Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Dear Hillcrest Church Family,
Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this unusually long letter and to watch the video clip I have inserted above! We are approaching a very significant crossroads in the life of our church family and I have some very important things I need to share with you for your prayerful consideration...
I am so thankful for the wonderful things that God has been doing in our congregation these past several weeks: We experienced sudden, supernatural debt cancellation. We have moved into our temporary meeting location at the Baruch Ha’Shem Messianic Synagogue and our church ministries are functioning well in their new facilities. Many of our teenagers spent four days and nights in prayer and worship at IHOP Kansas City and returned with a fresh deep new touch of God on their lives. Like the Israelites at Gilgal in the Book of Joshua chapter five, our congregation has been experiencing an important time of healing and preparation for the next season of God’s unfolding plan for us as a people.
Now, the Lord is calling us to rise up and take the city like the Israelites did at Jericho in Joshua chapter six. Like them, we are called to conquer territory that can only be taken with God’s supernatural help. The walls of Jericho were thick and high. The Israelite army was far too small and unequipped to successfully assail them. No human strategy or calculation was sufficient to bring them the victory. Joshua, their leader, was utterly lacking in prior experience at besieging such massive military fortifications. Their only hope was a word from the Lord giving them divine instructions they could follow. As they moved forward in faith and obedience to what God then commanded, marching around the walls each day, refusing to allow the taunts and jeers of the enemy soldiers on top of the walls to penetrate their hearts or sway their spirits, they saw the Lord again do what only He could do. Their God had parted the waters of Jordan, now He caused the walls to fall down flat!
On Vision Sunday, August 7th, I am going to be sharing my testimony of how God has dealt with my own heart and given me a crystal-clear conviction of what He is calling us to do and where He is calling us to go. I want to encourage you to do whatever it takes to be present in this service. After I have shared the vision God has given me, I am going to call upon you to seek the Lord in prayer about these things over the following weeks. Then, on Commitment Sunday, I will give you the opportunity to tell me what you believe the Lord has told you. Together, through this process of my sharing my heart with you and you sharing your heart with me, God will enable us to discern His will. The destiny of our church is far too important a matter to be decided by any single individual, including me. I believe the Lord is going to speak through our collective voice, showing us very clearly whether this is the right path forward for our congregation. On Vision Sunday, I will also be sharing an update on our church finances.
As the leadership of our church and I have been walking through the process of considering these and other matters, I am especially grateful for the input and help we have received from the leadership of Gateway Church and other apostolic leaders in the broader body of Christ. As the book of Proverbs puts it,
11:14 (KJV) — Where no counsel is, the people fall: But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.
Gateway Church’s Connect ministry, for example, led by Pastor Ed Funderburk, focuses on coaching, consulting with, and mentoring pastors and local churches who desire to glean from that outstanding congregation’s experience and expertise as they re-invent and re-position their own local churches for maximum fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God. The ongoing input he has given us has been extremely helpful to me personally as well as to the rest of our ministry team. The strongest and most important recommendations I have received from these sources include the need for me to lead every member of our church ministry team to prayerfully seek the Lord for a fresh, specific sense of calling to our church for this next season as we implement the vision God has given me; the need to restructure our church ministry staff so that it is appropriately sized and configured; and the need to revise our church constitution and bylaws to ensure that we are building upon a foundation of strong, stable, and healthy biblical church government.
During our recent vacation, Teresa and I personally made seeking the Lord for a fresh confirmation of His calling to Hillcrest Church a very high priority, knowing that a multi-year process of property acquisition, architectural design, and facilities construction lies before us. We both made a renewed commitment to Jesus to do whatever it takes to lead our church family forward into our destiny. Upon my return, I called our church leadership to join me in seeking the Lord for a fresh sense of calling to the ministry of this specific congregation. The commitment I made to them was that we would do everything we could to make it financially possible for them to remain a part of our team going forwarded provided they felt the Lord calling them to “re-enlist” for continued ministry here at Hillcrest Church. They all responded with deep sincerity and spirituality and the Holy Spirit has been speaking to their hearts, giving them individualized direction.
Through this process, Pastor Paul Kerr has sensed the Lord leading him to transition off our Hillcrest Church pastoral team and into a new and different venue of ministry. We are very thankful for his hard work during the time He has served the Lord in our midst and we are convinced that God has something wonderful in store for him and Anita as they move forward into their future together. This Sunday, July 31st, the Abundant Life class will be holding a reception in their honor at 9:00am; we will be praying a prayer of blessing over them in our 10:30 worship service; and we will be receiving a love-offering for them to use in celebrating their upcoming 10th Wedding Anniversary.
In closing, I also want to address something that happened in the context of our Sunday morning ministry time this last week. A couple in our church who are grieving the loss in membership we have experienced over the past several years, began circulating a petition on Baruch Ha’Shem’s campus in an effort to collect signatures in support of their desire to have me removed as Senior Pastor. When I became aware of this, I offered to meet with them personally so I could hear their hearts and I also encouraged them to meet directly with our collective church leadership. Thus far, they have declined to do so. If you have any interaction with them about these matters, I want to encourage you to lovingly, straightforwardly, graciously, and kindly point them to the biblical pattern of conflict resolution found in Matthew chapter eighteen and also to the very clearly defined process for raising such issues as described in our historic Hillcrest Church Constitution and Bylaws. Both Scripture and the documents which have long governed the legal affairs of our church family set forth processes by which any issue or concern of this type held by any member of our congregation may be given full and prayerful consideration by our leaders in a peaceful manner that does not disturb or divide our flock or negatively impact the unbelievers or baby Christians who attend our classes and worship services. As we move forward into our future, I believe the Lord would have us all heed the appeal of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesian Christians,
4:1 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
If you would like to hear more of my heart concerning the various things I have written about in this email, I encourage you to watch the video I have inserted at the beginning of this message. It is about eight minutes in length.
Teresa and I love you and thank God for the privilege of serving you. We believe with all our hearts that the very best is yet to come for Hillcrest Church and we are glad you have chosen to be a part of it…!
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as I continue my ongoing sermon series on the Ten Commandments entitled, “Foundation for Living.” This week’s topic is, “You shall not murder.”
Pastor Mark Brand