George Ireland is a name most people today would not recognize without a little context. He coached basketball at Loyola University Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s.
There’s a whole history of their mascot and name, Loyola-Chicago Ramblers, but that’s for another time. In 1963, they played for the national championship and won. They beat the Cincinnati Bearcats in overtime and finished ranking 29-2. Quite impressive. But that’s not the real story.
The real story is that George Ireland played four black players on the team in 1963. That was against an unwritten rule to put only two black players on the court at any one time. What a hero. What a risk-taker. Even if they hadn’t won the national championship, it would still be an important moment in history.
This year, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers played their way as a Cinderella team back into the Final Four in San Antonio. The story this year has been the 98-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, and her prayers over the team each game. Not exactly sure how God responds to everyone’s prayers regarding their favorite basketball team, but it’s a fun story to follow.
People who lead the way of reconciliation take risks. Some even become martyrs. Almost all face severe criticism. Remember the scene in Mark 5, when Jesus delivered a young man of demon possession and reconciled him to health and to God? The town’s people were afraid. They asked Jesus to leave. They were more accustomed to dysfunction than to wholeness. But reconciliation—from darkness to light, from hopelessness to hope, from rejection to acceptance, from judgement to grace—is the central message of the church.
Our theme for Foursquare Connection 2018, “Transformed by Jesus,” emphasizes Jesus, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit. Just down from our central office in Los Angeles sits the famous Bonnie Brae House, a small home borrowed for a few revival meetings to host William Seymour. This black man from Louisiana is considered by many to be the initiator of the Azusa Street Revival from which modern Pentecost sprang. Dozens of Pentecostal movements link their heritage to these revival meetings.
George Ireland and William Seymour are case studies in the kinds of leaders that make a difference and influence generations of people. Such leaders are willing to take chances, follow their convictions, and pay the price to help others experience what they themselves may never have been able to experience, without the leadership examples set before them.
We are already anticipating a liberating environment when we gather in Seattle for Connection 2018, May 28-31. We are seeing a rising tide of optimism concerning the role of the church during these tumultuous days. Times like this are when the church shines. In the midst of chaos, God is releasing a sound of reason, a sound of hope. Just as the original Pentecost was accompanied by sounds and signs, so will our gathering. I’m anticipating it. We sense the same liberating, reconciling, releasing, redemptive message pulsating in our midst.
God is moving across the globe within our Foursquare family. We are obediently responding to the voice of His Spirit. And in the end, it will all bear witness to Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. It’s the ultimate Pentecost, the Feast of Harvest, to bring the lost into God’s fold. We will not stay silent, we will not flinch in the face of adversity, and we will not stop till everyone has heard the Good News. It will be without a doubt a historic Foursquare gathering, and it is important we join in prayer together in advance of our time in Seattle.
Our Connection offering will be entirely focused on sending workers to least-reached, difficult-to-reach and unreached people around the world. We must do this.
Those who attend the business meetings during convention will hear some terrific updates on the president-elect timeline, the work of the cabinet and next steps forward. We will be able to share with you significant progress on the Five Stakes in our Reimagine Foursquare plan, launched in 2014. Several bylaw revisions and additions will help solidify those important missional directions. Please take time to review them at foursquare.org/business and be a part of our important business sessions. By the way, CFO Ron Thigpenn reported to me that his 2017 Financial Report was the best he’s given in the nine years he has been CFO and is worth taking the time to review in advance of convention. God has been so good in helping us prepare for a season of advancing the kingdom with missional action.
Thousands will be in Seattle—and thousands more will join us online through Connection Live—during Foursquare Connection 2018, May 28-31. Visit foursquareconnection.org to learn how to join us in person or online. Don’t miss out.
To see more from Connection 2018, click here.