Foursquare churches across the nation had a wonderful time celebrating this past Christmas in meaningful ways. Churches presented musical performances, pageants and live nativity scenes; and congregations in all areas of the country found innovative ways to rejoice over the birth of our Savior. But all of the ways that people made merry during the holidays did not overshadow the ways that they reached out to their communities, showing the love of Jesus to thousands.
Just north of Los Angeles, The Church On The Way, Santa Clarita (Santa Clarita Foursquare Church), pastored by Doug Andersen, brought in 50 tons of snow for a community event. But the congregation did more than just provide a winter wonderland—they provided gifts for all the children in Santa Clarita whose parents are incarcerated, and provided Christmas trees and dinner for every family in a neighboring apartment complex. Such outreaches to people in need were multiplied in churches across the U.S.
Numbers of churches participated with other community groups to distribute food and clothing to people experiencing homelessness and others in need. From coast to coast, churches gave blankets, warm clothing, hot meals and tons (literally!) of groceries to people who were without basic necessities. They also provided gifts and monetary blessings to those who found themselves unable to provide for their families.
Many children woke up with gifts under the Christmas tree because people gave generously in the name of Jesus. And not everyone was able to give out of abundance. As one youth pastor who responded to our nationwide post-Christmas survey wrote: “There were not as many presents under the tree as normal. Instead our home was filled with a measurable increase of love. This was truly a Christmas to remember.”
Evergreen (Burien Foursquare Church) in Burien, Wash., partnered with other churches in the community to provide 1,800 gifts for more than 150 families. The church regularly participates with the community to provide meals, clothing and medical and dental clinics for people in need, serving approximately 270 individuals each week.
Reflecting on the recent Christmas outreach, Associate Pastor Kathy Norquist shared, “As I helped one young single mother of 4-month-old twins choose gifts for her babies, I was thankful that I could tell her that Jesus loves her and her babies, and will be there for her whenever she asks Him.”
Open Hearts (Monticello Foursquare Church) in Monticello, Ill., followed up a four-week teaching on giving and generosity by collecting almost $3,000 to assist people during the Christmas season. Pastor Rodney Burris reported: “I was personally challenged with being generous and not to concern myself with the motives of the people we helped. I was challenged to pray over our outreach and trust the Lord to lead us to the people who needed help.” The pastor and the church already have a plan to do follow-up visits with the families during the next year, and hope to see many come to Christ and established in a faith community.
The outreach reports from churches were truly remarkable, and, not surprisingly, the gifts to others were not confined to the U.S. Churches were also thinking of people around the world who need so many things but who primarily need to hear the gospel.
Nate Poetzl, lead pastor of Faith Chapel (Billings Foursquare Church) in Billings, Mont., reported that their Christmas giving campaign raised just over $300,000 for missions. In addition to community outreach, Sunday school children in Molalla Foursquare Church in Molalla, Ore., raised just over $600 for World Vision. The children pored over the pages of a catalog and decided on the ducks, goats, sheep and other items that would go to families in far-distant places on the globe.
“We learned that giving to the community and the world is paramount,” said Senior Pastor Barry Wood. “It taught us all to look outside our own little Christmas ‘worlds’ in favor of seeing and helping others. It was a Christmas that will change the way we do our Christmas festivities at our church.”
As the Christmas season ended, the New Year’s Day interfaith prayer service in Saint George, Utah, was the perfect place for Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship (Saint George Central Foursquare Church) to show its commitment to community as well as its commitment to Christ. Senior Pastor Jimi Kestin is also the president of the Interfaith Council, which hosted the ninth annual “Prayer Over the City” event. Pastors and parishioners stepped out of their own little “worlds” and joined with others who were seeking to work together to make their community a better place.
No review of the Christmas season activities would be complete without praising God for the people who committed themselves to Christ for the first time and those who made fresh commitments of faith. More than 180 churches responded to our post-Christmas survey, reporting a total of 1,203 first-time decisions for Christ and 758 recommitments to Christ. The Savior who came as Bethlehem’s Baby is still transforming lives and communities as people share His grace with those around them.
A new year is now here, with all its possibilities, opportunities—and all of its unknowns. The Christmas season challenge that Senior Pastor David Poissant of Life Centre (Pottsville Foursquare Church) in Pottsville, Pa., issued to his parishioners seems to be a fitting challenge for 2014: “Stop any and all complaining and look at the blessings.” No matter what may come, next Christmas will be bright with that change of outlook!
By: Wanda Brackett, an ordained Foursquare minister serving in Foursquare’s central offices in Los Angeles