Exuberant praise echoed through the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California Monday night, as a record number of delegates filled the arena for the opening service of Connection '09, the annual convention of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
Worship rang out to the large arena from Press Play, the worship team from Angelus Temple and The Dream Center, with heartfelt praise setting the tone for the night with a next-generation focus.
During opening ceremonies, nearly 5,000 registered delegates honored the memory of our movement's second president, Dr. Rolf K. McPherson, son of Aimee Semple McPherson, who recently went to be with the Lord at the age of 96.
Pictorial memorials reminded those present of the lives and legacies of ministers who have left this life during the past year for their eternal reward. Foursquare military chaplain Shawn McCammon led the congregation in prayer, interceding for the power of the Holy Spirit to watch over our military men and women serving internationally, and also for the empowering presence of the Spirit to overflow our chaplains, ministers and leaders as we take the gospel of Jesus Christ to remote and often dangerous quarters of the globe.
Foursquare President Jack Hayford reminded the convention body of the theme verse for Connection '09 found in Revelation 3:8, illuminating the image of a door set before us of increased spiritual harvest. Pastor Jack observed that in every Bible translation, we find an exclamation point in the verse that accentuates the words of Jesus as recorded by the apostle John. "The door is wide open!" Pastor Jack emphasized. He added that the appropriate response for the people of God is to see through that door, to view the harvest, and to embrace the opportunity.
An important key to the success of The Foursquare Church throughout history has been a commitment to releasing the next generation to fruitful ministry. Pastor Jack reminded the delegates that full realization of God's promise for our church will only be possible as we find new ways of identifying and releasing ministry to young leaders. He illustrated the point by having five of his grandchildren, all pastors, join in a collective prayer seeking the blessing of God as our Foursquare family embraces the calling of God to equip and empower young leaders throughout our movement.
Local Foursquare pastor Jerry Dirmann from The Rock in Anaheim, and Kimberly, his wife and recently appointed Southwest District Supervisor, welcomed the largest convention body in history to Orange County. The couple's two children, Alexa, 17, and Jonathan, 14, represented the children and youth attending the convention, and each spoke a word of greeting, inviting the entire convention body to remain in the arena following the service for an extended hour of worship and teaching with a NextGen focus.
The Dirmanns also welcomed the international delegates to Anaheim, accompanied by a procession of flags representing the nearly 50 countries in which The Foursquare Church has established ministries. National leaders from more than 50 countries were introduced. They stood to be acknowledged and embraced by convention delegates, who showed clear appreciation for our international brothers and sisters.
A reader's theater presentation focused on the generations of youthful leaders who have brought fervor and vision to The Foursquare Church since its inception under the leadership of founder Aimee Semple McPherson. Children, youth and the leaders who influence the next generation took the platform to ask a collective question of our leaders: "What does this mean for us?" James Craft, director of Foursquare National NextGen Ministries, then directed the question to our president, Pastor Jack Hayford, General Supervisor Glenn Burris Jr., and Director of Foursquare Missions International Jonathan Hall.
Pastor Jack affirmed a commitment of Foursquare ministers to shape the next generation of leaders and the importance of mutual trust in the process. Jonathan Hall spoke of a global family more closely connected than ever before, but also noted the growing need for the next generation of leaders to engage the spiritual harvest around the world. Glenn Burris Jr. said he noticed something about churches that have an effective and healthy impact on their communities—specifically an emphasis on the "pipeline" of training the entire church, from the youngest children through the adults. These leaders affirmed the vital importance of each minister making a commitment to identifying and intentionally releasing young leaders as a regular part of their ministry experience.
Roger Archer, pastor of Puyallup Foursquare in Washington, delivered the keynote address and spoke on "Generation Integration," elaborating the ways in which established leaders successfully invite the next generation into fruitful ministry. Referencing passages of the apostle Paul's epistles and the Gospels, Pastor Roger illustrated the topic with hurdles familiar to runners of track, labeling each hurdle with a key thought that must be addressed for generation integration to succeed. His youth pastor, Chad Veach, brought the personal perspective to the message, interjecting observations from the vantage point of an emerging leader. The four hurdles were identified as:
- Impartation: How do I get what is in me into the next generation?
- Participation: How do I find the "sweet spot" between abdication and domination as I delegate?
- Demonstration: How do I model ministry for the next generation?
- Celebration: Do my actions communicate my pride in even the smallest achievements of the next generation?
The first session of Connection '09 concluded with a moving time of young leaders being prayed for by ministers throughout the arena, the prophetic fervor evident in the release that filled the building. An obvious air of commitment demonstrated universal acceptance of the principles outlined by Pastor Roger Archer, as well as the need for ministers to live out this message.
Foursquare Connection '09 continues through Thursday night and will include many speakers and worship artists, as well as items of corporate business that will be woven into the gatherings. Updates will be posted daily.
By: Rod Light, National Church Communications Facilitator