Officially founded in 1927 by Aimee Semple McPherson – Aimee Semple McPherson was raised by parents actively involved in the Salvation Army denomination. McPherson claimed to have been born again as the result of the preaching of her first husband Robert Semple. Little is known about Mr. Semple except that he was a Pentecostal preacher that died in 1910, leaving Aimee a widow. It is safe to say that at the time of her conversion (1907-1908), the prominent Pentecostal movement at the time was through Charles Parham, a Holiness Pentecostal preacher in Topeka, KS, whose methodology of preaching was in the manner of “tent revivals”, the same manner of preaching adopted by Robert Semple and, eventually, his wife and ministry partner, Aimee Semple. Although Aimee was raised in the Salvation Army church, it was clearly the Robert Semple’s discipleship and influence via the Holiness Pentecostal movement that shaped the early years of Aimee’s Christian life and eventually the Foursquare Movement she would found.
Robert Semple died shortly after his marriage to Aimee, while on a short term mission to China. Aimee Semple McPherson returned to the U.S., remarried, and continued to travel and preach in tent revivals. She divorced her second husband, Harold McPherson, and in 1918, she settled in Los Angeles, again went on the revival tent preaching circuit for 5 years and returned to Los Angeles to build Angelus Temple. She then founded a radio station and established herself as the first woman to regularly preach the Gospel via mass communication. She also established L.I.F.E. Bible College to disciple Christians for a life of Ministry. LIFE Bible College is still the primary college of the Foursquare Denomination to this day.
The Foursquare Denomination is Pentecostal/Charismatic without the necessary dogma of other Pentecostal denominations like Assemblies of God, Church of God, etc. The Foursquare Gospel was not founded by Aimee Semple McPherson, she was just the founder of this denomination that calls itself by the Foursquare concept. The “Foursquare” Gospel is a derivative of AB Simpson’s “Fourfold Gospel” with the four pillars being:
• 1. Jesus Christ the Savior
• 2. Jesus Christ Baptizer in The Holy Spirit (‘Sanctifier’ in the “Fourfold” of Christian
••••• Missionary Alliance-a doctrine that often times resembled a one-time event like the
• ••••Pentecostal “Baptism of the Holy Spirit)
• 3. Jesus Christ the Healer
• 4. Jesus Christ the Soon Coming King
Many Pentecostal denominations had already adopted and preached this Foursquare derivative of Simpson’s “Fourfold” gospel, including the Assemblies of God, by the time that the Foursquare Movement had been made official in 1927. In the early days, this denomination was wrongly accused of being a “cult” due, partly, to its flamboyant founder, but mostly because of the charismatic theology and practice. It is, however, quite orthodox and Biblically centered with the majority of its congregations being charismatic in practice.
Today, there are a purported 30,000 Foursquare Churches with approximately 7 million members. This group carries a strong missions emphasis and a decidedly de-emphasis of uniform liturgy. The denomination is officially Pentecostal/Charismatic but the de-emphasis of set liturgy could mean that many Foursquare Churches are, like Calvary Chapel, Pentecostal in theology only but not in practice. This can be freeing for some congregations to worship in the manner they are accustomed to (i.e. non-charismatic, etc) but can be challenging for members of other Foursquare churches who are looking to worship in a charismatic church (tongues, prophecy, etc) but have no idea what to expect when entering a particular Foursquare church.