The term “Foursquare Gospel” came about during an intense revival in the city of Oakland, California in July 1922. As thousands had gathered to hear the gospel, the evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson described a vision God had given her, taken from Ezekiel’s vision in the book of Ezekiel, chapter one.
Ezekiel saw the revelation of a totally powerful God. He saw four faces – those of a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle. To Aimee, those four faces were like the four phases of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of the man, she saw Jesus our Savior, the “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3); in the face of the lion, she saw Jesus the mighty Baptizer with the Holy Spirit and fire. In the face of the ox, she saw Jesus the Great Burden-bearer, who Himself took our infirmities and carried our sicknesses. In the face of the eagle, she saw reflected the Coming King – Jesus the Bridegroom, who is returning in power for His bride, the Church. It was a perfect, complete gospel for the body, soul, spirit and eternity. It was a gospel that faces squarely in every direction: thus, the name Foursquare.
When Aimee Semple McPherson’s life was concluded in 1944, the leadership of the Foursquare movement was entrusted to her only son, Rolf K. McPherson. Subsequently, he would serve as the president and chairman of the board of directors for forty-four years. The change of a generation in leadership did not slow the progress of the denomination. By 1949, the number of churches had increased from 355 to 521 and two states were added, from 33 to 35. Today, there is a Foursquare church in every state of the union, and over 141 countries around the world.
In 1948, the Foursquare Church joined with the Assemblies of God, the Church of God, the Open Bible Standard Church, and the Pentecostal Holiness Church to form the “Pentecostal Fellowship of North America.” The purpose of the PFNA was to promote inter-church Pentecostal fellowship and united action within North America. The PFNA was reorganized in 1994 to become the “Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America” (PCCNA) to allow for greater inclusion and diversity. Since that time, the Foursquare Church continues to partner with the greater Body of Christ to reach our communities and world, echoing the words inscribed on the cornerstone of Angelus Temple dedicating it’s members to “Worldwide Inter-denominational Evangelism.”
During the years between 1958 and 1971, the growth rate of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel slowed. During this season, however, roots were being deepened and church facilities were relocated and improved allowing for more efficient use of resources. Likewise, this period of time allowed Foursquare to further establish a policy of balance and openness to Charismatic movements that set the stage for a period of stimulation and new growth.
In 1974, several pastors were beginning to set patterns of explosive growth and spiritual renewal. These would powerfully challenge the entire Foursquare movement. They included Jack Hayford in Van Nuys, California; Roy Hicks, Jr. in Eugene, Oregon; Jerry Cook in Gresham, Oregon; Ron Mehl in Beaverton, Oregon; and John Holland in Vancouver, BC. These and others helped the Foursquare Church experience a remarkable numerical growth and spiritual awakening.
At the 1987 Convention, the Foursquare Church paid tribute to Dr. and Mrs. Rolf K. McPherson for their many years of untiring service and leadership as they announced their retirement from the presidency. On May 31, 1988, Dr. John R. Holland was installed as the Third President of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. *
Since that time the mantle of the Foursquare presidency has passed twice more. Passing first to Dr. Harold Helms who served as interim president from July 1997 until July 1998, and then in July of 1998 to Dr. Paul Risser. Dr. Risser was ratified in 2001 for further service to the denomination effective in 2002, to continue his leadership as president until 2007.
Where does the Foursquare Church go from here? In the recent months, Foursquare has embraced a new vision of expansion and church multiplication. On June 27, 2001, an announcement was made over the Foursquare News Service (FNS) that the Board of Directors had approved a recommendation that up to seven new districts would be established from what was the Eastern District. This has made way for a new vision of district and church multiplication that will see the present number of districts multiplied to include at least 50 distinct districts across the United States. Likewise, three Regional Administrative Centers (RAC) are also being established in strategic locations of the nation. Each RAC would service 15-20 districts and would be overseen by a Regional Administrator. This will provide greater efficiency, expediency, and specialization in the “daily details” presently demanded of our district offices, and free the district supervisors to minister greater care and nurture to the local churches. It is envisioned that the greater cooperation and networking will result in a stronger local vision by those who are already acquainted with their communities. In turn, additional churches will be planted and the Foursquare Church will grow into new communities that have not yet been reached by the gospel of Jesus Christ. **
(* The information on this page was excerpted in part from The Vine and the Branches: A History of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, by Nathaniel M. Van Cleave, 1992; ** and from the Foursquare News Service Release #95, July 16th 2001. You can purchase The Vine and Branches online.)