[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]
#17 Jack Hayford. Pentecostal standard b.1934
Most Pentecostal leaders are known as firebrands because of their high-octane presentation and spiritual zealotry. But the dean of the Pentecostal and charismatic movement, Jack Hayford, is often described as gentle, careful, and diplomatic. He served for more than 30 years as pastor of Church on the Way near Los Angeles and recently completed a term as president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. Hayford is also widely known for his involvement in Promise Keepers and his role as founder of The King’s College. He has written nearly 50 books and 600 hymns and choruses. In 1978, he wrote the popular praise chorus “Majesty.”
Hayford has emerged as “Pentecostals’ and charismatics’ gold standard,” according to Steve Strang, publisher of the leading charismatic magazines Charisma and Ministries Today. “Pastor Jack would fall into a category of statesman almost without peer,” Strang told Christianity Today.
He is the founding pastor of the Church on the Way, a congregation of 12,000 in Van Nuys, California, a one-time Anglo suburb of Los Angeles that has become gritty Latino turf. But the church has not moved. Hayford believes that the Church on the Way was called to that very location. Spanish-language services have become the leading edge of the church, averaging 6,000 in weekly attendance.
Hayford stepped in as head of the Foursquare denomination after its leadership had lost $15 million in a pyramid scheme. He also was part of the team that was chosen to mentor and restore the disgraced president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who resigned amid a gay sex and drugs scandal.
“He is viewed as a voice of reason and calm at a time of scandal and crisis. They look to him as a source of balance,” says Thomson Mathew, dean of the graduate school of theology at Oral Roberts University.
Co-chairman of the Israel Christian Nexus, Hayford has made 34 trips to Israel. “I don’t think of myself as a Zionist,” Hayford says. “I believe in God’s sovereign providence and purpose with his ancient people.”
Hayford brings Pentecostals together with other evangelicals. He has done this by patient outreach, one person at a time. In his public speaking he makes frequent, appreciative references to non-Pentecostal influences, from C. S. Lewis to Richard Foster. He reaches out to other L.A.-area pastors. John MacArthur counts him as a friend despite their many theological differences. Presbyterian pastor and former Senate chaplain Lloyd Ogilvie considers him one of his oldest and dearest prayer partners.
“His integrity and theological depth are so well known that he can draw together all kinds of factions,” Strang says.
In keeping with that role, Hayford is frequently involved as a leader in interdenominational activities, from prayer breakfasts to Billy Graham crusades. As a prominent speaker at Promise Keepers events, he has been heavily involved in efforts at racial reconciliation.
“He is known throughout the world as one of the great ecumenical leaders,” says Ogilvie.
He reaches across theological divides, Tim Stafford writes in Christianity Today:
“without toning down his Pentecostalism one decibel. He is, in fact, aggressive about his beliefs, though he presents them graciously, in a way that explains and persuades. Leadership editor Marshall Shelley recalls hearing Hayford at a prayer summit at Multnomah Bible College. Most of the gathered pastors were conservative non-Pentecostals. ‘”By the time he was done, he had most of those pastors lifting their hands in praise,” Shelley says. “He did it by explaining why it was biblical and why it mattered. He made sense. He brought rationality to spiritual expressiveness.’”
In 1969, Hayford was asked to pastor a small congregation, the first Foursquare Church of Van Nuys, California. The congregation was an “old struggling” congregation (the average age of the church members was over 65). First Foursquare was one of the first churches to be planted after the denomination’s founding in 1923. But with 18 members and the massive First Baptist two blocks away, it didn’t seem the kind of place for a young minister to achieve international renown. Hayford quickly began preparing for his next move.Hayford had initially agreed to only temporarily pastor the church for a period of six months. A few weeks from giving a decision to a prestigious Foursquare church that wanted to hire him, Hayford decided to stay at the Van Nuys church. By the early 1980s, The Church on the Way became a pioneer of the megachurch movement.
In 1999, Jack Hayford passed the mantle as senior pastor of the Church on the Way to his son in law, Scott Bauer; but in 2003 Bauer suffered a brain aneurysm and died. .Hayford served again as the church’s pastor for a year, then named Jim and Alice Tolle as the senior pastors of the church. Six months later, Hayford was elected president of the International Foursquare Gospel.
Within the charismatic subset of evangelical Christianity, Jack Hayford has brought rationality to spiritual expressiveness, offered a wise spirit and steady hand in dealing with crises, and provided a unifying force and welcoming hand from the charismatic camp to the whole of the church.