How is a church able to send out nine families to pastor, evangelize, or start home missions works, and multiple young people to Bible colleges, yet still see long-term growth in numbers? Pastor Dale Pace of Cornerstone Worship Center in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin may have the answer: “Long-term investment in discipleship produces long-term spiritual and numerical growth. Investing in discipleship in all age groups of the church is vital to growth.” He says, “A lot of people don’t want to go through the lengthy investment process of development and discipleship, because they desire immediate growth in numbers. However, long-term investment brings the greatest return over time. We have spent 10 years in Fond du Lac investing in our children, youth, young adults and adults through focused development.”
Individual Discipleship & Revival Atmosphere Produces Growth
Pastor Pace believes that discipleship and a revival atmosphere are key elements in a growing church. He states, “Maintaining an atmosphere of thankfulness, praise and worship in every service allows any person in attendance to feel the presence of God. They will see joy in the lives of those around them and be attracted to that.” Every service, his church gives victory reports before they read prayer requests. In this way they are giving glory to God for all the things He has done. It helps to build faith and create an atmosphere that God can do anything. The church promotes unity and love for one another by choosing one family as their prayer focus each week. That family is called to the front of the church for prayer on Sunday mornings, and then lifted up in prayer throughout the week.
Pastor Pace feels it is of vital importance to disciple people. “For a church to have continued revival, the leadership must continually invest in the personal growth and development of its members. By being purposeful in our training, development and involvement of our children, youth and adults, we have created a culture of people being involved in ministry inside and outside of the church. Now our young people expect to go into some form of ministry both during and following high school. The majority of our young people have chosen to attend Bible colleges. While some of the young people we have sent to Bible college have returned to work with us at home, others are working for the kingdom in other locations. We are okay with that! The ones who have returned home are a tremendous blessing due to their training. We have five who are currently enrolled in Bible college, so we are continually investing in lives and the kingdom. God has also sent us workers from other places to fill the needs at home. I believe that after the investment of long-term discipleship and training, our church has begun to see long-term, sustainable growth.”
Investing in Discipleship
Over the past 10 years, the Paces have committed to training and developing their members. When Pastor Pace first came to Fond du Lac in 2007, the church had several young men and couples who felt a call into the ministry. The pastor decided to begin training them to follow their calling. Three single individuals were encouraged to attend Bible college and the others met once a week for three months for training. The men met with Pastor Pace for classes and the wives met with Sis. Pace. They also completed the Passing the Mantle series together as a group. Over the next few years, 10 men became licensed ministers and in the next eight years, they have all been released to follow the call of God into ministry. Some have planted home missions churches, some have evangelized, and some are pastors of churches. The students have graduated and are working in various fields of ministry. Two young ladies are involved in ministry positions in their churches. This was sacrificial investment in God’s kingdom! “Giving up nine quality families with children left a real void in the church that had to be filled,” said Pastor Pace. “We continued developing other young people and adults to fill the roles left by the others. However, in the long term, this has brought real individual growth to Cornerstone! People will rise to the occasion when they realize they are needed. As a few begin to grow and develop into leaders, others see the possibility of their own potential and begin to reach for new goals of growth as well. We now see more and more people developing into strong saints and leaders.”
Investing In Young Futures
Pastor Pace says they have been very committed to having the children involved in Bible quizzing. “This is the greatest venue we have for developing strong young people,” he said. “They start early learning the Word of God. Our Sunday school teachers are very carefully selected and trained to teach Bible principles and doctrines as absolute truth. The greatest discipleship tool for children and teens is, in my opinion, the Bible quizzing program. At least 80-90 percent of our teens are involved in Bible quizzing. We like to say that ‘Bible quizzing is not mandatory at CWC . . . but almost!’” He states that approximately half of his church is involved in some form of ministry — from Sunday school to music ministry to cleaning and serving. They try to utilize everyone, especially young people. He and his wife feel a special burden for young people. He tells his church, “Encourage young people; you might be encouraging your next pastor.”
The youth are encouraged to participate in every possible Wisconsin district youth function. “We have people who sponsor those who could not otherwise attend camps, rallies and conventions,” said Pastor Pace. “At least 90 percent of our youth are involved in one of the church departments by the time they reach high school. They sing, play instruments, work as ushers, assistant teachers or nursery workers, greeters and even church cleaning. They set up and tear down for special events. They lead worship and teach Sunday school at our daughter work on Sunday afternoons. We pair them with adults who can mentor and instruct them. Our goal has always been that every teen would move into a position in one of the church departments as soon as they graduate. Over the years, it seems they are developing into those positions at even younger ages. They are a tremendous resource!”
