“The Declaration of Faith of The Foursquare Church will guide our practice, church polity and call of believers into the work of the kingdom. It will be a biblical statement, apply to all members, and be the Declaration of Faith for all churches and all member nations. Its roots are deeply rooted in the sole source of spiritual authority: the Word of God.” —Foursquare’s Global Distinctives
Foursquare is not the only denomination in which my wife, Mary, and I have pastored. We’re “newbies” in some circles. We came to Foursquare in 1979.
There were wonderful people in our previous denomination: great pastors and church members. They weren’t the reason we felt the need to leave. We left because that denomination was rapidly abandoning its historical foundations. For a growing number of pastors, doctrine had become a matter of personal opinion, not biblical revelation.
A common saying among them was, “Our strength is in our diversity,” and what they meant by “diversity” wasn’t cultural diversity, or the diversity of worship or ministry styles. In fact, those matters were non-negotiable. What had become diverse was doctrine, and by that I mean on the most basic truths such as the authority of Scripture and the divinity of Christ.
We were no longer a people of one mind or one heart. We believed very differently, and it made for wild pastoral gatherings. I learned to carry a bottle of aspirin in my pocket to such meetings because, sooner or later, angry arguments would break out in the midst of public discussion. What was happening was sad. We were coming apart.
Now, that was many decades ago, and I’ve watched that once-great church decline about as fast as a large, well-endowed institution can decline. That kind of diversity, doctrinal diversity, didn’t produce growth by being inclusive. Instead it drove people apart. But there is a diversity that builds up the church. It’s the diversity that can be built on the foundation of a common faith.
And that’s what Mary and I found in 1978, standing in line waiting to buy some cassette tapes in The Church On The Way (Van Nuys Foursquare Church) bookstore in Van Nuys, Calif. There on the counter, beside the cash register, was a stack of small, gray pamphlets titled, This We Believe.
I took one home to read carefully. It contained 22 statements of faith. Each did little more than collect and summarize important teachings of Scripture, with some Bible verses quoted in support. The wording was straightforward. There were no strange philosophical twists. Would you understand what I mean if I said, it was “clean”?
When I finished reading, I put it down and said with a sigh, “Why, that’s what I believe!” Then Mary read it and agreed, and we knew we’d found a home, a family, a place to belong. And it has been.
Foursquare is remarkably welcoming, which is why, today, it’s remarkably diverse. You might even say of Foursquare that “Our strength is in our diversity.” But our diversity isn’t in the essentials of our doctrine. Here we believe, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity” (Foursquare’s Creedal Statements).
With one heart and mind, we’ve learned to carry Christ into the world in a wide variety of ways. We’re diverse in culture, language, styles of ministry, styles of worship, gifting, calling and personality.
We’ve become a beautiful tapestry, a mosaic of many different kinds of people and ministries. We’ve learned to give one another the freedom to express creatively our common faith. For us, doctrine is based on the unchanging Word of God. Instead of dividing us, it has become the firm foundation that supports a worldwide movement.
The Global Distinctives, agreed on by nearly 240 leaders at the 2012 Global Summit, are six unifying principles that bind our whole Foursquare family in doctrine and culture.