When I was just a child, my parents pioneered and pastored the Foursquare church in Rock Hill, S.C. During that season, I first met Mason and Virgene Hughes and their children. All I knew at that time about them was the fact that they had been classmates of my parents at L.I.F.E., their kids were really cool to hang out with, and their missions work in Papua New Guinea (PNG) was pretty awesome to this wide-eyed kid. Mason and Virgene began the first Foursquare church in PNG; today, the nation has more than 1,100 Foursquare churches, and is training and sending leaders around the world.
Since the time the Hughes family went to the wilds of PNG, missions efforts have greatly expanded, and multiple delivery systems have been discovered to share the good news of the gospel. We still have “classic” missionaries, but we also have short-term missionaries, missions teams, Internet missionaries, teaching missionaries, social missionaries and urban missionaries who are able to spread the good news in effective ways.
As a result, The Foursquare Church worldwide has increased dramatically in the past 35 years. In 1975, Foursquare had 3,500 churches in 32 countries; now, in 2010, we have 70,000 churches in almost 150 countries. Yet of the 6 billion people on our planet, 4 billion have still not responded to the gospel.
Making Disciples of All Nations
Of the 4 billion who still need to hear the gospel, many are in our own country. The United States, which sends and receives more missionaries than any other nation, is, in fact, the fourth largest mission field in the world. When Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations, He meant everywhere—including here!
In fact, I am writing this from New York City, one of the most sophisticated cities in the world. But New York is also a city desperate for the gospel. It is clear that we must evangelize our own country while we continue to evangelize the world. While I was here, I met Foursquare pastors from Brazil, Nigeria, Haiti and Trinidad—all called to reach the immigrant population that has migrated to America. Others’ ministries are focusing on those with “hurts, habits and hang-ups.”
In his book, Disciples of All Nations, Dr. John Amstutz aptly described the missions work of The Foursquare Church: “The Foursquare Church has sought to follow the pattern of Spirit-empowered church development found in the New Testament by evangelizing, releasing indigenous leadership, cultivating church planting and reproducing missionary-sending churches.” It just so happens that our missions focus is happening in cities all across the United States, too!
A Culture of Belonging
During His earthly ministry, Jesus created a culture of belonging. He then exhorted people to move beyond belonging to believing, and, ultimately, to behaving in a way that was consistent with a changed belief system. As He prepared to leave the work to His followers, He charged them to embrace a lifestyle that would separate them from the world, identify them as His followers, and advance His kingdom.
My prayer for our Foursquare movement is that we move beyond belonging and believing to behaving in ways that reflect His saving grace in our lives—and ways the will fulfill His commandment to make disciples of every tongue and tribe. We must be practitioners—not just theorists. And sometimes, after Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts … we find ourselves needing to again focus on Jerusalem.
By: Glenn Burris Jr., president-elect of The Foursquare Church.