Thursday, September 1, 2011
Dear Hillcrest Church Family,
As we walk through these 90 Days of Prayer leading up to Commitment Sunday on November 6th, my heart is overflowing with anticipation at what God wants to do in and through our congregation. By supernaturally delivering us from debt, He has set us free to impact our city and the world more effectively for generations to come. As we seek His face together, listen to His voice, and obey His promptings, He will position us to bring many more lost and hurting people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ.
In the Old Testament, God instructed the prophet Habakkuk to, “Write down the vision; write it clearly…so whoever reads it can run to tell others...(Hab. 2:2 NCV).” That is what I have done in this letter. I encourage you to read it slowly, thoughtfully, and prayerfully, asking the Lord to speak to your heart through the power of the Holy Spirit about His purposes for our congregation.
On Vision Sunday (Aug. 7th), I shared my conviction with you that the Holy Spirit is calling us to replant our church downtown. The location I have in my heart is very strategic, with easy access from a major highway. Re-establishing our ministry in such a centralized, prominent place will better position us to build a congregation comprised of individuals from a wide variety of economic circumstances, religious backgrounds, and ethnic identities…a church like the one at Antioch in the New Testament! It will also enable us to birth new forms of ministry targeting some of our city’s greatest needs, whether spiritual, social, or educational. As we reach many new people from throughout our community, neighborhood-based ministries such as LifeGroups will help us disciple them while caring for everyone who already calls Hillcrest Church their spiritual home.
Our calling is not dependent upon any single piece of property. Whether God immediately gives us the particular piece of real estate I have long carried in my heart or whether He gives us some other location - perhaps as a “stepping-stone” to move us in that direction - it is vital for us to put our ministry where our destiny is. Although I do not sense the Holy Spirit leading us to plant an inner-city church, I do sense Him leading us to plant a downtown church… a church in the heart of the city that has the entire city at heart…! Moving downtown will propel us toward our destiny.
On Commitment Sunday (Nov. 6th), I will ask you to tell me what the Holy Spirit is saying to you. This is an extremely important step in our process of discerning His will together. As much as I want to see us rebirth our church downtown, I am firmly convinced this decision is far too important for me or any other single individual to make. We must do it together, as the Body of Christ, through wisdom and unity imparted by the Holy Spirit. If this is God’s appointed time for this vision, I believe He will bring powerful and vital confirmation of that fact by establishing a strong consensus in our congregation, not as the result of a political process, but through the supernatural work of His Spirit as we prayerfully seek His face together.
I need to make the following very, very, very clear…the long-term vision God has given me has many wonderful, far-reaching implications for our church, our city, and our world, but it is utterly impossible for us to achieve without a miracle.
In this moment we are very much like the children of Israel standing outside the walls of Jericho. God had just supernaturally parted the Jordan River so they could cross over to the other side. It took a second miracle of equal magnitude for the city’s walls to fall down flat. At Hillcrest Church, we have just seen the Lord supernaturally deliver us from debt. We will need His miraculous help a second time to acquire property and build ministry facilities downtown debt-free. Here is the good news…the God of the Jordan is the God of Jericho…! As the Lord brings confirmation through the collective voice of our people and we move forward in faith and obedience, He will help us take our city. NOTHING is too hard for Him…!
During our 90 Days of Prayer, I want to encourage you to do the following:
1. Prayerfully reflect on my testimony how God dealt with me about moving downtown. If you did not hear it on Vision Sunday, please take the time to watch it online at: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16499137/highlight/192963. If you do not have access to the Internet and would like a video copy on DVD or an audio copy on CD, please contact our office so we can furnish you one free of charge.
2. Join the rest of our church family in special prayer every Tuesday night. Attend as many of our prayer meetings at Baruch Ha’Shem from 7:00-8:00pm as your schedule permits or pray wherever you are. Consider fasting all or part of these Tuesdays. Fasting helps bring greater spiritual clarity by weakening the influence of our flesh in our decision-making processes. Here are some specific points for prayer:
· Ask the Lord to let you feel His heart for our city while driving “the loop” around downtown or while looking at a map of Dallas.
· Ask Him to give you creative ideas on how we can more effectively reach its inhabitants.
· Ask God to let you know His dreams for our church.
· Ask Him to help us move in His perfect timing.
· Pray for the Holy Spirit to bring us into unity concerning His will. When a congregation is poised to take a significant step forward, it arouses Satanic opposition. Rebuke the spirits of dissension, slander, division, greed, materialism, bitterness, and fear!
