Orange County in sunny Southern California is a mecca for young people seeking entertainment and thrills, whether it’s at Disneyland with the Mouse or Huntington Beach with its gnarly waves.
But just miles from these tourist magnets, young people are being drawn for reasons of more eternal value to Westminster Foursquare Church, pastored by 36-year-old Aaron Bull, who also serves as a divisional superintendent in the denomination’s Southwest District. His Catalyst School of Ministry—part of the Foursquare Emerging Leader Network (ELN) —is training young people for ministry in whatever fields to which God has called them and has energized the six-decades-old congregation, which now averages 130 in weekly attendance. He and his wife, Carla, have pastored the church for four years and have two children.
“I got involved in ministry with the desire to see others come to a true relationship with Jesus and live a life of freedom,” Aaron says. “This includes everyone from a housewife unhappy with life, a businessman bound by materialism, to those trapped in human trafficking or drug abuse. We even share Jesus with people who don’t seem to have any problems! Jesus is about relationship with people!”
One of these people was Jordon Phillips, who was living in a men’s group home because of drug-related charges and started attending the church a month before Aaron was appointed senior pastor. He had heard about the Catalyst program the church was starting and asked to join.
“He was in no shape to join a ministry training school, but I knew it was God prompting him,” Aaron recalls. “He had not finished his court-mandated time with the home and had no money to live on or to join the program. I told him we would pray, and if he were still serious about it, we would wait a year. I would start mentoring him, and he could get a job for the year.”
Aaron indeed spent the year mentoring Jordon while praying for the finances for Catalyst. The young man since then has successfully completed the program; he is currently the church’s youth director and working toward being credentialed with Foursquare.
Such stories were just the beginning of Catalyst’s success—and miraculous provision of needed resources.
“There was one college-age student when we came,” Aaron explains. “Since then, we started a Friday night service called Solomon’s Porch. Along with the new college students that started coming, we prayed for money, a sound system, a stage and cool décor.”
After two days of a weeklong fast, Westminster Foursquare received a check for $60,000 from someone who had attended the church 15 years prior and had heard that the church had a passion for young people. Neither Aaron nor anyone currently involved with the ministry knew the donor.
Catalyst recently graduated its third class, and three students are coming back for a second year and are actively involved in ministry. Alicia Perales will be staying at the church to coordinate the children’s ministry; Krystal Porter will be continuing her education at Life Pacific College while running a follow-up ministry she designed as part of her time at Catalyst; and Timothy Hill will be coordinating the missions department as well as spending time in Japan as a missionary and visiting other missionaries supported by Westminster Foursquare.
“With the amazing things we have seen with the college-age group,” Aaron notes, “we have worked hard to develop an adult discipleship program being launched this September. It looks very different, because adults can’t drop their jobs, mortgages and kids to live at the church for a couple years. However, God is calling all people to discipleship!”
In that vein, Westminster Foursquare offers a host of ministries that give people an opportunity to grow in their faith and serve others. Home groups are held in multiple cities; the Celebrate Recovery program helps break people free from addiction; a food pantry provides sustenance for the area’s poor and homeless; many community outreach events are conducted; and the congregation works with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force to raise awareness of the issue and funds to fight this horrific worldwide problem.
In addition, almost a year ago, Westminster Foursquare launched a Spanish-speaking service led by Pastor Fernando Silva, and that congregation is growing. The surrounding population of Westminster is approximately 30 percent Hispanic.
Aaron insists that his congregation’s growth and community impact during his four-year tenure are not because of anything special about himself. He demurs, in fact, from accepting any praise.
“I wish I could take credit for the success I’m seeing in other people’s lives,” Aaron says, “but the reality is that God is raising up a generation of passionate leaders. All I have done is made Westminster Foursquare available as a place young people can come and get trained.”