Common among people of faith is the desire to be used by God to influence the world around us. Offering our various gifts and talents to the Lord, we pray that we will be able to impact lives and draw people to Christ. If we minister to those within our spheres of activity, we have fulfilled God’s call, whether those circles are large or small.
Few among us are those who will impact millions-those who become history’s legends, men and women appointed by God for a unique task to reach generations. Dr. Rolf K. McPherson, president emeritus of The Foursquare Church, was just such a man. And thus the tone of his memorial service on May 30, 2009, was celebratory, as nearly 1,000 friends and loved ones gathered at Angelus Temple in Los Angeles to honor this hero and his lasting legacy.
“Everything about us will forever be altered because of the unbelievable legacy that Dr. McPherson left in all of our lives,” said Matthew Barnett, pastor of Angelus Temple, in a prayer opening the service. “It would only be fitting that we carry that on to the next generation.”
Pastor Matthew shared how Dr. McPherson had encouraged and supported him when he took the reins of Foursquare’s founding church. He noted how “Dr. Mac,” as the Foursquare leader was affectionately called, always—even up to his passing on May 21 at age 96—kept to the mission God had given him.
“He stayed true not to the ambitions of ministry, but to the mission of ministry,” Pastor Matthew said.
A note of encouragement from celebrity Kathie Lee Gifford to Evangeline Carmichael McPherson, Dr. McPherson’s wife, was then read by Pastor Matthew. He concluded his comments by extending a special thanks to Dr. McPherson’s caregivers.
Joann Johnson, who attended Angelus Temple as a child and eventually worked for Dr. McPherson, then led those gathered in an upbeat medley of his favorite hymns, which included well-known melodies written by his famous mother, Aimee Semple McPherson.
Dr. Sterling Brackett, Foursquare’s corporate vice-president/chief operating officer, read Psalm 23. Following this he explained that Evangeline had looked through Dr. McPherson’s Bible and found three passages of Scripture that particularly stood out to him: Luke 14:23; John 9:4; and John 13:34. Dr. Brackett read them to the congregation, relating them to how Dr. McPherson lived his life.
“There was absolutely nothing that thrilled Dr. McPherson more than to see the house of the Lord filled with people,” he said, “people who had enormous needs-because he served a God who met people enormously.”
Dr. Vaneda Courtney, herself a legendary Foursquare figure and close friend and colleague of Dr. McPherson, then stood and shared words of encouragement.
“We’re coming today not to cry,” she said. “We’re coming to rejoice in one that we love so much [who] has gone on before us. … What a joy and privilege it was to work with him.” Dr. Courtney’s sentiments were followed by a video about Dr. McPherson’s life and accomplishments.
Heidi Ledesma and the McPherson family then shared personal family stories of everyday life with Dr. McPherson, including anecdotes that were both humorous and touching.
“As a child it became known to me that both my grandparents had a church family around the world,” she told the audience. “We became proud of our heritage, and of you who have served the Lord so well and continue to do so.”
Dr. Leland Edwards, retired missionary and former director of Foursquare Missions International, then shared his memories.
“Dr. McPherson had a real heart and love for the people around the world,” he asserted. “It was his compassion, his desire, his mission, that the Foursquare gospel would go around the world to everybody. … He was a man of compassion for all races and all people.”
Dr. Raymundo Diaz, pastor of the Angelus Temple Hispanic congregation, then spoke, honoring Dr. McPherson and his desire to reach the Hispanic community. He noted how ministry among the Hispanic population has grown, including the number of those graduating from ministry training to pastor in the U.S. and abroad. He noted that Dr. McPherson was always present at graduation ceremonies for Angelus Bible Institute (ABI), and would visit classrooms and talk with students.
George Jameson, a minister and close friend, followed this by sharing memories of his friendship with Dr. McPherson and of growing up at Angelus Temple. He noted that Dr. McPherson was a very humble man.
Dr. Dick Scott, a pastoral leader and former missionary who also served as president of Life Pacific College for many years, shared his memories of working with Dr. McPherson and their friendship.
“I can honestly say today,” he asserted, “[that] how he handled his responsibilities was with utmost dignity; how he handled money was with impeccable integrity; how he handled the honors in position of his life was with simple humility. That’s it, that’s Doc: dignity, integrity, humility.”
A special musical number was then presented by Aleta Phelps. Afterward, Dr. Harold Helms, who has served The Foursquare Church in various roles through the years, including pastoring Angelus Temple, came to the podium. He explained how well the leadership transition had gone between Foursquare’s founder, Aimee Semple McPherson, and her son, Rolf.
Noting Dr. McPherson’s gifting and integrity, he explained that the leader didn’t simply maintain the church—the church grew.
“Rolf’s gifting solidified the work, and strengthened the work, that his mother had begun,” Dr. Helms said. He noted the exponential growth of Foursquare worldwide, detailing statistics regarding decisions for Christ, church plants, members and adherents, and more.
Closing in prayer, he said, “We remember today, and may we never forget, that we are standing on the shoulders of those who have preceded us.”
Dr. Jack Hayford, president of The Foursquare Church, then came to the podium, following memories shared and a song by Joann Johnson.
Pastor Jack extended an expression of sympathy to the family and those gathered. He explained that Dr. McPherson had desired the Foursquare gospel to be preached at his memorial service, which Pastor Jack did, eloquently, succinctly and powerfully, emphasizing our need for a Savior.
“Dear ones, whatever your soul’s condition today, please know that the message of hope is yours to have and to embrace. … The man who we celebrate today is a man who would say to you, ‘Thank you for coming to commemorate me.’ And he would say to you, ‘Now follow me into the blessings of eternal life.’ ” He invited any who still needed Christ to make the decision to follow Him.
People lifted their hands in worship as Pastor Jack closed the service in prayer: “We praise You as we celebrate all this day holds, and thank You for the privilege of commemorating our brother, our friend, our president for so many years, Dr. Rolf K. McPherson.”
The service officially closed as the congregation stood to sing Sister Aimee’s famous hymn “Preach the Word.” Matthew Barnett gave a closing invocation, and bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” as those gathered exited the sanctuary.
Dr. McPherson was buried in the McPherson family crypt at Forest Lawn in Glendale, Calif., where his mother and several other family members are interred.