Where are we going?



An oxymoron is a figure of speech that juxtaposes two elements that appear to be contradictory. Some of the best examples of oxymorons include: act naturally, found missing, exact estimate, small crowd, jumbo shrimp, pretty ugly, almost exactly, minor crisis…you get the picture. These two things when placed together seem to be nonsensical. The Commission on Discipleship has juxtaposed personal spirituality and denominational vitality. Although these concepts may seem to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, they will unite in an intentional and intensive plan in the fall of 2014. The more the Commission prepared for the launch of a PAONL discipleship plan, one word became an inescapable reality for us: HEALTH. We have come to the painful and humbling reality that in our fellowship we have some unhealthy pastors, churches, and systems that must be repaired if we are to position ourselves to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.



noun: the formation of followers of Jesus Christ into fully devoted disciples to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

In order to capture the heartbeat of our Discipleship strategy, God has given us a unique word to describe the journey we are about to embark upon. The word is FORMISSION. You will not find this word in any conventional dictionary because it is actually the combination of two words: FORMATION and COMMISSION.

This may seem like another oxymoron. However, we believe that in order to fulfill the Great Commission that the church has been given, we need the Spirit of God to first FORM the character of Christ in us. As His life is re-formed in our homes, ministries, churches, and Fellowship, it will propel us back into His Great COMMISSION. FORMISSION reminds us that everything we do must be for THE mission. It reminds us that the more we fulfill the Great Commission, the healthier we will become. The healthier we become, the faster we will move from a position of a decline on our organizational lifecycle to a place of life and growth. We will then recapture visional energy, fellowship connectivity and missional and ministry priorities. FORMISSION also alludes to the number four and the four components of the PAONL’s Discipleship Plan. These components include the following:

FORMISSION is not a gimic or a marketing plan. It is a plan we believe has been birthed by the Spirit. It is a commitment to a multi-year and multifaceted approach. It is a cyclical and reproducible model. We foresee that the flywheel effect created by our personal and organizational health will naturally produce new disciples through this new energy and momentum. We dream of the FORMISSION of new believers, who in turn will produce disciples, creating a perpetual Movement until Christ returns. Once M1 has launched, our commitment and perseverance to the plan coupled with the breath of God on these dry bones may in fact signal our FORMISSION – A FORMATION of COMMISSIONED disciples that will not be content to watch the beginning of our end, but will be relentless in engaging a fresh beginning.

M1 – My Health (Years 1-2)

Our personal spiritual vitality is the building block of a comprehensive plan to bring about corporate spiritual health. Simply stated, my discipleship is the key to the fellowship’s discipleship. What would happen if we took personal responsibility for our spiritual growth, moved closer to Christ and each other, grew deeper into His Word and His presence, and stretched wider in our service and mission? It would begin the lift of an entire denomination and a reversal of its trajectory of decline. My Health envisions a focus on personal discipleship and vitality as well as family health. We will declare “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

M3 – Ministry Health (Years 5-6)

M3 – MINISTRY HEALTH (Years 5-6): The third phase called Ministry Health becomes a focus on ministry effectiveness and ministry expansion. These years will be times of planting and pruning. We will assess ministries and programs, and make the necessary changes to position this fellowship for even greater ministry fruitfulness. Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-2 become particularly relevant in the ministry health phase. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”

M2 – Mutual Health (Years 3-4)

M2 – MUTUAL HEALTH (Years 3-4): The next phase of Mutual Health becomes a focus on organizational and relational health. It will involve the development of relational structures and events to enable us to move toward authentic and strategic community groups. We know that the greatest missional tool we have at our disposal is that of unity. Jesus declared to His followers in John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” This kind of relational love is not optional. It is essential in our personal and our corporate spiritual vitality.

M4 – Missional Health (Years 7-8)

M4 – MISSIONAL HEALTH (Years 7-8) – The final stage of the PAONL plan is the stage called Missional Health. These years will focus on expanding our missional initiatives, community engagement, and multiplication networks. This phase will be a time of assessment, innovation, and creativity as we recommit ourselves to the Great Commission and our Core Value of reaching the lost at all costs.

