What began seven summers ago as a small group of local Foursquare church members who wanted to make a difference in their community has since grown into an annual event impacting thousands of lives and involving dozens of area churches, businesses, schools and even government officials.
Summerfest—launched in 2004 by Liberty Foursquare Church (Warren Foursquare Church) in Warren, Mich., just north of Detroit—began out of a heart for missions, says Senior Pastor Terry Frazier. His congregation wanted to share the love of Christ wherever God would take them, but most of them could never afford the costs involved with a foreign missions trip. However, after experiencing a WOW Jam in Jacksonville, Fla., during the Foursquare convention, they realized they could do something similar in their own community.
“There was enough need in our own backyard,” explains Terry, who planted Liberty Foursquare Church with his wife, Lynne, 16 years ago. “If we were going to spend any money changing the world, we would start in our own community first.”
The principle behind Summerfest, he explains, is much like that of Jesus feeding the 5,000 before preaching to them. In other words, if you take care of people’s physical needs, their hearts will be open to receiving ministry for their spiritual needs.
During this year’s Summerfest, which took place in August and was held in two locations simultaneously because of the growing community response each year, volunteers handed out 800 backpacks filled with school supplies to underprivileged families; gave away 1,000 boxes of groceries; and provided 430 free haircuts for children.
And that’s just the beginning. They also repaired 250 bicycles; gave away 350 family portraits; provided nail treatments to 250 women; conducted free sports physicals for 175 students; served 9,000 free hot dogs with drinks and chips; provided tables of baby food and clothing to anyone in need; and even held drawings for iPods, bicycles and TVs; and then, of course, offered the almost necessary summertime activity for kids and kids-at-heart: face painting.
The spiritual impact? Astounding. Terry tells Foursquare.org that they prayed for healing for about 250 people, saw 800 individuals make decisions for Christ, and baptized over 100 people onsite. He believes things like this happen when you switch from a mindset of pastoring your church to pastoring your city.
“The more I put myself in an environment where God is not known and I am forced to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit, the more He shows up,” Terry affirms. “Signs, wonders and miracles were primarily designed to reach the world, and we have to go into the world and trust that God will use us in this manner. My mentality [through the years] has changed from pastoring our church to pastoring our city.”
Area pastors have also caught this vision. Summerfest has led to partnerships across denominational lines. Bi-monthly meetings are now held in the city, during which pastors meet with the mayor, police commissioner and other officials. Terry notes that crime has decreased by more than 20 percent each of the last three years.
“We don’t pretend to believe we are responsible for all of this, or that free groceries will change a person’s life for eternity,” Terry explains. “But we do believe that if we can unite churches in our city, and if we can keep planting positive seeds into the hearts of people by showing them that churches care about them, and if we keep introducing them to the fact that God can change their lives, then we can change the spirit of our community.”
That desire to be used by the Holy Spirit to change one’s community is a value Terry and Lynne have passed on to their two sons, Sterling (20) and Spencer (17). Sterling is the youth pastor at Liberty Foursquare, and Spencer is the lead guitarist on the worship team. Both are very active in Summerfest.
“Now that we have expanded to two locations and I can’t be in two places at once,” says Terry, “they are anxious to carry the torch they have watched me develop for the past seven years.”
Terry is passing on other important values, too. One in particular is striking and reveals the humble heart of this pastor and the people of Liberty Foursquare.
“We planted our church 16 years ago and met in a middle school cafeteria,” Terry recalls. “Since then, we have moved twice into buildings that better accommodated our vision and growth. Each time, we have moved away from more affluent areas and toward communities of greater need.
“I can’t read very far in my Bible without coming across a scripture that gives us a mandate to reach out to those in need,” he continues. “Jesus said He came to preach the gospel to the poor.”
And so Liberty Foursquare is staying true to its vision, which Terry puts simply: “to love people, please God and change lives.”
By: Bill Shepson, a credentialed Foursquare minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles