If one is up for a frightening challenge, he or she doesn’t need to join Survivor or The Amazing Race. All that’s necessary is turning on the evening news. Or flipping on the radio. Or opening a newspaper. And the challenge is trying not to panic when flooded with the plethora of bad news, which seems to worsen daily. Good news, it appears, is scarce in today’s bad-news world.
But this appearance is false. There is a lot of good news to report, as The Foursquare Church found when conducting a recent nationwide poll of churches, in which the congregations provided details regarding their Easter weekend services and related outreach activities. The result was a flood of good news about the best news of all—people responding to the Good News.
The numbers themselves speak volumes. The nearly 400 churches that responded to the survey reported a total of 5,542 first-time decisions to follow Christ. Easter weekend attendance, not including Good Friday, totaled 181,512—a 72 percent increase over the total usual weekend attendance of 105,768.
Clearly, there’s a lot of good news to feel good about! Presented here are just a few stories collected from churches across the U.S. (Some of the reports were received apart from the survey, meaning their numbers may not be included in the above statistics.) These testimonies represent how God is moving through The Foursquare Church nationwide.
The fact that attendance was double a typical weekend at Valley Christian Assembly in San Benito, Texas, was not the highlight of Easter Sunday. The most memorable moment was giving away a house to a family in need.
“One of the most beautiful things that happened is that the church received a small, two-bedroom house a few months ago, and we received definite instructions from the Lord that we were to remodel it and give it to a single parent with minor children,” shares Armando Escamilla, the senior pastor. “The house was almost totally finished by Easter Sunday, and a young mom with four kids walked up tearfully and joyously to the platform to receive it on Easter Sunday.”
At Faith Harvest in Litchfield Park, Ariz., the congregation collected a building-fund offering-but not for themselves. Senior Pastor Chad Budlong says the Lord led them to do this based on Luke 6:38 (“Give, and it will be given to you,” NKJV), believing it as a promise for their own building project.
“Our people miraculously gave $34,000,” he reports, “and we’re blessed to send it to the church we received it for.” His church also experienced an attendance breakthrough—the first time ever over 200.
Other congregations also had a breakthrough weekend. In San Leandro, Calif., Faith Fellowship, pastored by Gary Mortara, found it necessary to move their services to the Chabot College Center for the Performing Arts, due to growing numbers. More than 2,700 came Easter weekend, and 110 people received Christ. The local paper, The Daily Review, covered the services and published a highly positive report.
Also of note were attendance figures at The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, Calif. The well-known Foursquare congregation founded by Foursquare President Jack Hayford and currently pastored by Jim Tolle reported 31,397 in attendance—a 32 percent increase over last year—and 3,357 responses for salvation.
Getting out into the surrounding community was the focus of many Foursquare churches on Easter weekend. Los Angeles-based Angelus Temple Hispanic Foursquare Church, overseen by senior pastor Raymundo N. Diaz, held a grand evangelistic event at neighboring Echo Park.
The community outreach, organized by Adriana Barahona, the congregation’s Christian education pastor, was entirely free—popcorn, drinks, cotton candy and other snacks were there in abundance. Families enjoyed carnival games, face painting, balloon animals, a petting zoo and egg hunts. Most important was the gospel message shared through crafts and a special program with a drama presentation.
The church reported 501 salvations during the course of Easter weekend—451 of which occurred at the outreach in the park.
Across the Pacific, Hope Chapel Kahaluu Foursquare Church in Kaneohe, Hawaii, held a community celebration with what they dubbed a “Jesus Carnival.” Key to the outreach was a community lunch to feed the hungry, as well as all families that attended.
“Over 200 participated,” reports senior pastor Eldean Kukahiko. “[This is the] biggest celebration yet in our small community!”
Encouraging in the nationwide survey were just how many smaller congregations that don’t have large budgets for huge programs reached out to others this holiday weekend. Pastor Keith King of The Livingroom Church in Adairsville, Ga., is one example. His church held their Easter celebration services a week early, so that together as a church they could go to Atlanta and help with the Atlanta Dream Center’s community outreach.
On both larger and smaller scales, Foursquare churches made it a priority to reach out to others in practical service and with a message of hope.
This is, of course, what it’s really all about—the message of hope that brings people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
John Wiley, senior pastor of River Christian Fellowship in Raytown, Mo., shared that a drug dealer in their city received Christ during the Easter service. The congregation had been praying for the man for two years. After Easter, John reports, he went to the church’s annual men’s camp and was baptized with the Holy Spirit.
In the Pacific Northwest, a senior in high school who had been used and abused throughout her life, showed up for services at Grace Foursquare Church in Camas, Wash., pastored by Dave McCabe. She was looking for a church where she would be welcomed and loved.
Overwhelmed by the love demonstrated among people in the congregation and even toward her—noting that four people talked to her before she even got into the sanctuary—she made a commitment to Christ after the service, and expressed a passion for helping homeless teens and young people trapped in destructive lifestyle patterns.
At Palabra de Vida, a Foursquare church in Tampa, Fla., pastored by Francisco Carrillo, six children came to the Lord, and an entire family received Christ.
“Another young man who was placed in the hospital for attempted suicide was released in time to attend the services and publicly accept Jesus,” Pastor Carrillo shares. “Now he is attending with his wife and children. He just got back from a retreat.”
And so are the amazing stories in response to the greatest story ever told—a flood of good news breaking through the clouds that might otherwise obscure our vision. There’s a lot to feel excited about.
As Jerry Dirmann—senior pastor of The Rock in Anaheim, Calif., who saw 288 decisions for Christ in his church on Easter weekend—summed it up: “When I saw hands, too many for me to count, going up everywhere to commit their lives to Jesus, I was elated!”