Aimee Semple McPherson
The Foursquare Church’s Founder Aimee Semple McPherson was a woman of intense passion, creativity and energy. Sister Aimee as she was fondly called was a preacher and evangelist who may well have reigned as America’s best-known woman for much of her life. She led an incredible life that exemplified God’s miraculous mercy. She sparked revival, established a major evangelical centre in Los Angeles, and changed the lives of countless individuals. She was Canadian born as Aimee Elizabeth Kennedy in Salford, Ontario, Canada on October 9, 1890, to James and Minnie. Minnie was enthusiastically committed to the Salvation Army and longed to go into full-time missionary service. Unable to do so because of her family obligations, she dedicated her unborn first child to ministry, convinced she would give birth to a daughter. She promised God she would give this girl “unreservedly into your service, that she may preach the word I should have preached, fill the place I should have filled, and live the life I should have lived in Thy service.” Her first child was, indeed, a girl, whom she named Aimee. Aimee had a conversion experience under the preaching of Robert Semple. Semple had been born in Ireland, then migrated to the United States where he encountered some of the earliest Pentecostals. He was soon baptised in the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and called to evangelistic ministry. In 1907 he led a “Holy Ghost revival” in the small town of Ingersoll, Ontario. Aimee attended, fell in love with Semple, and professed faith. She, too, had an experience of being baptised with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and being called to ministry. Aimee and Robert were married on August 12, 1908.
She went on a mission to China. Robert felt called to China and Aimee went with him. On the way, they stopped in the UK where Aimee preached her first sermon—for 15,000 people in Victoria and Albert Hall in London. They arrived in China in 1910. Aimee soon suffered a breakdown of some kind, and she and Robert both contracted malaria and dysentery. Robert died there on August 17, just two months after arriving. Aimee gave birth to a daughter, Roberta, on September 17, then returned to North America, eventually settling in New York. She soon met and married Harold McPherson and had one son, Rolf. They would divorce in 1921. Aimee became a travelling evangelist and got started in her hometown. She quickly proved she could draw massive crowds and for the next seven years, until 1923, travelled all over North America preaching before thousands and tens of thousands. The media constantly covered her events and often reported on the miraculous healings they witnessed there. Through this ministry, she became one of the most famous women in America and was often written about in the newspapers. She founded Angelus Temple in Los Angeles in 1923 with more than 5,000 seating capacity and called her brand of Pentecostalism the Foursquare Gospel Church.
The term Foursquare represents the Full Gospel theological concept and refers to the four defining beliefs of Pentecostalism: the nature of Jesus Christ's character is that he is the Saviour, baptiser with the Holy Spirit, healer, and soon-coming King. The four main beliefs were: the first being Christ's ability to transform individuals' lives through the act of salvation; the second focused on a holy baptism which includes receiving power to glorify and exalt Christ in a practical way; the third was divine healing, newness of life for both body and spirit; and the fourth was gospel-oriented heed to the premillennial return of Jesus Christ. Her most popular sermons at Angelus Temple were her illustrated sermons which were messages combined with props, music, acting, extras, and so on. Often lavishly produced, they were both entertaining and didactic. During the years of the Depression, she led her church to begin a Commissary which would distribute food, clothing, and other essentials without asking uncomfortable questions of those who requested the charity. In this way, they fed over a million people. During other emergencies, such as great fires or earthquakes, she would mobilize her church and followers to respond quickly and generously.
Aimee Semple McPherson is a fascinating and honoured figure in Pentecostalism in general and in the Foursquare Churches in particular till she died on September 27, 1944, But the movement that she started survived and now has over 8.8 million members in over 90,000 churches across 146 nations. The Foursquare Church continues her powerful legacy of passionate evangelism and worldwide missions in the name of Jesus Christ—Saviour, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, Healer and Soon-Coming King.