How Do You Use Your Influence?
Hello reader, it's been a year since the catalytic event that started this blog — the Senior night basketball game at KVHS where one student was targeted and bullied by the Prestons and a handful of their followers. A year since "Protect the Kids" t-shirts were given out and the Protect the Kids movement was promised...it still doesn't exist. This is all that remains from the hype: A website that doesn't link to anything. It brings up the question: Was it really about the kids?
It's also been (almost) a year since dozens of victims wrote their stories and sent them to The Foursquare Church, believing they would be listened to and that their concerns would be acknowledged and validated. What has the Foursquare Church done in response to the conflict? Almost nothing — no follow through with victims who wrote in, no thorough investigation. But they have lied and they have broken promises. And I have audio recordings and emails to prove it. Unfortunately, this is not surprising. It only sheds light on the history of this movement that began with its founder. That said, while I absolutely despise the actions of the Foursquare Corporation, I absolutely love so many of the compassionate people who operate under what they believe is a good and healthy denomination. There are so many leaders and pastors who call themselves Foursquare with pride and truly conduct themselves with integrity and character. They just aren't the ones currently running the corporation. Most people don't know the "colorful" history of the Foursquare Church. Let me shed light on some highlights, it will help answer the question: Why is Foursquare allowing these people to continue leading?
My History With The Foursquare Church
As a reminder, I was two years old when my parents began attending a Foursquare church in Salem, Oregon. I was raised in the Foursquare church. I graduated from the Foursquare Bible College and served as a Foursquare Pastor and leader for 18 years. I was then abandoned by the Foursquare Church -- cast out by corrupt leaders. And yet, still I believed the leadership at the top was good, and, when called upon, would make ethical and morally sound decisions. I was wrong.
Did she die of a drug overdose or a medical complication?
It was September 27th, 1944. Aimee Semple McPherson, charismatic founder of the Foursquare Church, was dead. In her handbag, a bottle of sleeping pills, half empty. Additional pills were scattered nearby on her hotel room floor. Her doctor denied prescribing her the sleeping pills. The news reported a possible drug overdose. The Foursquare church claims she died of a medical complication. Their founder couldn't possibly have taken her own life or overdosed on pills.
Was she kidnapped or was it a hoax to cover up an affair?
Years prior to her controversial death, she claimed to have been kidnapped and held for ransom, escaping from a shack in Mexico 34 days after disappearing from California. During that same period of time, she was spotted by 12 witnesses who saw her spending time with Foursquare radio station engineer Kenneth G. Ormiston in a rented house in Carmel, California. He was married at the time but also "missing" during those same days.
However, The Foursquare Church's story of their founder tells a different story. Aimee was kidnapped; the media was against her. Aimee died of a medical complication, nothing more. By the time of Aimee's death, The Foursquare Church had settled hundreds of lawsuits as a direct result of their founder's actions and behavior. Including Aimee's own daughter's $150,000 lawsuit against McPherson's lawyer. Hundreds of lawsuits. Settled. Quietly. And this is the foundation the Foursquare Church was built upon. 100 years later, I believe they still operate in a similar way.
Link to Articles:
This information doesn't even scratch the surface when it comes to the controversy surrounding Foursquare's founder. There are books, plays, and movies telling her story. A short google search will bring up pages of articles. She was one of the most famous and controversial characters of her day. Yet in the last years of her life, she was confined to her bedroom, not allowed to make any decisions apart from her lawyer's approval. The founder and leader of the Foursquare church was led by her lawyer.
Why doesn't Foursquare own their messy origin story?
Why have they been trying to bury the truth for years? Foursquare leadership will sit in meetings for hours, debating why the American church is declining. It's declining because people don't want to be fed a bunch of neatly-packaged, churchy-looking, politically-correct crap. They want the truth, even if it's messy. Yet the Foursquare Church has consistently taken their messy stories and buried them.
What does any of the above story have to do with this blog?
I believe the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior — especially when there hasn't been admission, repentance, and change in behavior. I also believe the Foursquare Church has a documented history covering up abuse, fraud, and lies, beginning with their founder and continuing to this day. I believe they are still led first by their lawyers, as they have been since the corporation began.
A controversial term: Generational Sin
There is an Old Testament bible verse from Exodus that states this:
God “[visits] the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:7
Some take this verse to mean that the sins of one generation will be passed down to the following generations. Here is how I've seen this play out in life — I've seen habits and addictions passed down from one generation to another, whether in the home or in the business. You learn from those who come before you, both good and bad. And each generation that follows has a choice to make: continue in it or change the pattern. Unfortunately, I believe the top Foursquare Church leadership has chosen the same path as their founder: cover up, lie, hide, move on. And in doing so, they both attract and hold on to pastors and leaders who model the example set by the founder. How can you fire a leader or pastor who is doing the same thing you are doing? Under this history and logic, Neal and Amie are poster children for pastors in the Foursquare Church. Let's go down the checklist:
Here's the problem, charisma isn't a fruit of the spirit. No matter how Foursquare likes to promote it.
I believe the only way The Foursquare Corporation will remove Neal and Amie is if it costs the corporation more to keep them, according to their lawyers. And yes, the current Foursquare lawyer has been on many calls, emails, and correspondence with this case. Any time I ask the Foursquare "point person" in charge about next steps, they say they need to follow up with legal.
At the end of the day I believe that The Foursquare Church Corporation is more concerned about being sued than they are about making ethical and moral decisions based on the character of Jesus.
At least that is my experience and opinion. But this is also the combined opinion of so many others, who have come to me over the last year sharing their stories of abuse, who have been silenced by the Foursquare Corporation.