· Pray for the peace of God to rule in our hearts and for our “steps” (our decisions) to be firmly established in the center of His will.
3. Ask me, our Elders, or our Trustees whatever questions you may have. Encourage others to do the same. Don’t rely on hearsay or second-hand information. It may be inaccurate or incomplete. We will be more than happy to share the insights God has given us into the specifics of His plan. We also value your input. We want to hear what God is speaking to you. He rarely reveals all the details of His plan in a single moment or to a single individual. Some things will only become clear to us as we move forward into His purposes together.
On Commitment Sunday (Nov. 6th) I am going to ask you two very important questions:
1. Do you agree with me that the Holy Spirit is calling us to rebirth our church downtown?
2. Are you willing to make a one-year commitment to help make this happen? (By continuing to attend our worship services, give of your finances, and serve as a volunteer in some area of our church’s ministry.)
Your answers to these two questions will be very helpful to me as I serve our congregation as Senior Pastor. Relocating our church’s ministry downtown is a huge step. I need God’s help and guidance as I lead our people during this time. Hearing from you will help me hear from Him.
According to 1 Corinthians 2:9, God has a wonderful future in store for us, filled with things that are beyond anything we have ever seen, heard, or even imagined. He wants to help us bring many lost and hurting people into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. As we seek His face together, listen to His voice, and do His will, He will position us to do just that.
From the heart of our community we will be able to serve people from every part of our city through such ministries as ESL (English As A Second Language) classes, GED high school equivalency programs, after-school academic tutoring for at-risk students, crisis pregnancy intervention, Bible-based financial counseling, vocational coaching, and a Christian day school like the Coram Deo Academy…along with other creative outreaches based on ideas God is going to give people like you. Close proximity downtown to public transportation including DART rail stops will make it possible for precious individuals who need such ministry free of charge to easily come to our campus. On a spiritual level, establishing a venue downtown for activities including noon-time prayer meetings, Bible studies, and ongoing intercession 24/7 for our city and our world will have a significant impact far beyond the parameters of our single congregation.
To see these things happen and much, much more, we must do three things:
First, we must collectively embrace this vision on Commitment Sunday (Nov. 6th). In order to move forward, we need the Holy Spirit to bring about a clear consensus in our hearts as we pray.
Second, we must begin birthing new ministries out of our initial downtown meeting location. We have already begun scouting out possible venues and have turned up some promising leads. Like seeds that are planted in fertile soil, our first steps will be small compared to our long-term impact, but we will take them with the conviction expressed by Jesus,
The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree…(Matthew 13:31–32 ESV)”
Third, we must purchase and develop our new, permanent church campus. God wants to help us do this debt-free…! This may mean that it takes longer or that we start smaller than we would do otherwise. It will certainly require humility, faith, and patience, but it will yield huge benefits. Here is the most important…more money will be able to go to into ministry! As we demonstrate to God that we value people over property, He will graciously give us everything we need. In fact, we have already seen signs that we may be able to buy a spectacular piece of real estate downtown for a price far below the market rate. Whether that turns out to be the case or not, this much is sure, as George Mueller of Bristol put it so many years ago: “God’s work done God’s way never lacks God’s supply…!”
We are in a wonderful new season here at Hillcrest Church, filled with promise and new possibilities. We have learned a lot from our experiences over the last several years. God has brought us new resources, including relationships with pastors from some of the greatest churches in America, to help us re-think and re-tool our ministries for greater effectiveness. The Holy Spirit is prompting us to reposition our church downtown at the very time our city’s growth is bringing waves of new residents into the same area.
Once our collective decision is made on Commitment Sunday, we will need to restructure and realign everything we do so that our focus is razor sharp. As we unite around God’s plan for our church family, we are releasing our past and embracing our future. We are no longer trying to resurrect a corpse, we are birthing a baby. A lot of hard work lies ahead, but excitement is beginning to fill the air…!
Teresa and I are grateful to the Lord for the privilege of serving you. We look forward to continuing to care for you. We are glad you are going on this journey with us. You are a valued part of our church family. Hillcrest Church would not be where it is today, poised on the verge of this tremendous opportunity, without your steadfast faithfulness. God is going to open new doors for you to use your gifts in helping our congregation reap a tremendous harvest of souls for His glory alone. Our future together is as bright as the promises of God. As the Apostle Paul put it, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…The one who calls you is faithful and He will do it. (Phil. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:24 NIV)”
Thank you for keeping us in your prayers. We love you very much.
The best is yet to come…!
Pastor Mark Brand