Notwithstanding the awkwardness of the timing, and realizing some may see it as more convenient had I come to this decision earlier, I am now announcing that I am formally withdrawing from availability to serve a second five-year term as president of The Foursquare Church. I will continue to serve faithfully and complete my term. I wish to underscore: I AM NOT RESIGNING. I will fulfill a complete term.
Further, let me add that I am not retiring, nor am I withdrawing my availability and commitment to serve our church family in any way I may be asked. My heart is with this movement in which I have served for 53 years. Besides having served as pastor of two congregations—from a small church plant in Indiana, to what became a miracle of God’s grace at The Church On The Way—I have served five years as national youth director, seven years on the faculty and as an administrator at LIFE Bible College, five additional years as president of LIFE. These past five I have been privileged to serve as your president. I AM STILL WILLING TO SERVE IN ANY WAY I AM ASKED. However, I come to you to explain how my heart has processed my perception of God’s will for Anna’s and my life and why I have perfect peace in my decision to withdraw my availability to be ratified to serve a second five-year term.
First, let me say that there are no negative reasons for my withdrawing. I am not doing so under pressure or with any uncertainty or fear of standing for ratification. In that regard, I have been and will continue to be available to the board, the cabinet, our executive council and our convention body to address any issues. My term of service has been marked by a forthcoming, transparent communication to our movement and its leadership. During these almost five years, the board of directors has been led to a participative, interactive, informed and empowered role unprecedented in our history in terms of information flow, scope of representation and involvement of its members. Freedom of expression and richness of spiritual passion in our procedures have become a lifestyle.
The board always comprises ordinary humans with feet of clay and without omniscience. But with ready acknowledgment of as much, let me note also that, today, it is equally true that it comprises servant-hearted pastors and leaders representing our church, who deal consistently as godly, devoted and pure-spirited men and women who are dedicated to the interests of every church, small or large; every leader, without partiality to position or renown; and every part of our ministry and operations as a movement, to the limits of our ability in the face of an unpredictable world, a broad variety of demanding challenges and wonderful opportunities. To the board, I say: “You have been faithful and true.” To our entire movement I say, “We readily stand accountable to you, before God and man. For abounding fruit, He receives all the glory; for whatever imperfection or unwitting inefficiency, we accept our responsibility to the full degree of our assignment and realm of control.”
In regard to having led, I have served as a man, both charged with and under authority. I announce my unavailability for a second term, but I do so without any fear of accounting for services rendered, and with a full regard for and gratitude to the board for its affirming, supportive, devoted and faithful partnership. I feel nothing but respect for and honor toward each of the governing tiers of our movement: the board, the cabinet, the executive council and our convention body. I thank God for you all, and for your friendship, partnership and supporting prayers. It is with happiness that I affirm my continued readiness to move among you and serve in whatever way I may be asked to serve.
Now, let me explain how and why it is that I come to you at this time to withdraw my availability to serve a second term. Primarily it is because I have only come to clarity and peace on the matter over the past few weeks—a clarity that only crystallized with absolute confidence this past Sunday morning. This is not because I have not kept an open and constant quest for God’s will on this significant issue.
Most of our movement is aware of my perception over the past year that God was calling me to be available to a second term. That in itself was a difficult thing for me to announce, not because I lacked certainty but because at times it was easy for me to wonder about how others viewed my motive for seeking a second term. For my part, it was simply the same as my motive to be available for the process leading to my election in 2004: I felt constrained by the Holy Spirit to serve. Let me repeat that: I felt constrained by the Holy Spirit to serve. At that time I was at the threshold of my 70th year of life. I had a lifetime of God-graced favor behind me, and a God-given fruitfulness and welcome throughout the whole global body of Christ by reason of His grace. I had and have no reason to seek honor, power or position-then or now.
Thus, my announced availability over these past many months has been for the single reason I stated: I have felt constrained by the Holy Spirit, inescapably “laid hold of” to offer myself in service. And so I proceeded last January to present my letter of availability, which went to the cabinet for discussion. I felt honored to have it reported that, first, the cabinet entered extended and vigorous interaction, and, second, that following the cabinet’s discussion, (and I use the words of that report) I was approved for ratification by “an overwhelming majority.” Thus, having submitted my sense of God’s will to a body of nearly 50 of our movement’s most trusted leaders, including members elected by our church family from the full scope of our nation’s regions, I felt that my “sense of constraint” was indeed confirmed as God’s purpose.
However, beginning almost immediately after the cabinet met, various promptings began to occur. These seemed to initiate questions within, spanning the range of inner dealings of the Spirit, to two very different occasions when loving but contrasting counsel was offered me: “Jack, I feel you should weigh this again, even though you have favor and approval.” In both cases, these words were spoken to me by elders in our fellowship-both were highly respected pastors among us who also assured me of their strong support should I continue in the presidency. With an ear open to their heart of concern, but with my own “inescapable sense of inner constraint,” I could only be at peace by continuing the path forward.
