Why I Love the Foursquare Denomination
Foursquare Convention 2011, Monday Night May 30th
Great opening night at Foursquare Convention. I went to my first Doctrine Committee meeting and enjoyed getting acquainted with fellow committee members.
As I listened to Pastor Steve Schell and other committee members discuss the complex theological issues facing our world and our movement, I felt a joy rise up within me. A joy rooted in my deep appreciation for being grafted into this sacred movement.
I love Foursquare! Not in an exclusionary, self-righteous denominational posturing kind of way. No, I simply love Foursquare because they first loved me! They accepted me and gave me a home when I felt as if no denomination wanted me or would accept my faith journey.
At 23 I accepted the call to pursue the pastorate. With no official theological training, I decided to get my Masters of Divinity before entering into full time ministry. At the time, I knew nothing about Foursquare, but I did know that I was a Spirit-led Christian. As a young child I attended an Assemblies of God church until my family eventually settled in a charismatic Presbyterian church.
The charismatic Presbyterian church was not particularly Pentecostal in worship style, but they did have a faith expression that seemed a tad bit more honest than some of the Pentecostal sheen I had seen as a child.
During my time with the Presbyterians, one of my pastors was significantly influenced by the Vineyard movement. Like a good Presbyterian, he taught a class on the power of the Holy Spirit, with scheduled miracles to occur in our third or fourth session together. Our “Charismatic Pastor” influenced many in the church. Some followed his lead, others resisted. This didn’t lead to a church split or even that much tension. It just sort of created a dual track of those in the church more comfortable or less comfortable with all that Spirit-led stuff.
I was one of those in the church that was not only comfortable with this Holy Spirit stuff, but desperately desiring more! My parents were and are Pentecostal, tongue speaking, talk to God kind of people. They have influenced my view of God more than any classroom, pastor, or theological position paper. I remember hearing my father speak in tongues through the walls; his low voice rumbling through the walls a mysterious, weeping tongue.
As a little child, my father would tell me that “God is always speaking to you. You just need to listen.” He would cup my ears when saying these words or gently touch my earlobes. I never had reason to doubt that God was in fact speaking. Speaking to me continuously, speaking to me through the admonitions of my father, the encouragement of my mother, through the rumbling tongues vibrating the walls.
Consequently, when I finally said yes to the call of pastor, I decided to head towards a seminary that would accept the proposition that God does in fact speak to us and through us! I wanted to go somewhere where I could stick my hands up in the air without sticking out or causing some sort of theological debate.
I knew nothing of Foursquare, so I headed to the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. After three years I had a Masters of Divinity, an amazing education, and a strong feeling that I would never be fully accepted in the Assemblies of God.
My Pentecostal experience and my general personality just didn’t seem to fit into the pattern of an Assemblies of God pastor. To be honest, I wasn’t trying to change the power structure of any denomination, I was just looking for a place that would accept me for who I am. I wanted to find a community that loved the unique parts of me, the unfinished parts, the peculiar aspects of me in Christ.
After I graduated from Seminary, I had two prophetic words to guide my path. The first word was that I was supposed to plant a church, the second was Jennifer and I were to move back to the Northwest and trust God would quickly open a door for us to enter into the next stage of our life.
We moved back to the Seattle area and waited for God to move. As a desperate last resort, I began to fill out an application to be licensed in the Assemblies of God. About the time I finished the packet and was getting ready to turn it in, a good friend of our family set up a meeting for me to meet with Pastor Steve Schell of Northwest Church. This seemed good to me, because my wife and I had been listening to his sermon tapes for the previous two years. We loved his heart and his passion for worship.
After a lunch meeting with Pastor Steve and a couple phone calls, I was appointed to pastor and replant Evergreen Foursquare Church in Maple Valley. After a year or so and a vision from God, we moved the church to its current location in Auburn.
I tell this story to help you understand how I was miraculously grafted into Foursquare. Many times I had desperately cried out to God to find me a church home, a denominational covering where I would be accepted. Foursquare was that answered prayer!
After my first meeting with Pastor Steve Schell and then with my soon to be District Supervisor, Tom Ferguson, I had a strange and persistent feeling. It was the feeling of being accepted and loved by a denomination. I don’t know how else to describe this phenomena, but Foursquare became a grace gift from God to me. I kept telling my wife that I didn’t know why everyone was being so nice to me. I felt like a lost child being lavished with grace gift upon grace gift. Instead of viewing me as some punk kid, fresh out of seminary, in need of tolerating, I was treated like a brother in Christ who should be respected and loved.
I was grafted into Foursquare by people who valued what I had to say and what I had to give. They gave me the gift of belonging to a wonderful denomination. Foursquare loved me first! I love Foursquare because Foursquare first loved me.
The first convention I attended God made it very clear to me. “Doug, you will serve, honor, and respect Foursquare the rest of your life! You are called to this denomination.”
With this in mind, I found myself tonight being blessed by an opportunity to participate in the Doctrine Committee, to contend for the prophetic foundations of this beautiful movement. After our meeting, we had a lovely evening session where God challenged us to remember our first love. . . to remember that our primary task is to learn how to abide with God. . . to learn how to spend time with our precious Jesus.
It’s running late, and I don’t have time to clarify these thoughts. I just want to thank God for this day, for this season of my life, for the day in which I live. I hear some say that we live in a post-denominational age. . . I think those might just be the words of bitter, isolated, or confused souls. Everybody needs a family, someone to love and accept us at our core. Sometimes that comes in the form of a denomination.