Celebrate the present, prepare for the future, but don’t forget the past: Foursquare Connection 2013—themed “Engage: Learn. Live. Lead.”—opened with a three-stranded thread of encouragement and challenge, fueled by vibrant worship and intense prayer.

With 3,179 total attendees gathering at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., there was loud applause when the proceedings began as global statistics were shared—838,702 water baptisms, 2,489,700 decisions for Christ, and 7,527,174 members and adherents.

Attendees rose to cheer and then pray with Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, representing more than 40,000 churches, when he brought a powerful greeting. The church is on the precipice of a great new awakening, he said, which would marry righteousness and justice as Christians look to “the agenda of the Lamb” to save America, not the political agendas of the donkey or the elephant.

Samuel’s vision was echoed later by Leslie Keegel, Foursquare’s national leader in Sri Lanka, as he brought a prophetic word he had submitted to convention leaders a few days earlier. Introduced by Foursquare President Glenn Burris Jr., Leslie said that Foursquare is poised to have a significant role in a coming major end-time revival.

The church needs to model repentance to the world, he said, and established leaders need to model for emerging leaders a passion for God’s presence that supersedes an emphasis on numbers and growth. As he finished reading the prophecy, he spoke out about several physical conditions he said God was healing for individuals right there in the meeting.

The presence of Jesus and His healing power were central points of Jerry Cook’s closing address. With humor and passion, the beloved longtime Foursquare pastor and author urged attendees not to lose sight of Foursquare’s foundational beliefs in Jesus as Savior, Baptizer With the Holy Spirit, Healer and Soon-Coming King.

These emphases are Foursquare’s heritage as part of the wider body of Christ, Jerry said. “We are intended to be a specific facet of the presence of Jesus in this current world,” he affirmed. “We have been given the stewardship of these four things in terms of representing and being the presence of Jesus in our world.”

Leading the response to Jerry’s appeal, General Supervisor Tammy Dunahoo directed attendees to break into small groups to pray with and for one another. As many lingered, some left for the final gathering, a Mentoring Young Leaders session.

With a celebratory air from the start, courtesy of a steel drum worship band, the opening evening session had presented other snapshots of Foursquare’s impact and opportunity. A video report from Turkey—where Foursquare is the largest denomination—profiled church planting and discipleship initiatives. A video introducing the offering for Foursquare Missions International (FMI) emphasized reports by area missionaries of miracles and healings.

National leaders from almost 40 countries were recognized and applauded, as were four former Foursquare presidents and their wives: Paul Risser, Jack Hayford, Harold Helms and John Holland. In a new element to the annual convention, a Foursquare pastor and area missionary (name withheld for security reasons) gave the first QuickTalk, a short food-for-thought presentation, in which he asked attendees to pursue their own relationship with God before looking to lead others, noting that “discipleship begins with friendship with God.”

President Burris brought MidSouth District Supervisor David Coffey to the platform to pray for those devastated by the recent tornado in Moore, Okla. Having experienced a disaster in his area two years ago, David prayed that God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, would “bring redemption.”

Spanish-speaking attendees got a head start on the week’s celebrations. Around 300 attended the afternoon Conexión Hispana, a three-hour gathering that featured a longer version of the message Samuel Rodriguez delivered later to the opening session. Exuberant worship was led by Ingrid Rosario, part of Metro Life Church in Miami. The event was held in Spanish with English translation available.

In his welcome to the Hispanic gathering, Glenn Burris challenged Latino leaders to “dream big, lead with courage, lead under the power of the Spirit, and let’s do this together.” Praying for those at Conexión, he thanked God for “their passion for the lost, their passion for the Word, their passion for the Spirit.” Samuel Rodriguez followed with a stirring challenge for Hispanic leaders to step up to what he said is their pivotal role in ushering in a revival in America.

Among the 3,179 total registrations and confirmed 2,967 attendees for Connection 2013, which runs through May 30, 227 are international guests, and there are 497 children and youth with their own program.

Don’t miss anything that Connection 2013 has to offer! Order the Foursquare Connection 2013 Experience Kit at a special rate of $149 (a $300 value). The kit includes all the speaker’s messages, video updates from the week’s events and more. Order online now.

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Highlights From Connection 2013: "Engage: Learn. Live. Lead."

By: Andy Butcher, a freelance writer living in the Orlando, Fla., area