This path was pursued with a deep sense of accountability to be available to serve at a time which seemed, to my view, needful of continuity. For example, with the full involvement of our pastors and leaders across the entire nation, we have just concluded the process of district alignment and this month launched our fourteen new districts. Virtually every voice is positive, and warm expectation and support are evident throughout our Foursquare fellowship. But it is “just begun,” so it seemed continuity was important-at least for a season-and it kept me bound and surrendered to the sense of duty constraining me. Further, the obvious financial challenges flowing from the global economic upheaval impacting all of us has confronted us with demanding issues. In the present climate, uneasiness and fear abound, and with it are common doubts as to “what’s been going on with those in charge?” That is understandable and not spoken with impatience, but it has been an unusual time for the board and our office team. In that regard, we have sought to address the complications the economy has thrust upon us all, and we have also sought to report to you in a factual, clear and helpful way. In short, the sense of duty to “see the financial storm through” as president and as fellow servant with the board and your executive leaders was another reason for my “constraint.”
However, in spite of all the reasons listed above and other reasons that virtually commanded my sense of responsibility to continue serving if ratified, a number of questions began to rise in my soul. None were posed from external sources; in fact, an increasing stream of affirmation of welcome and anticipation of my continuing has surrounded me. While I am sure there would be those not favoring it (whose opinion I would respect), I have reason to think I might be ratified if I were to stand available. And even if not, I have no reason to feel motives would be dominated by displeasure with me or my service. Rather, I could imagine receiving less than 75 percent affirmation for pragmatic reasons guiding some faithful fellow servants—brothers and sisters who may see my age as a concern, or who sense some other risk that would bring them to that decision. I feel the love and respect of the vast majority of the Foursquare family. I would have stood for ratification even on the possibility of its not being given, because that scenario would not leave me with a sense of disapproval but with a sense of divine guidance at the hand of our convention body. So, what has occasioned my withdrawal?
It is simply this: The Lord has lifted my sense of “constraint to continue.” Further, He profoundly encountered me in a remarkable way-one very different but not dissimilar in its deep impact and clarity to the way He did five years ago when He pointedly pressed me to be available to serve this office.
Without straining your patience with detail, let me simply say that I do not feel that at this time of my life I can now confidently or comfortably envision a five-year commitment to so demanding a task. The pressures of the presidency are first, heavily spiritual and weighted in ways that can be appreciated only by those that hold the office. Second, they are laden with detail and threaded through with expectations that are, at once, both fulfilling to serve and wearisome. I pastored a church with 10,000 members and a near $1-million-per-month budget, carried on a national television ministry and heavy conference speaking and writing schedule for years. The burden of the presidency is not less than that.
But I was younger in those days, and I was younger when I began this office. On the brink of my 75th birthday, I am still graced with strength and good health, with reasonable stamina and a continued favor on the above-referenced national and international fronts of the Body of Christ. And I was confronted by God last Saturday night.
I was awakened by a churning restlessness in my soul (not dietary, I assure you-but more demanding than that), and the Word of God came to me with force, speaking to me from out of His holy Scriptures: “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15). Moved deeply and having pondered the strength with which I felt God’s Word and Spirit in that moment, I asked Anna to get up with me (it was just before 4:00 a.m.). Over the coming two hours, we prayerfully conversed as she weighed with me the sum of things that had accumulated in my mind and soul over the preceding six to eight weeks. The result was that we arrived at an absolute, deep and confirming sense of peace, and it abides with me to this moment. Indeed, “the peace of God” does manifest with a “reigning” quality—bringing the Father’s kingdom—will to our hearts with clarity and certainty.
I would be willing to enumerate with any or all of you the several factors combining to frame His wisdom to us. Anna’s and my life has always been lived as an open book among those we have led, but I would tax your patience and risk your disinterest if I shared extended details. However, combined, it all becomes a very solid rationale supporting the Spirit’s voice to me with reasons indicating His wisdom guiding my sense of direction to withdraw from this office. Central among the very practical and lovingly tender things God gave me understanding about is that, foremost, commitment to a full five-year mission as president would be unwise for me to attempt with all else that is before me at this point in life. I would gladly share in greater detail but as I’ve described, I’ve been given that perfect peace “which passes understanding,” and there are “no negatives.”
I love you all … Anna and I love our Church family … and, above all, we—with you—so dearly love our Lord Jesus Christ, and seek only to answer to His call when He speaks. He has indicated that my sense of constraint to continue was, at this time, a bond to a noble sense of duty—not to His assignment. So I surrender to the refinement of His directive and stand ready to serve in whatever ways He has in mind, and in any way He directs involving you, my brothers and sisters.
Thank you for hearing my heart as I move in faith, trusting God as I serve His will.
Jack W. Hayford