A global initiative that will impact Foursquare pastors and churches around the world will soon make its mark on districts throughout the United States.
A three-day training in Los Angeles in October brought together 25 leaders from throughout North America. It’s the latest step in getting the word out about the newly titled Discipleship and Leadership Training (DLT) program.
“We are training people who can go back and roll out the training to local leadership,” says Lisa Penberthy, leadership education and training coordinator with Foursquare’s National Church Office.
The initiative came out of a 35-nation survey conducted by the Foursquare Global Council, notes Global Education Coordinator Gary Matsdorf. “We discovered there are four areas that we need to work on as a denominational family,” he explains. “Those are making disciples; in-service training of leaders; the baptism with the Holy Spirit; and addressing doctrinal drift.”
Based on the results, the council appointed Gary in January 2016 for a three-year assignment to address the four concerns. He initially met with a 20-member team of men and women, ages 28 to 88, representing every continent, to create DLT. Now he works with leaders from all 15 regions as the program expands its scope and influence.
DLT evolved out of the former Foursquare Missions International (FMI) In-service Leadership Training (ILT) program, reflecting updated scholarship and pastoral ministry from the 1980s, when ILT was created. For instance, nothing in the original material on leadership addressed a leader’s personal care and emotional health, Gary says.
“Previously, we concentrated more on what they did than who they were,” he explains. “We didn’t address if they were killing themselves, burning themselves out.” As a result, leaders struggled emotionally, often in isolation, and quit rather than seek help.
On a separate issue, Foursquare leaders around the world asked for clarification both theologically and pastorally on the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
“Pastorally, many felt they had to trade the baptism with the Holy Spirit for seeker-friendly services,” Gary explains. “In that tradeoff, we somewhat walked away from a core practice of the baptism globally, and that’s one thing, along with some doctrinal clarification, that DLT is trying to address.”
Another aspect of the training deals with discipleship. Those surveyed felt churches often settle for making converts, not committed disciples. Converts are content knowing their faith promises them heaven, Gary says, while disciples go beyond that, to knowing, growing, serving and sharing the Lord.
Global leaders estimate that no more than 20 percent of Foursquare members qualify as disciples. “The Great Commission says make disciples, not converts,” Gary asserts.
After the updated, expanded training manual was ready came the next step. In February, 30 DLT regional champions, identified by the Global Council, met in Amsterdam to become trainers of trainers. Lisa, one of the 30, is now involved in step two, hosting three-day regional DLT training sessions to prepare one or two DLT national champions per nation. Next, district leaders will be trained, then pastors, who will be mentored.
At the Los Angeles training, participants studied topics from different angles, Lisa says. One morning she presented the theology and philosophy of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, and a second speaker spoke on the practical side of it: what it looks like in the local church. At the local level, Lisa says, training will mesh with practical help.
“After the training, the mentor will follow up with someone who has gone through it and could invite them into a service where an opportunity would be given to observe it,” she says. Or, the pastor could watch a more seasoned pastor in action. Lisa likes that the training focuses equally on a pastor’s head, heart and hands.
“If they lack knowledge in one area they become unbalanced, like a three-legged stool,” she says. “We were created holistically, and therefore we need to lead holistically.”
That the new resource has been translated into 15 languages is crucial to success. In addition, the Bible serves as the primary support “so they’re not having to find resources to help with what they’re doing,” Lisa adds.