Dan from Foursquare. That's who has been in communication with me throughout this process. He leads Foursquare's abuse cases. And by communication, I mean this: I reach out, he responds. He doesn't reach out. But he's explained that's not his job. Here is our most recent email exchange:
In about four months, I'll reach out to Dan again. I expect the same response. I believe Foursquare is thinking this: "If we drag this out long enough, maybe the controversy will go away. People will forget and move on." The problem: There are hundreds of victims still hurting. This kind of thing doesn't just go away. And, the abuse is still ongoing. More stories come out each month. Has Foursquare followed through on their promises to help the victims who wrote in? No. Have they even responded to each victim? No. Are their lawyers probably using the stories to asses whether or not they will be sued? Yes.
Complacency doesn’t solve anything. Yet it feels like the Foursquare way.
So to me, there is a bigger question. One of motivation. Let me get philosophical for a moment. And I'll end this short post with one thought:
How Do You Use Your Influence?
It's the subtitle of this post for a reason. It's a serious question I'm posing to the leaders of Foursquare and to Triplefect (the local Foursquare Church).
Read most any book or article on leadership, and it will be tied to the word influence. Leadership is influence. Sociologists tell us that even the most introverted person will influence over 10,000 people during their lifetime. The question is: How do you use your influence?
There is a pretty direct scripture that states the following in Matthew 7:15-16:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them."
As stated in the scripture above, I believe they are very good at masquerading as sheep while inside they are ferocious wolves. Wolves allowed to lead, empowered by a corporation afraid to make decisions without a lawyer's approval; following their 100 year history. The Triplefect "fruit" has been shown throughout this blog.
Over the same period of time, on social media, Ewings Restaurant (Neal and Amie) posted 61 pictures inviting (influencing) people to come drink alcohol at their bar and yet offered only 9 total posts on their Triplefect Church page inviting people to worship Jesus. 9 vs 61. Let me ask again, how are you using your influence?
What matters most: Happy Sunday or Happy Hour?
Where do you spend most time and investment? What is most important to you? Another scripture points out the fact that where your treasure is, there you will find your heart. I'm not condemning alcohol, but it does show an overwhelming priority bias. If you haven't read the blog post before this one, I recommend it for context on this subject.
No one reading this post will be surprised. But it is a very real statistic that I believe visually demonstrates priority. As I've stated multiple times, I believe their true motivation isn't to lead people to Jesus; it's to make a profit. And to use the church building in Wofford Heights as a place to house family and drive commerce through their for-profit businesses. When you look at the amount of resources spent on promotion of their for-profit businesses vs. their "church" it really brings into perspective their true motives, where their heart is.
(The document title is labeled "Thriplefect" not "Triplefect". I'm not sure if it's a spelling error or another new word they use to describe their organization).
After reading through the DO and DON'T sections, which sound more cultish with each passing paragraph, you will end up at the "Membership Benefits" Section. It first describes their communistic definition of family, then goes on to list the individual benefits (remember this is for "church membership")...ready for it...and I quote:
"UPON MEMBERSHIP ACCEPTANCE YOU WILL RECEIVE A MEMBERSHIP CARD THAT WILL PROVIDE YOU WITH SAVINGS FROM NEAL + AMIE'S PERSONAL BUSINESSES"
Free Tracker Training School Membership for every $50 given per month
25% off Neal & Amie's Books and Planners
50% off all paid Coaching programs and courses
15% off Food & Beverages at Ewings Restaurant
25% off Radio advertising at Kern River Radio
And that is both the start and the end of the church member benefit list. One benefit of interest: 15% off food and "beverages" at the bar. In other words, "Church membership will save you 15% on cocktails & beer at Ewings." Some will be appalled by this, some will probably want to become a member (but read the fine print, you also are required to give money to the church each month for membership).
Here's a screenshot:
There are a dozen ways this violates moral and ethical laws, but it also violates federal law based on The Civil Rights Act:
"The Civil Rights Act states in relevant part, 'All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation . . . without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.' 42 U.S.C. §2000a(a). As a place of “public accommodation,” it is illegal for restaurants, grocery stores or other businesses to discriminate, or show favoritism, on the basis of religion."
*Quote from FFRF.ORG
Not only is this discrimination, it is blatant self-promotion. Nothing new from the Prestons, but it further demonstrates the point I am trying to make: Neal & Amie are focused on making money first and foremost. If 3 out of 4 pages of your "Membership Beliefs" document contain 1 page demanding monthly donations, 1 page of Neal & Amie's personally owned business discounts followed by 1 page advertising "Pre-Sale" wearable merchandise...there might be an issue with greed.
Looking in the Mirror
It all comes back to this: How are you using your influence? It forces me to look myself in the mirror and examine how I am using mine. Am I influencing others for good or evil? Am I self-promoting, or am I using my influence to elevate others above myself? It's extremely easy for me to become inward only focused and self-absorbed. My daily challenge is to examine both my words and actions in order to find their motivations, then squash any that are selfish in nature. What would it look like if we each did this daily? We would look different, and probably sleep better as well!
The Silver Lining
A year later, there is good news. People have been given the facts and can now make their own conclusions and choices. Also, I am fairly certain, as I sit in the stands this Thursday evening for the Senior Night Basketball game, there won't be harassing or bullying of students. There won't be a mob wearing hateful t-shirts (although I wouldn't be surprised to see a few of them). Instead, there will be a gym full of seniors being honored for their four years of athletic contribution. As they should be. And that will be enough.
Until next time....