Not your grandmother’s church. That might be best way to describe the sort of Christian community life envisioned by some of Foursquare’s new young leaders. It’s not that Grandma isn’t welcome, of course, but she just might not recognize things compared to the church she grew up in.
Megan Forbes, Whitney Lewellyn and James Tapp each have a different picture of the kind of church God has for them to be part of establishing, but those visions have in part been forged on a common anvil: Life Pacific College (LPC, also called LIFE Bible College). All three graduates credit their time at LPC with helping them deepen personal foundations and sharpen their sense of calling.
Becoming Intentionally Missional
The church Megan is helping plant in the Atlanta area, while she works part time in a coffee shop where she connects with new people, currently meets in a converted residential garage. The emphasis is on forming small missional communities—“we want to see one in every neighborhood in the city,” she says—that come together regularly as part of a larger church body. To that end, the church has already divided into two groups, after a year, with a third to be set apart soon.
Megan, 24, is part of a team led by Phil and Emily Manginelli, student ministry leaders when she was growing up at Mill Creek Foursquare Church in Lynnwood, Wash. Working alongside the Maningellis is particularly special, as their mentoring during her teen years helped Megan realize she was called to pastor and to dedicate her life to vocational ministry.
Whitney knows less about the shape the church she began planting in January with some other LPC graduates in Colorado Springs, Colo., will take than the foundational principles that will guide the team: taking time and taking care.
“We’re not going to be in a hurry to get a lot of people in the first year,” she says. “It’s about serving God long-term. If we are not taking care of ourselves, our team, then our church people ultimately won’t be well taken care of.”
Perhaps most unconventional is James’ “Egglesia” church idea, a coffee shop and breakfast place that, he says, will be “church in the way we serve people.”
That’s some way in the future, though, as he is currently advancing in the management track with retail giant Target, where he has opportunity to minister informally to others. Away from work, he and his wife, Jessica, also an LPC grad, are starting an informal Bible study home group for fellow twentysomethings at their home in Mira Loma, Calif.
Now 24, James—a longtime, active member of The River (Norco Foursquare Church) in Norco, Calif.— isn’t a fan of making distinctions about where ministry happens by using labels such as “marketplace ministry.”
“I don’t know how we came up with this belief you can choose not to be in ministry wherever you are,” he says. “From becoming a Christian, you’re in ministry, whether that’s in a church building or you are pumping gas at the gas station. There’s no bi- or tri-vocational, just different contexts.”
Discovering Life Plans at LPC
All three look back on their LPC time with thankfulness.
“[It was] one of the greatest experiences of my life. It shaped my character so much,” says 2012 grad Megan. “I just really liked the kind of people that Life produced. I wanted to become that sort of person—someone who gives his or her life away because other people are worth it.” She keeps in touch with some faculty, contacting them to discuss issues she is facing in ministry.
For Whitney, going to LPC as an older student—she graduated at 29 in 2012—was “really helpful in clarifying what I thought and believed” after being called to pastor at the age of 12, diverting her from her girlhood dream of becoming a Broadway star.
The ministry seed God planted in her wasn’t always nurtured by others, though; there were some “off-putting conversations along the way” with people who tried to dissuade her from following the direction she sensed. But she left LPC “finally having peace in going forward in what the Lord was saying to me.”
Her experience serving at Lifehouse (San Dimas Southwest Foursquare Church) in San Dimas, Calif., and at the Greater Los Angeles District office during her time at LPC was also significant. The different roles gave her broad exposure to the realities of church life, from leading worship to learning to deal with property issues.
James’ time at LPC (2007-2011) was “foundational, giving me tools for the rest of my life.” Though he did not go with plans of pursuing formal ministry in a church setting, he felt “a sense of peace” while there, coming to “understand who God was in my life” before following with MBA studies at Azusa Pacific University.
Each of the three is following something of an unorthodox path, but confident God is in control.
“As I began to pray about moving forward in going to Colorado, I realized that I would always regret it if I did not go,” says Whitney. “I would always wonder.”
Interested in LPC? Learn more about Foursquare’s college and its leadership development opportunities online at lifepacific.edu.
By: Andy Butcher, a freelance writer in the Orlando, Fla., area