David Wing, senior pastor of Dover Foursquare Church in Dover, Ohio, has a clear message to his small community in the Appalachian foothills: “We wish everyone knew how much we love people.”
Love for others, in fact, is what propelled the now 68-year-old pastor into vocational ministry in the first place. As a teen, he felt the call to ministry at a Foursquare youth camp in Wisconsin. He went to Bible college in 1965.
“I got involved in pastoring because I felt such a passion to help hurting people,” says David, who pastors Dover Foursquare alongside his wife, Joyce, who serves as an assisting minister. Both are ordained. “I want to show them God’s mercy, great grace and love while they face difficult circumstances.”
This passion defines the couple’s 42 years of pastoral service—the past 25 of those years in Dover, a small town of just over 12,000 people about an hour south of Cleveland that cozily rests among picturesque foothills in the shadow of Amish country. The Wings have two adult children, Andrew and Amber, both married, and five grandchildren. Andrew serves in a volunteer position as the church’s worship director.
With an average attendance of 210 in two Sunday morning services—a substantial number considering the city’s size—Dover Foursquare is known as a place where the people show friendliness and love, serve the community and give freely, both of finances and time.
“We believe God placed the church in this small town so we could love the community,” David affirms, noting that Dover Foursquare is one of the oldest of the denomination’s congregations in the eastern U.S., having been chartered in 1927. “The witness of Christ in our community is truly a joy God has allowed us to share in as we give, give and give more.”
That giving includes an annual giveaway of school supplies every August, where volunteers from the congregation distribute backpacks, assorted school supplies, and new and “gently used” clothing to several hundred kids and youth in the community.
Other outreaches include free carwashes by the church’s men’s ministry; a program called KEDS (Kids Expression in Dance and Song), which is offered by the children’s ministry to kids in the church and surrounding community; an annual vacation Bible school; and, under the oversight of the church’s youth pastors, a ministry called Fifth Quarter Gathering. Following football games, the church’s activity center, which is providentially located near the football field, opens up for food, music, games and fellowship.
It’s all about relationships, something Pastor David is very big on. Mentorship is a value he says he cherishes. He currently meets monthly with seven men in leadership for prayer, teaching and mentoring. He also enjoys mentoring guys one on one, especially those who are new believers.
One of the men David mentored is the city’s former police chief. His son and family began attending Dover Foursquare, and received Christ. The chief would come to the church when his grandson was in a program.
When the chief was in the hospital facing surgery, David visited him. After his recovery, the man came to David’s office “just to talk.” He told David he was ready to receive Christ. The pastor called the chief’s son at work, and he came right away to lead his dad to the Lord.
David met with him for many years after that, mentoring him in his walk with God. He’s proved to be a faithful believer, leading home groups and serving as a church greeter.
“Presently, I am mentoring a young man who was brought to our church by a neighbor,” David tells Foursquare.org. “He received Christ and is now on our worship team, and a youth worker. I love mentoring him. I find great joy in hearing his heart. I know God is using him. Mentoring is so rewarding.”
So is watching the congregation he serves reach out in the same spirit of love that they have received. When a single mother in the congregation was going to have her children taken from her because of a serious situation in the home, for example, David says that a loving couple from the church took the children into their home and became their guardians, caring for them and loving them through the difficult time.
Likewise, when a young man in the church was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident, the congregation lovingly supported his family in practical ways. Not long after, another tragedy took place—a young lady who had gone to Bible college from the church and was a youth pastor in a church close by was killed in a traffic accident. Again, the church surrounded her family and helped them walk through the loss.
The mentorship David models is perhaps one of the reasons the congregation reflects this value, transcending typical generational gaps. In fact, David shares, senior citizens work in the youth department, serving as examples of God’s love to teens. Comparably, the young adult home group gives back to senior citizens, including throwing parties for them twice a year. It’s simply an example of healthy family life in their church community, says the pastor.
So, after 42 years of ministry, what does David see as he looks to the future? There may be some changes—but they’ll all be for the good, he believes.
“As I look forward to my pastoral ministry coming to an end in the not too distant future,” he candidly shares, “I know the church will remain strong because of strong leaders in the body of Christ. We will continue to see many more people come to Christ.”
By: Bill Shepson, a Foursquare credentialed minister and freelance writer in Los Angeles