Foursquare Gospel History
The Foursquare Church, officially named the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, is a Pentecostal denomination that resulted from the dynamic evangelistic ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson, who opened the historic Angelus Temple in 1923.
The term “Foursquare Gospel” came about during an intense revival in the city of Oakland, CA., in July 1922. To a crowd of thousands, Aimee Semple McPherson explained Ezekiel’s vision in the book of Ezekiel, chapter one. Ezekiel saw God revealed as a being with four different faces: a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle.
To Sister McPherson, 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. 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 took our infirmities and carried our sicknesses. In the face of the eagle, she saw Jesus the Coming King, who will return in power and victory for the church. It was a perfect, complete Gospel. It was a Gospel that faces squarely in every direction; it was the “Foursquare Gospel.”
An Evangelist Is Born
From the beginning of Sister McPherson’s ministry in Los Angeles, she made headlines. She had traveled from the East Coast to Los Angeles in 1918—along with her mother, two young children and a secretary—at a time when women could not even vote. By the time the Nineteenth Amendment (which gave women the right to vote) passed in August 1920, she was gaining world renown as an evangelist.
Her penchant for doing the unexpected and unprecedented never ebbed. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, Sister McPherson oversaw a commissary ministry from Angelus Temple that fed more people in Los Angeles than government programs were able to care for. During World War II she cashed in on her celebrity status and sold more war bonds than the most famous Hollywood stars. The denomination that she founded continues to be sensitive to social issues and to the needs of disenfranchised people.
Having devoted her life to making the most of every opportunity to spread the gospel, Aimee Semple McPherson met an untimely end. She died in 1944 at the age of 54, and the leadership of The Foursquare Church passed to her only son, Rolf Kennedy McPherson. He served as the president and chairman of the board of directors for 44 years, retiring in 1988; at that time the denomination comprised 355 churches.
Currently The Foursquare Church has more than 1,800 U.S. churches and nearly nearly 60,000 churches globally, in 140 countries.