Investing in Evangelism
The pastor reports that “through the knowledge of the Word, our members have become strong and healthy saints. Healthy saints naturally reproduce, and numerical growth occurs.” The church is currently invested in establishing small groups to disciple and reach out to their community. A pastor cannot personally mentor every person in his congregation without limiting the size of his church. Instead, Bro. Pace believes that a pastor should “take key leaders to mentor and they, in turn, mentor others. We need to focus on the biblical concept that ‘like produces like.’ Invest in those leaders that will reproduce themselves.”
In the past, many people came into the church through block parties, community involvement, etc. Pastor Pace says these were great venues and a lot of people were filled with the Holy Ghost and baptized, but they did not have a good retention rate, so he changed their focus to programs that promote more spiritual growth. He has taught most of the New Testament epistles verse by verse over the past 10 years. He says, “If people aren’t grounded in the Word then they are always going to flounder in their walk with God. Whatever sacrifice I have to make in study and prayer to develop the people is what I will do. It is a driving purpose in my life. I want to teach people how to live and walk by faith, allowing God to work in them and through them in their lives.
“My job is not to draw people to me but to Jesus Christ. If the Lord tarries, someone else is going to pastor this flock. My job is not to have them so in love with me that if I’m not there they can’t live for God. I need to win them to Christ so that, whoever the shepherd is, they will walk faithfully and victoriously.”
When Pastor Pace first came to Fond du Lac, the church had a sanctuary that seated around 200 people and was about 7,000 to 8,000 square feet. They began a building program in early 2010, and in October of the same year moved into their new facility of over 19,000 square feet, situated on five acres in the middle of Fond du Lac. The new sanctuary is able to seat around 350. They have large classrooms, a beautiful office complex, and space on the property to expand and grow. They are currently invested in trying to finish up their fellowship hall, and restoring and refinishing their parking lot. When trying to find a building, they were taken to a property that was at one time a lumber yard in the heart of downtown. It was a mess, and some people were offended when they saw it. However, when walking inside the main building, Pastor Pace saw a slab in good condition that they could work with. God gave him faith to see the end result and performed more miracles than they could count in getting them into the facility. The church has alternately grown and shrank over the years as new converts came into the church, and ministers and their families were sent out into the harvest, yet the growth outweighs the loss. The church has about 150 strong, faithful people.
Focus on Hitting the Mark
The Greek word for sin is hamartia, which means to “miss the mark.” Pastor Pace believes that “a lot of times what we do in our planning and events aren’t focused enough. The theme for our church this year was FOCUS. We want to make sure that in everything we do, we are hitting the mark.” His church has a once-a-year planning session. They meet monthly with leadership to keep on track. He meets individually with departments and leaders. This way he is able to focus more specifically. Pastor Pace uses a lot of concepts from other people in order to effectively minister. He listens to others’ insights and ideas and tries to find what will be effective for his local congregation. He says, “Whatever I find that will be effective, I will use — whether it’s points we received at a conference or organization tools.”
Evangelism is an area they are working on by training people how to communicate and connect with people in need. They have put a great deal of focus on their Guest Ministries. Guests are never referred to as “visitors.” They have a hospitality room right off the church foyer where they invite guests before and/or after service. Coffee and treats are served, while Pastor Pace and other leaders are able to get to know the guests and discover their interest level and needs. They are able to promote Bible studies and often get them set up right away. With everything the church does, the pastor is very focused on doing it to the best of their ability in order to hit the mark in following God’s will.
One venue that he feels is directly responsible for bringing many visitors to their church is the bus ministry. They call it “Lifesaver Ministries,” and the bus is painted like a roll of lifesavers. “We reach hurting children on our Sunday school bus. God honors that. We probably have close to 200 walk-in guests a year. We attribute a large part of that to our bus ministry. When these kids are allowed to be involved in church programs, their families come to see their kid ‘perform.’ The families see an opportunity for a changed life and many continue to attend. Seeing the life of an individual transformed is the greatest reward for me as a pastor and it’s a great motivator.”
Pastor Pace grew up in East Texas under the ministry of Bro. Cecil Davis. He graduated from Christian Life College in 1990 and became the pastoral assistant, youth pastor and choir director in his home church. He was married in 1991 to Maleah Filkins Pace, also a graduate of Christian Life College. He then worked under Bro. Curtis Young as youth pastor for three years in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They went on AIM to Ivory Coast West Africa for seven months and taught in the Bible college there, then went on to start a home missions church in Dodgeville, Wisconsin in 1996. Finally in 2007, he took the pastorate of Cornerstone Worship Center and has been there since. He has served as presbyter for 11 years on the district board. He has four children: Collin, age 23, Kevin, 21, Eric, 19, and Alana, 15.