There is a compelling New Testament story, found in Acts 13, concerning the apostle Paul and Barnabas being commissioned out of the church at Antioch and sent on a missionary journey. By verse 13, John Mark (who had been assisting them) deserted them after some intense encounters with sorcerers, but there were also incredible power demonstrations by the Holy Spirit. One sorcerer, Bar-Jesus, was blinded after engaging Paul in an attempt to subvert the gospel, and that led to the conversion of the governor of the region.
Paul and Barnabas eventually returned to Antioch and entered the synagogue. After the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the synagogue leaders invited them to give a sermon. That was all the invitation Paul needed.
He proceeded to tell the story of God’s plan to redeem all mankind. His audience included both Jews and Gentiles. By verse 22, he was comparing two kings: Saul and David. One, he said, was the choice of the people. His name was Saul, and God would eventually remove him. The other, he declared, was God’s choice. That was David.
When Paul described David, he used God’s own words: “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (v. 22, NKJV). That was an amazing description of the kind of leader, the kind of heart, that God chooses.
The Lord didn’t refer to him as a great king or call him a powerful warrior or even describe him as a caring shepherd. God didn’t even make reference to David’s dysfunctional family or his personal failures. He simply said that their hearts were yoked together. David was a man who brought his life pursuits into alignment with God’s. It is simple, but it is profound.
A song of ascents (Psalm 132) describes David’s passion to pursue the presence of God, the power of God, and the principles of God at all cost. He realized that there’s nothing more important to leading than to be led by God. He didn’t want to go to his house, nor did he want to go to sleep, nor did he want to breathe another breath, without God being at the center of Israel.
In those days, the Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God. So, David abandoned everything to retrieve the Ark and bring it back to Jerusalem. After some missteps, he finally succeeded. David’s reign and Israel’s success during that time were unprecedented.
As we processed the journey of reimagining the Foursquare movement, one thing emerged above all other ideas or thoughts: We must align our hearts and our plans with God’s. It is the fountain of life and fruitfulness. We know that God’s heart and plan are for the harvest; so, we must align everything in our movement (e.g., structures, systems, resources, polity, decisions) to the finishing of the Great Commission.
Just as Paul and Barnabas were commissioned out of the church at Antioch, we have been commissioned by the Lord to multiply disciples, leaders, churches and movements. It is not a suggestion. It must be the center of all of our objectives and goals. It is, quite simply, aligning our hearts and our plans (like David) with God’s.
The Foursquare Church began (I firmly believe) in the heart of God in response to a desperate city, nation and world. He raised it up to be a light in the darkness and a voice of hope and reason. He dressed it in a Spirit-filled, interdenominational local church that experienced a visitation of the miraculous, defied current culture by being led by a woman, and that had a passion for the poor, the destitute, the marginalized, the nations and ethnic people groups.
It was a movement with a message on a mission. There was no pre-planning for an organization, but one was formed when it became necessary to give some order to the community that had been birthed. We have been marked by moderation, diversity, relationships, sound doctrine and Spirit-empowered leadership.
Over time, the dynamic that births a global movement will always find itself in need of realigning with its purpose and mission. In fact, the study and research of many qualified leaders (including those within the church community,) as well as a deeper look at the Scriptures, point to a constant need for renewal among God’s people.
Renewal is not automatic. Renewal is not an event, but rather a direction or journey, driven by deep convictions. It is a belief that, without being continually transformed to a biblical viewpoint (Rom. 12:1-2), we are being conformed to a worldly viewpoint. It’s in that spirit that we have launched this season (with much prayer) of reimagining our movement.
As an affirming counsel regarding our journey, I discovered the book, Center Church, written by Tim Keller, leader of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He shared a chart developed by a Harvard professor concerning the tensions between an institution and a movement. That chart, followed by his closing paragraph, was further proof of the need to be proactive concerning our pursuit of the right tensions in our organization to assure that we get back on track with mission.
|Held together by rules and procedure||Held together by common purpose and vision|
|A culture of rights and quotas; a balance of responsibilities and rewards||A culture of sacrificial commitment|
|Emphasis on compensation, “extrinsic” rewards||Emphasis on celebration, “intrinsic” rewards|
|Changes in policy involve long process, all departments, much resistance and negotiation||Vision comes from charismatic leaders; accepted with loyalty|
|Decisions made procedurally and slowly||Decisions made relationally and rapidly|
|Innovations from top down; implemented in department silos||Innovations bubble up from all members; executed by the whole|
|Feels like a patchwork of turf-conscious mini-agencies or departments||Feels like a unified whole|
|Values: security, predictability||Values: risk, serendipity|
|Stable, slow to change||Dynamic, quick to change|
|Emphasis on tradition, past, and custom; future trends are dreaded and denied||Emphasis on present and future; little emphasis on past|
|Jobs given to those with accreditation and tenure||Jobs given to those producing best results|
“A strong, dynamic movement, then, occupies this difficult space in the center—the place of tension and balance between being a freewheeling organism and a disciplined organization. A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics—authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control—will fragment and dissipate. Movements that fail to resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will end up losing their vitality and effectiveness. The job of the movement leader is to steer the ship safely between these two perils.” —Timothy J. Keller
We (The Foursquare Church) have seen both difficulties and decline in a number of arenas; some that track with U.S. and Western church statistics, in general; some that are a reflection of a challenging season of structure changes within Foursquare; and some that reflect an aging organization in need of renewal indicating that we need to re-purpose, re-align and re-imagine our community of faith.
