Paul Foslien, a 1988 graduate of RHEMA Bible Training Center, along with his wife, Maria, started Living Word Family Church in Naples, Florida, in November 1998. Seventeen people attended the first service. More than 10 years later, the congregation is nearing 700. Paul credits his church’s growth to consistency and simplicity.
“We’ve always stayed connected with where God put us, and I believe that’s one of the reasons we’ve grown so quickly,” Paul said. “We’ve stayed true to our roots—RHEMA. We try to keep things simple and do them really well. We don’t overburden our people. We’ve never tried to do so many things that it taxes them. We’ve moved slowly.”
Another factor contributing to Living Word’s growth is the friendliness of its staff and congregation. Visitors often comment that it is the friendliest church they’ve ever attended. Many churches are friendly, but Paul makes it a top priority for his staff and leaders to be friendly and welcoming to those in attendance. He knows from experience what it’s like not to feel welcome.
At one church for which Paul served as guest minister, no one welcomed him or introduced themselves before the service. Paul doesn’t want anyone visiting Living Word to feel the way he did that day.
“When you come to our church, you will feel like family,” he said. “When you walk in, you’re going to be welcomed, not just by me, but by our staff and people. It doesn’t matter who you are—you will be accepted.”
First-time visitors to Living Word receive an e-mail thanking them for attending a service and asking them four questions:
What did you notice first?
What did you like best?
What was your overall impression?
How can we pray for you?
From the growth of the church, it’s obvious that many visitors return. And many of them become active members because of the balance the church demonstrates.
“We believe that you can love God, serve in your church, love your family, grow spiritually, and not burn out at church serving the Lord,” Paul said. “We don’t overburden our people. Growing spiritually doesn’t mean being at church 14 times a week. You can have a balanced life and grow spiritually.”
In addition to church services, Living Word provides other opportunities for members to get to know one another. From bowling to home groups, Paul tries to have plenty of ways available for people in his church to connect with one another.
“We are very fellowship-focused,” he said. “We really try to build the church as a community. We focus on building relationships. Everything we do is along those lines. People want to be a part of something, so we do our best to make our church something people would want to be a part of.”
Paul knows that none of what the church does would be possible without his staff and leaders. Living Word has a fulltime staff of 13, a godsend according to the pastor. “To me, everything we do starts with our staff,” he said. “I have a great group of leaders. We have grown because of the people God brought to us.”
In 2008, Paul became a regional director for the RHEMA Ministerial Association International, a position he is excited to have. On top of being eager to be an extension of RHEMA to his fellow alumni in Florida, Paul sees the position as an opportunity to help someone facing a hard time in life. About five years ago, Paul experienced an extremely difficult time in ministry, so he knows the importance of having another minister there to stand by your side.
“No other minister in our city reached out to us,” he said. “You need people in your life who care and will be there for you. My wife and I are blessed to be in this position because we don’t want what happened to us to happen to others. We want people to know that RHEMA is here for them. It’s not just, ‘We want you,’ but ‘We want to help you.’ ”
The Fosliens also lived on the mission field for three years. From 1993 to 1996, Paul and Maria lived in Belarus where they distributed more than three million of Kenneth E. Hagin’s books which had been translated into Russian. They also pioneered a church that quickly grew into the hundreds.
“Everything we did from RHEMA until the day we started the church has been training,” he said. “The time we spent at RHEMA, and the time we spent in Belarus—it all helped prepare us for what we’re doing now. The good and the bad of everything we’ve been through really formed how we pastor.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at without the training I received at RHEMA,” Paul added. “My RHEMA training is what prepared me for ministry and for life. If it wasn’t for the development, spiritual growth, and everything else RHEMA put inside of me, I would not be here today.”