The renowned academic and lay theologian C.S. Lewis once compared Christian theology to a map of the Atlantic Ocean: “The map is admittedly only colored paper,” he said, “but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based on what hundreds and thousands of people have found by sailing the real Atlantic. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary.”

Going somewhere, theologically speaking, has been a core value of The Foursquare Church since the founding of Echo Park Evangelistic and Missionary Training Institute in 1923. Today, as Life Pacific College (LPC, also known as LIFE Bible College), the accredited school offers undergraduate and graduate programs, and stands as a beacon of Foursquare’s 90-year journey with biblical higher education.

In other academic corridors of the country, a similar Foursquare light is shining. We recently spoke with three Foursquare educators who are helping restore a sense of wonder to theology, influence economic policy, and ground students in the theological discoveries of prior generations.

Conveying the ‘Mystery’ of Theology

For Jenifer Manginelli, co-pastor of Mill Creek Foursquare Church in Lynnwood, Wash., theology isn’t a scary subject. On the contrary, it’s “our best and most careful wonderings about God,” she tells foursquare.org. “There is mystery involved.”

When she’s leading a seminar or teaching at a Foursquare gathering, you’ll not hear her espousing the tenet that studying theology will thwart one’s growth in Christ, as some Christians believe.

“For some, an aversion to theology equates to a fear of being shaken in their faith. We shouldn’t fear that,” says Jenifer, who has a bachelor’s degree from LPC and a master’s from George Fox University. “The heart and mind are a powerful combination. As Pentecostals, we have been criticized for basing too much of our theology on experience, but that is changing. We need to be somewhere in the middle.”

Jenifer serves Mill Creek Foursquare Church as co-pastor alongside her husband, Chris, the senior pastor. She is a co-author of The Problem with The Problem with Women in Ministry Leadership, which confronts the issue of gender equality in ministry.

As the mother of four young children, Jenifer is not currently teaching professionally in her primary academic specialties—Old Testament studies, theology, Hebrew and Greek—but provides leadership to the Foursquare family by teaching in settings less formal than the college classroom. In particular, she enjoys helping believers lay a good foundation from which to learn about God.

“I enjoy teaching about life; about how to think, about how to understand what makes for a good argument,” she explains. “We should be able to love Jesus and not be fearful that God can’t handle our questions. We shouldn’t lose our sense of wonder [about God] by pursuing theology. On the contrary, we should be filled with wonder all the more.”

Shaping Economic Policies

Emmanuel Lartey says he has always had a vision of “being instrumental in designing policies that would help transform and shape the economies of developing countries.”

“Here I am today in academia,” he notes, “which I believe is in line with God’s purpose for my life.”

An economist and associate professor in the department of economics at California State University at Fullerton, Emmanuel was born and raised in Ghana. He holds two master’s degrees in economics and a doctorate from Boston College. Upon moving to California, he began attending The Rock (Anaheim Foursquare Church) and has been part of Foursquare ever since. 

Currently, Emmanuel is working on several research projects that focus on different aspects of the macroeconomic effects of “migrant remittances” upon “recipient” economies. A remittance is a transfer of money by a foreign worker to his or her recipient, or home, country. Money sent home by migrants to support their families is one of the largest financial inflows to many developing countries, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the U.N.

As a professor, Emmanuel considers it a privilege to be an influence in the lives of many young people. “I strive to leave the best mark on their lives,” he affirms, “that they will be able to link some aspects of whatever successes they enjoy in the future to that mark.”

Teaching ‘Secrets of the Universe’

“I teach the mysteries of life and secrets of the universe,” says Jim Henderson of his academic duties as instructor in Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. “In other words, I develop and teach classes in theology and church history.”

Passionate about teaching, Jim approaches his work as an educator with a clear twofold goal.

First, he wants “to educate students in the core doctrines of the Christian faith as the early church formulated them in the early creeds and as we understand through the Reformation and the Pentecostal revivals.

“I want to call students to own this solid foundation as their own core beliefs,” he continues, “and help them understand how these foundational doctrines should shape their lifestyles.”

Second, he seeks to translate “this core of faithful doctrine into terms that challenge and engage non-Christian worldviews.” He wants to equip young people, he says, “to engage their pluralistic and often pagan neighbors with the good news about Jesus Christ.”

Now in his 10th year at Regent, Jim taught at Life Bible College East in Virginia for 14 years. He was ordained as a Foursquare minister in 1987 and has served in five Foursquare churches as a senior or associate pastor.

His commitment to passing the baton of the orthodox Christian faith to new generations is “a fire in my heart that has never gone out,” Jim says. “I love to teach how the whole counsel of God blends into a theology that is intellectually satisfying and practical for living the Christian life.”

Foursquare educators and thinkers are being used by God in distinctly different ways to guide and inspire students at multiple levels of learning. In doing so, they are carrying forward a commitment to the biblical standards of higher education that has always been part of the Foursquare mission.

by: Jimmy Stewart, a freelance writer living in the Orlando, Fla., area