It’s not something we are getting ready to start, but it’s something we’ve been engaged in for some time, and have begun to show some encouraging results in our local churches and in our districts. After an intentional season of interventions and pruning of some of our churches (many who existed by a legal identity only), we have begun to see healthier churches emerge.
We’re also seeing new missional congregations being birthed while experiencing significant financial growth and disciplines. We have a long way to go, but I’m firmly convinced we are already heading in the right direction. But much work and commitment remain.
I firmly believe that we need to take a holistic view of Foursquare and make some recommendations to drive deep stakes in the ground for kingdom advance. In fact, I have been awakened multiple times by the prompting of the Holy Spirit, leading me to Isaiah 54. This is the time to “enlarge the tent, lengthen the cords, and strengthen the stakes” (see v. 2). There is going to be a breakthrough for this and future generations. What are those stakes and how do we go about it?
We traveled with the executive team to 22 meetings over a four-month period, engaging with nearly 4,000 people. We shared, we listened, we received tremendous input from so many, and we have continued to intersect this journey with the board of directors, the Presidential Task Force, the supervisors and the executive team. We formed six Task Force teams. They continued to do research and make important recommendations. They were tasked with the following definitive charters:
- Re-Claim Our Spiritual Vitality: This focus is to help us ensure the spiritual vitality of our movement. We were birthed in a season of a powerful move of the Holy Spirit, and our movement has a prophetic call over it. We need to weave this assignment throughout our strategic plans.
- Re-Focus Our Identity: This will bring needed clarity to our mission, vision, values and theology. It will bring affirmation to the DNA of our movement and help build a foundation for our future efforts. Our commitment to diversity at times has left us devoid of a clear consensus of our identity. This effort is incredibly important.
- Re-Ignite Our Mission: From leadership development to church planting to a global missions commitment, The Foursquare Church is re-energizing its efforts to spark a renewed passion for mission. This focus will assure kingdom fruitfulness both now and in the future as we fan the flame of our movement to fulfill the Great Commission.
- Re-Design Our Responsibilities: This exercise will greatly inform us of how we will lead and manage going into the future for maximized effectiveness. This will bring much needed conversation and recommendations to the best contributions of the local church, the district office and the national office. This is probably the key to arriving at good polity and resourcing recommendations.
- Re-Align Our Polity: We have a 20th-century polity while leading in the 21st century. It is outdated, and is a patchwork of decisions pieced together over decades. It needs an overhaul. It needs to be thoroughly examined and shaped to best serve the model of ministry and administration that will help fulfill our mission. Our governance, our property policies, our protocols, our processes, etc., all need a thorough review.
- Re-Allocate Our Resources: We must steward our resources to where they provide the greatest return. Our goal is to find creative financing for the central office, while allocating the Covenant Tithe for ministry in the field. It will require continued streamlining at the central offices while providing much needed resources for the local church and district offices. We will need to examine all of our corporate assets and determine how they best serve the mission.
After two significant meetings—one with the Task Force teams in Long Beach, Calif., in December (with over 100 people, including supervisors, young leaders, district representation, missionaries, board members and Presidential Task Force members); and the other one in Los Angeles in January (with 70 people that included the full board, the executive team, the Presidential Task Force and supervisors)—we are now ready to present to the convention body attending Foursquare Connection 2014 in Dallas the Five Stakes to further align ourselves to the Great Commission. We have scheduled significant time during Connection 2014 to share the journey and our recommendations, and encourage you to review these materials in advance of convention at reimaginefoursquare.com.
Please continue to join us in prayer. In fact, I would ask that you specifically pray in the following areas. Pray that:
- We hear the voice of the Lord, above all other voices, as we march into our future. (John 6:38)
- We become singularly focused, aligned and unified on fulfilling our part in the Great Commission. (Acts 15: 28-29)
- We rediscover and rekindle the fire, the power and the purpose of our movement in God’s grand plan of kingdom advance. (Acts 1:8)
- Our hearts would break for those yet unreached with the gospel, and that our prayers would be lifted up unceasingly to the Lord of the harvest for laborers to be sent into that vineyard. (Matthew 9:38)
I hope to see you in Dallas!