Foursquare moved further into its future by going back to its roots this week, as thousands gathered May 25–28, 2015, near the movement’s birthplace to reconnect with others and recommit to the values that drove those who went before.
Forty-six states and 43 countries were represented among the 3,771 pastors, leaders, church delegates and kids at Foursquare Connection 2015, hosted at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California under the theme “Sent.”
Many others were able to be part of the important annual time of fellowship and teaching, inspiration and prayer, business and renewal. Members of churches from the local area attended the open-to-all Wednesday evening session, while more than 12,500 in 67 countries joined Connection Live for live streaming and recordings of proceedings, either as individuals or as hosts of groups.
An important element of the week was to hear about and vote on developments in the ongoing Reimagine Foursquare process, which began three years ago to better align Foursquare structurally and missionally to the Great Commission for greater fruitfulness.
Among the steps reported:
- Funds from the extension tithe returned to local churches for leadership development, church and ministry multiplication, and church health and transformation.
- Restructuring of the 12 districts, including the new Distrito Hispano del Suroeste (Southwestern Hispanic District), in a “catalytic culture” now functioning as one team.
- Finalization of a new central database to improve tracking of stewardship, church health and ministry reports. Replacing the outdated Ezra system, The Foursquare Hub will go live soon.
While these Reimagine updates focused on the U.S., Connection’s vision was global, celebrating what is happening around the world. There were cheers for the annual global statistics projected on a giant screen at Monday’s evening session: 962,272 decisions for Christ; 923,934 baptisms with the Holy Spirit; 64,389 churches and meeting places; and total membership of 8,500,215 around the world.
By way of example, Foursquare President Glenn Burris Jr. highlighted the remarkable growth that has occurred in Nigeria because missionaries were sent there years ago. Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, Foursquare Nigeria now sends its own missionaries to 25 other nations.
Glenn also told of visiting Cambodia, where half the Christians in the country are part of some 5,000 Foursquare churches and home groups—many of them becoming Christians as children through Foursquare Missions International (FMI) Missionaries Ted and Sue Olbrich, who have served there for 18 years. They were both conferred honorary doctorates in divinity from Life Pacific College in recognition of their outstanding ministry.
More evidence of Foursquare’s vibrant international health was in a historic appointment made just before Connection, Glenn said: the naming of Leslie Keegel as co-chair and next chair of Foursquare’s Global Council, which is the global eldering community. The national leader of Foursquare in Sri Lanka and chairman of the Eastern Council of Foursquare Churches, Leslie is the first non-American to take the role.
Connection video reports and personal presentations spotlighted a wide variety of creative and fruitful ministry initiatives, from a church reaching workers in the Middle East to a California church that operates an indoor skate park during the week and holds services there on Sundays, and Laundry Love, a ministry reaching people by paying for their clothes to be washed.
While applauding initiatives such as these, there was also recognition of the importance of Foursquare’s rich history. Despite a busy schedule, many attendees made time to take part in “heritage tours” to founder Aimee Semple McPherson’s parsonage; Angelus Temple, the first Foursquare church; the national church office in nearby Los Angeles; Foursquare Missions Press; and Life Pacific College. In addition, the onsite Connection Center showed off one of Sister Aimee’s Gospel Cars that she drove cross-country as she preached the Word.
There was also a warm reception given to former President Paul Risser, who recalled some key moments from Foursquare’s history when he spoke at Thursday’s final session. The world is more complex today than when Sister Aimee had been alive, he said, and “we need new manna from heaven.”
If the formal “Sent” theme—recognizing that Reimagine’s goal is reaching the world—gave Foursquare members a symbolic passport to their world, then each one was also informally stamped “go in love,” through a repeated message that echoed throughout the event.
It came first from Bob Goff, human rights activist and author of the bestselling book Love Does. He cracked everyone up Tuesday morning with his stories of “strategic whimsy”: out-of-the-box interactions with other people that can soften their hearts and make them feel like “they have just met heaven.”
Turning serious, he said that “love everybody, always” is the simple message of the gospel. “And start with the people who creep you out … Make it all about Jesus, and it will be all about love,” he encouraged.
To reach others, we must “stop beating them over the head with truth,” said megachurch pastor Miles McPherson on Tuesday evening as he explained the four-step process of his Do Something Church outreach movement. Research the needs in your community, go to the people, ask them what they need and then help. “The only requirement in life is to love,” he said.
General Supervisor and Vice President of U.S. Operations Tammy Dunahoo returned to the love thread in her Wednesday night keynote message. Having previously acknowledged the progress made in the Reimagine process, she said that the future fruitfulness God had promised as a result of Foursquare’s realignment is not ultimately dependent on the practicalities.
The two things that matter are being filled by the Spirit so that we look like Jesus “and then, Lord, that we love like You do,” she said, praying, “would You baptize us … not in the love of our definition, but in the love that You alone know, because You are love.”
Drawing from her experiences growing up as a farmer’s daughter, Tammy emphasized in her message how it takes everyone—men, women and children—to bring in the harvest. In closing, she invited the Foursquare family, as well as her literal family, to join her onstage as a symbolic representation of the multigenerational and multicultural face of Foursquare’s harvest “combine.”
Connection gave time to pray for those who are currently being sent—including three new FMI appointments and 57 U.S. church planters starting new works, who are to be followed by another 125 in the next year.
Anchoring all that had gone before was a final prophetic word brought by Leslie Keegel in Thursday’s concluding session. Foursquare is “being aligned, anointed and entering into a new season of refreshing and revival,” he said. He urged any leaders and churches who are “reluctant and suspicious to move forward” to return to God for renewing.
Growth will not come “by human logic, programs, attractive rhetoric, philosophy, display of the world’s model of success,” he said. “It is by My Spirit, says the Lord. The world’s methods, models and formulas will certainly dry you up, make you weary, and burn you out.”
The week’s proceedings ended with President Glenn and Debbie Burris welcoming the Foursquare family to gather in Hawaii for Foursquare Connection 2016, May 30–June 2.