United Methodist Churches (Large) Affinity Group

A group for lead pastors of larger United Methodist Churches that have multiple staff members. For more information contact Tom Harrison. tharrison@asburytulsa.org

Rev. Steve Wood, Chair

Steve Wood

Rev. Steve Wood earned a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary, in 1986. In June 1989, he was appointed to plant a new church, which has become the New Covenant United Methodist Church. Starting with only 16 people, the church grew to over 600 members in just seven years. The church was recognized as the fastest growing congregation in the Southeastern Jurisdiction in 1991. Wood served as Senior Pastor at Sugar Hill United Methodist Church for 10 years. Under his leadership, membership more than doubled, eventually surpassing 2000 people. Sugar Hill is distinguished by one of the highest worship attendance/membership ratios in all of Methodism at 70%, with the majority of new members joining by profession of faith in Christ, rather than transfer from other churches. Currently, Wood serves Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church, which is the third largest church by worship attendance in the entire denomination. He also serves as Vice-Chair of the North Georgia Conference Council on Finance and Administration, and was one of 14 clergy delegates elected to the world gathering of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church representing the North Georgia Conference in April 2008. Steve served for seven years as the Community Spiritual Director for the Northwest Georgia Walk to Emmaus movement. Overseas, Steve has led mission trips to Israel, Jordan, Haiti, Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico. In 1994, Steve was chosen as the Community Spiritual Director for the launch of the Tres Dias movement in Moscow, Russia. He has a passion for missions and evangelism in making disciples of Jesus Christ and growing and cultivating Christian leaders for global impact. In addition to his pastoral role, Steve serves on the boards of Mount Pisgah Christian School, the Summit Counseling Center, and The Beacon of Hope Women’s Center, North Georgia Conference Finance and Administration, The Confession Movement, and The Leading Edge Large Church Pastors Network. Wood, and his wife of 23 years, LeAnne, have three daughters and a son: Lauren, Lacey, Layne, and Steven, Jr. Their family resides in Alpharetta, Ga., and they enjoy water sports, golfing, gardening, snow skiing, baseball, basketball, and bike-riding.

Rev. Rurel Ausley

Rurel Ausley

Rev. Rurel R. Ausley, Jr., is a native of Geneva, Ala. He received Jesus Christ as his Savior at age 15 and felt God’s call into the ministry at age 16. Rurel attended Asbury University, and received his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology/Bible in 1976, and earned his Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1980. Rurel is an ordained Elder in the Alabama West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. Since 1998, he has been the Lead Pastor of Niceville United Methodist Church, in Niceville, Fla. During his years at Niceville, the church has added a Community Life Center and state of the art children’s facility that has helped the church grow from 1,000 people to an average of almost 2,200 in attendance. The Niceville church has seven Asbury Seminary graduates on staff. Rurel and his wife, Lisa, met at Asbury Seminary and were married in 1980. Lisa earned a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies. She serves on the Board of OMS International, and is helping pastor Niceville’s St. Mark campus in Crestview, Fla. The Ausleys have three grown sons; Matthew, Andrew and Luke.

Rev. Dr. Ken Werlein

Rev. Dr. Ken Werlein

In 1998, the Lord called me to plant a church in Northwest Houston with the mission to make more and stronger disciples of Jesus Christ. Faithbridge Church began with a core group of seven people, growing to thousands of adults, students, and children attending Faithbridge each week. Guided by a memorable congregation-wide prayer campaign, we purchased 80 acres of land where our new church home stands. I get most excited when I see people transformed by the touch of Jesus Christ. I love hearing about folks whose prayer lives are climbing to new levels, whose hearts for serving others inside and outside our walls are growing, whose addictions are being conquered, and whose families are being strengthened. I like seeing real lives experience real change. God gave me just the perfect wife for me. Suzanne is a lot of fun and very funny, deeply committed, and so cute I sometimes think, “Wow, how’d I get her?” We have two sons named for some of our favorite heroes of English church history. Wesley, in elementary school, is named after John and Charles Wesley; and our preschooler, William, is named after William Tyndale. In addition to teaching God’s Word, leading Faithbridge, and developing new leaders, I enjoy using the gifts God has given me to help strengthen other Kingdom-minded ministries, like the thriving college ministry called Breakaway, at Texas A&M.

Jim Lenderman


I am the last of eight children, born into a strong Christian family. I was raised in a United Methodist Church in a small town in Arkansas. I professed my faith in Christ when I was 12 or 13. One year later I sensed the call of God on my life to be a UM minister. During college I served as a summer youth director, two summers at my home church and two summers at other churches. While serving at my home church I got the opportunity to preach the sermon on a Sunday morning once each summer. Both times I preached visitors from out of state visited our small church, found out I was going to be a pastor, and made it a point to tell me that I needed to attend Asbury Seminary. Until then I had never heard of Asbury. But after hearing the same recommendation two different summers I decided to learn more about Asbury when I went back to college. When I read about Asbury I instantly knew that was where I wanted to go. I received my BSBA in Administrative Management from the University of Arkansas in 1986. Shortly after graduation I got married and worked for a while as a manager and Division Manager for TCBY. In the fall of 1988 I began my studies at Asbury Seminary, graduating in the spring of 1991. I served four churches in Arkansas for 16 years from 1991-2008. In 2008 I moved to Tulsa to begin serving at Asbury United Methodist Church. I am currently serving as the Sr. Associate Pastor where I lead the associate pastor team, worship leadership team, and serve on the executive team working on visioning, strategy, and decision implementation. I am married to my wife, Beth, and have two sons, Hayden and Jordan.