Formission History


Discipleship is not a new concept for the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, although the terminology may have evolved through the years. We have been more familiar and possibly more comfortable with terms such as Christian education, Bible study, equipping, training, and sanctification. The essence is the same. Past PAONL programs have been fraught with elements of discipleship including Crusaders, Missionettes, Worker Training Courses, and the Mailbox Club, among others. In the past, the PAONL invested significant energies and resources into its strongest discipleship initiatives: the Pentecostal school system and the Sunday School department, neither of which can be relied on at present. Many events and studies have championed this theme including the 2000 Strategic Plan “Turning Vision Into Reality” the 2006 Leadership Forums, the 2008 State of the Fellowship Address, and the 2010-2011 Town Halls.

Road Leading Into A Sunset

The 2007 Discipleship Conference became the Launchpad for the PAONL’s new discipleship journey. At that Conference the Church Ministries Department and its leadership team introduced the theme of the “Crisis in Discipleship.” This was a bold statement that reflected our realities, our concerns and our passion. The evidence was overwhelming, yet with faith and determination we set our “face as flint” and began. The journey needed more than an apologetic for our bold claims. But we had clearly stated that if we continue to stray from the foundational and formational nature of discipleship we will always be in crisis. So we began with the restating and reaffirming our core beliefs and values.

Developing a strategy to address the crisis we face requires an “all hands on deck” attitude as well as participation from all levels of leadership. A single report, curriculum, manual, or methodology will not be adequate to address the challenge before us. The discipleship crisis is not just a denominational issue, a local church issue, or a pastoral issue but indeed an issue within all of these levels of leadership.

In the construction of a fence the posts must be inserted before the palings can be installed. Before we add the fine detail of our plan to address discipleship in this fellowship we identified our key posts to support our strategy. Some of the key fence posts in our strategy were identified in our Discipleship Conference 2007: personal discipleship, intentional instruction, authentic community, and the missional church.

If these posts could be reinserted into the soil of our PAONL churches then we would move from simply diagnosing a crisis to obeying the command of discipleship (Matthew 28:19-20).

In moving from CRISIS to RECOVERY it was important to understand there were already positive trends and events in place and we would need to strengthen existing initiatives while simultaneously championing emerging opportunities in our province, parishes, and pastors.

Some of the components that were developing on a Provincial, Local, and Pastoral Level in 2009 included the launch of a Provincial Discipleship Ministry, the assembling of a Discipleship Conversational Team, Provincial Directors Committee consultations, and initial plans put in place for the Discipleship Conference 2009.

stretches of the great wallAs a result of these events it was determined that Pastoral/Professional Development is critical to move forward. Pastors must be motivated, self-learners if their congregational members are to follow suit. Tyndale University provided us with a key solution for developing emerging leaders. Innovative and creative programs would be necessary for existing leaders. Local churches must also raise the bar on membership and discipleship programming with the solution tied to small groups and membership. Discipleship will not happen outside of authentic community. A new metric and scorecard for ministry and spiritual growth would be needed. Therefore it would be key to develop a 3-5 year systematic plan with required participation by all pastors and contextualized local programs. However, it was recognized that the issues were systemic, theological, and involved all levels of leadership.

In a May 2009 Discipleship Ministries Update the strategy was expanded to include the 4 levels of Provincial, Parish, Pastoral, and Personal components. This plan must include all levels of the Fellowship. This was a pivotal moment as the following recommendation emerged:

‘The requesting of the creation of a Commission on Discipleship through the General Executive Committee identifying the depth of the issues and the strategies that will need to be implemented.”

This development was about to bring the discipleship conversation to a whole new level.

