In 1953 and 1954, a Bible college student in Los Angeles named Jack Hayford drove daily into Van Nuys as a messenger for the old Security Pacific Bank, "never dreaming I would ever have a church out here." Nevertheless, in 1969, the Foursquare Gospel minister accepted the pastor's role at a struggling, 18-member church on Sherman Way in Van Nuys.
Since then, what became known as the Church on the Way (referring to both the street and the Christian "way") has grown to 9,800 members, one of the largest churches in the Valley.
"Pastor Jack," as he prefers to be called, speaks carefully and avoids the bombastic pulpit exuberance of many Pentecostal colleagues. Over the years, he has attracted into the congregation performers Pat Boone, Dean Jones and Carol Lawrence and businessman Bert Boeckmann.
Although Hayford avoids taking public political stances, the church helped form and continues to back the Tarzana-based state affiliate of the conservative Christian Coalition.
Hayford, 62, stands as a leading Pentecostal clergyman in the country--not only through his radio and TV shows and 20 books but also as an advisor to other clergy. A few years ago, he co-founded with the Rev. Lloyd Ogilvie (now U.S. Senate chaplain) the interdenominational prayer meetings of pastors dubbed Love L.A. and held four times a year.
He also composes hymns.
In the 1980s, Church on the Way bought the facilities of Van Nuys First Baptist Church, which was moving. That purchase turned Church on the Way into a two-campus church with Sunday services at both locations.
Hayford recently announced that he will open a seminary on the old Baptist church property in 1998. To be called The King's Seminary, the graduate-level school will be the only seminary aimed at training charismatic and Pentecostal ministers on the West Coast, he said.