For two years, he traveled for weeks on end, traversing the eastern United States in a decrepit 1982 van nicknamed Scooby, on what he called “church multiplication missionary trips.” In 2003, Foursquare pastor and “urban missionary” Mark Jefferson took seriously Pastor Jack Hayford’s charge to “Go East … go urban.” Nearly 40 new Foursquare churches later, the results have exceeded even his own expectations.
“I’d go into a city and just sit for four or five hours, watching people,” he said, adding that depending on the location and the prompting of the Spirit, he might read the local newspaper and visit a barbershop, or attend a community gathering or other local event.
“I have to fast and pray in order to get to meet that key leader in a city,” he said, adding, “I’ll stay in a place until I meet the right people.” Meeting the right leaders, he explained, opens doors to making connections and building relationships with a host of other people. Remarkably, those “accidental” connections were no accident—they have resulted in dozens of church plants and church adoptions in the eastern United States.
“I’d always take two or three guys I was discipling along with me. When we hit the cities, we slept in the van, in churches, at rest stops. Our meals consisted of bologna and cheese and gallons of water! But we met some of the most amazing people.”
“One time, we took off and put $20 in Scooby (although I only had $22 at the time). We got down to half a tank, and I pulled up to a gas station and waited. The young guy traveling with me asked me, ‘What are we doing?’ That was a story that played itself out time and time again on that trip. Someone would come by and give us $25 and fill us up. The connections we made were so powerful—plus, it was amazing what it did for that young man’s faith!”
Despite the miraculous results, the months of traveling weren’t easy—but God’s presence and provision never failed.
“Going into those cities, that year and a half that I was traveling like I was, was a very difficult season in my life, but the grace was there. The last six months have been a lot better—I’ve been able to fly,” he said, but added that the necessity of catching a return flight is limiting at times when he senses the Spirit nudging him to stay in a place a little bit longer.
He attributes the fruit of the last two years—the dozens of urban churches birthed and adopted in cities such as Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and the St. Louis-Kansas City area—to the humble, relational, “family” spirit of Foursquare. “Leading by love and walking in humility—it crosses cultures,” he explained, noting that though training is important, having a servant attitude transcends even training.
“We can bring people to the table and reach them just by walking in love,” he said. “As a denomination, we have been given a profound chance to really do some world-changing things. We’re getting back to our roots. After all, we were founded in the city. I just love our family!”