May 2009, a Discipleship Questionnaire was conducted amongst our Pastors to determine trends and practices within the PAONL regarding discipleship and teaching in our assemblies. The results continued to uncover some serious weaknesses in the content and the emphasis on discipleship on a local church level.

goals, vision and missionBased on the request from the Conversational Team, the General Executive Officers on September 15, 2009, recommended the creation of the Commission on Discipleship. At the next General Executive Committee meetings held in September 2009 the recommendation was accepted. The GEO subsequently appointed the membership of this newly formed Commission, including: Bradley Noel, Glen Newman, Elaine Milley, Jim Crewe, Clarence Buckle, Russell Bartlett, and Dean Brenton. The Commission met five times between February 2010 and May 2012. Subsequent personnel changes in the Commission included the departure of Jim Crewe, who provided the Commission with some incredible strategic insights, and the addition of Shane Simms and Calvin Andrews. Further changes occurred between 2013 and 2014. At present, the Commission members include: Dean Brenton, Bradley Noel, Clarence Buckle, Elaine Milley, Glen Newman, and Allison MacGregor. Terry Snow, the General Superintendent elect, will soon join the Commission.

Businessman Notepad Word Plan ConceptsThe Commission adopted a strategic planning model and terms of reference as the rails to guide the dialogue and unfolding strategy. The Terms of Reference would re-affirm the core values that would support the PAONL’s vision for discipleship, identify the critical issues, develop a mission and goals, develop strategic initiatives, set action plans, and establish ongoing communications to create ownership in the constituency.

Hand On BibleThe PAONL’s Core Values were revisited and approved by the GEC on Sept 22, 2009. These values included the following:

  • We value God: His Word, His Creation, His redemptive purposes in His son, his presence through the Holy Spirit and the imminent return of Christ.
  • We value “the lost” to whom we owe the compassion of Christ, an opportunity to receive the gospel, and entrance into Christian fellowship.
  • We value believers, their commitment to personal discipleship, their baptism in the Holy Spirit, their Christian family life, and their Christ-like example and witness.
  • We value the local assembly marked by sound doctrine, anointed proclamation, fervent prayer, divine healing, Spirit-led worship, authentic relationships, every-member ministry, Holy Spirit-empowered evangelism and practical expression of Christian faith in the world.
    We value a cooperative fellowship that enhances the church’s ability to fulfill its missional mandate, through servant leadership, a shared vision, positive communication, relevant ministry and strategic mobilization of its resources.

These Core Values would form an important part of the planning model and would provide significant foundational content for upcoming events and publications.

Blue Waters CrossA working definition was deemed crucial to arrive at a common interpretation of discipleship. The definition adopted included the following:

“Discipleship is the process of helping Christ followers become Christ-like. It is the strategic practice and intentional teachings that promote the daily lifestyle of becoming ever more like Jesus and reproducing Christ-likeness in others. The chief end of salvation is formation in the image of Jesus Christ. We are saved to become disciples; it is not optional. Since discipleship is a non-negotiable (it is the Great Commission), discipleship must be an intentional focus of every believer and every ministry.”

As a part of the strategic planning model, internal and external audits were conducted with considerable attention given to a concept known as Organization Life Cycles based on work by George Bullard, Steve Mills, and others. The premise is that organizations and congregations have a Life Cycle just like people do. Leaders must diagnose their organization’s place in the Life Cycle and lead accordingly. Four things in organizational life determine what is going on:

  • Vision – The current understanding of God’s spiritual strategic direction that is cast by leadership and owned by the people.
  • Inclusion (Relationship Experiences – Interchangeable with ‘R’ Relationships) – The relationship process by which people are brought to faith in God through Jesus Christ, become connected to a congregation, are assimilated into the fellowship life and care ministry of that congregation, have opportunities for spiritual growth and leadership development, and utilize their gifts and skills through Kingdom involvement.
  • Program – The functional attempts to provide ministries, services, activities, and learning experiences for people connected with a congregation by membership, attendance, fellowship, or staffing.
  • Management – The administration of the resources of the congregation, the decision-making structures of the congregation, the formal and informal culture of the congregation, and the openness of the congregation to transition, change, and transformation.

The Stages of Development include:

  • Birth
  • Infancy
  • Childhood
  • Adolescence
  • Prime (Adulthood)
  • Maturity
  • Empty Nest
  • Retirement
  • Old Age
  • Death

In November 2011, after considerable work and refinement, the Commission unveiled the Discipleship Survey fellowship wide.

