in following God into the future.

I look forward to serving God with you in the future. Thank you for your patience in looking through this information. May God bless richly bless you.

Yours in Christ,

John Wesley Slider

Pastor

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