The following Executive Summary was compiled by Stephen Harris, Chief Technology Officer, OnX Enterprise Solutions Ltd who also helped the Commission prepare the final version of survey for its release.

As part of the discipleship initiative of the PAONL, a survey was undertaken to map the status of the PAONL against the maturity model outlined in the article, “The Life Cycle and Stages of Congregational Development” by Rev. George Bullard, D. Min. For the purposes of the research there were five key objectives identified as follows:

  • Identify the perceived strength and clarity of the Vision of the PAONL
  • Identify the perceived strength and relevance of the Relationships within the PAONL
  • Identify the perceived strength and relevance of the Programs provided by the PAONL
  • Identify the perceived strength of the Management provided by the PAONL
  • Collect relevant demographic information to analyze the results of the survey

In defining the sample to be measured for the survey several key decisions were made. Specifically, it was decided to measure the attitudes of congregational attendees based on “typical” Sunday AM service attendance; in essence, the effort was designed to measure the attitudes of the “people in the pew” on a Sunday morning.

Analysis of the results provided a series of detailed insights into the attitudes and opinions of the congregations. Using the demographic variables, differences in opinion were seen based on age, gender, urban vs. rural, and the relative size of church.

Overall, the results of the survey were more positive than would have been initially expected, with respondents typically placing the church further back in the overall maturity curve away from the “retirement” position, and closer to a “late-maturity” position. Initially this was surprising, however upon further investigation against demographic results, and using advanced analysis techniques, it would appear that the congregations are accurately positioning the church on the life cycle from their position. However the congregations themselves are not necessarily reflective of the community at large. As a result, from an external vantage point, the church is moving further down the declining curve towards retirement and death, but the congregations can’t see it from their vantage point. This is demonstrated by viewing the results of the survey against the demographic information contained in conversion, baptism, and infilling of the Spirit data collected internally.

In addition to the statement-based questions on each of the characteristics in the Bullard Model, two sets of questions were asked which directly queried respondents on the importance and performance of their local assembly in each characteristic. When asked to identify which element was the strongest within their local assembly there was an even division among the major characteristics, with the highest response for Vision and Relationships, each with approximately 25% of respondents. However when asked to rate the relative strength of their assembly on each characteristic (i.e. respondents were not forced to select one strongest characteristic), the highest ratings were provided for Management and Programs.

The final element observed from the analysis is that, once advanced statistical techniques were applied to the results, the importance of an individual’s view of prayer played the single largest role in how they responded to the survey and, associatively, the single largest connection to a person’s prayer attitude was their connection and participation in small group ministry; this points to the overall importance of small group ministry and its impact in all four areas of the survey, with small group ministry impacting prayer, which in turn impacted responses to Vision, Relationships, Programs, and Management.

The question became, where would we place the PAONL on its life cycle in order for us to set a course into the future?

There was an obvious disconnect between the “view from the pew” and the hard data of declining assembly reports. It appears we not only had a crisis in discipleship but an acknowledgement issue. To move forward we would have to “walk in the light.” The survey results plus the subsequent assessment seems to place the PAONL, not surprisingly, somewhere in the Retirement/Old Age stage. If our life cycle placement was accurate we must set our energies on Inclusion (Relationships) and Vision! This would require a recommitment to becoming a fellowship (who we are) in the truest sense of the word and to absolute vision clarity (where we are going). The goal in the process was not only identifying where were are as a denomination but how to move from the “right side” of the life cycle back to the “left side” to reclaim was has been lost and in essence be “reborn,” or to use good Pentecostal language, “revived.”

In dealing with our systemic issues, the toxicity in our culture, and the lack of health of our people the Commission’s worked moved from diagnosis to prognosis. We believe the path forward will be in reclaiming spiritual, theological, and missional vitality. On October 25, 2014, at the PAONL’s Fall Leadership Conference, the Commission launched a multi-year, multi-faceted initiative called Formission! We believe it is possible to create healthy leaders in healthy churches and as a result a healthy movement once again. We are ready to be FORMED into the image of Christ and ready to be launched once again into the MISSION of Christ.


Learn more about our vision for 2020