Wayne Hilsden on Stepping out of the Boat as Pastor of King of Kings and Stepping into the Future

For over 25 years, the name of Pastor Wayne Hilsden has been virtually synonymous with King of Kings, among the more widely recognized congregations on the Israeli Christian-Messianic map.

As such, this past Sunday (September 6, 2015) marked the end of an era for many when Hilsden officially stepped down as senior pastor, leaving that role in the capable hands of Chad Holland to lead King of Kings into the next quarter century of serving the Lord in Zion. Click here to watch the service.

Kehila News spoke with Pastor Hilsden about this decision, what it means for both he and King of Kings, and what the future holds for all concerned.

How were you and your wife Ann involved in the birth of what is today known as King of Kings Community Jerusalem (KKCJ)?

Ann and I came to Israel in 1983, along with our sons, Jamie and Joel, and began a little Bible study in a small apartment in downtown Jerusalem along with another Canadian couple, Jim and Kathy Cantelon. I was the co-pastor of King of Kings for the first five years until the Cantelons returned to Canada to establish a new ministry there. It was in 1988 that I became the senior pastor and continued in this role until this past week.

During your time as senior pastor, the ministry has grown tremendously. What is the one achievement or area of growth that you are most fond of?

“It’s hard to point to one aspect of our ministry that I am most fond of. There are three main things that we set out to achieve these past three decades – plant congregations, train people for ministry, and be a catalyst for unity and cooperation in the wider body.

2015_0906 KKCJ Wayne 218“I’m especially fond of the Hebrew-speaking congregations thatwere birthed through King of Kings. That includes Succat David congregation, which began as a Bible study in our own apartment.

“I’m also gratified to see how Israel College of the Bible has grown and continues to thrive and train hundreds of Israelis for ministry. Not everyone knows that ICB used to be King of Kings College, a leadership training center we founded in 1990 in Jerusalem.

“Another thing I’m gratified by is the way the Lord has given us remarkable facilities that we were able to buy and open up for the rest of the body.  Today, eleven congregations use one or more of our spaces for their weekly worship gatherings.

“I’m also fond of the fact that my wife, Ann, has been so deeply engaged in ministry with me over these past 32 years. For 25 years Ann was in charge of the worship at King of Kings. But she’s also been active in activating songwriters, musicians and singers to utilize their gifts. Ann has had a lot to do with the production of the ‘Praise to our God’ series of concerts recorded live at our Pavilion. These concerts have featured new Hebrew worship music. Now, our son Jamie has taken up much of that responsibility along with a great team of local Israelis. It’s exciting to realize that millions of people have watched these music videos on YouTube and other media.”

The stated vision of KKCJ has long been to “be a compelling, Messiah-centered, Spirit-empowered, disciple-making community that reveals the true face of Yeshua to Israel and to the nations.” Do you see this vision being fulfilled today?

“To fulfill such a vision may take generations. But I do believe we’ve made great strides down this road.

“We are certainly Messiah-centered and we’re doing our best to show from the Bible, including the Hebrew Scriptures, that Yeshua is not just the Savior of the world, but the Jewish Messiah of Israel.

“And we know that to make disciples and see radical transformation in their lives,  we must actively depend upon the work the Holy Spirit. I’m thankful that we have the Jerusalem Prayer Tower as our main engine room and one of the places where we get inspiration and power from the Holy Spirit to accomplish our vision.”

unnamed-2What lies ahead for KKCJ?

“Chad Holland, our new senior pastor, identifies completely with our vision. He has said publicly that this vision is one of the reasons he was drawn to the opportunity to serve in King of Kings Community. I have encouraged Chad to not only maintain what we have already been doing, but to dream and envision new arrows that we can add to our quiver.

“Chad is already heading up a brand new initiative called ‘I AM,’ the Israel Academy of Ministry. It launches in October.

“This Academy is not a replacement for Israel College of the Bible, which we love and support. What ‘I AM’ adds is ‘hands-on,’ ‘nuts and bolts’ practical training for anyone engaged in ministry. Evening intensive courses will be taught by experts from around the world, as well as local pastors and leaders.

What’s next for you personally?

“While I am no longer the senior pastor, I will give general oversight to the FAMILY of King of Kings Ministries (from 30,000 feet above). I will continue to be the president of King of Kings ministries and our Israeli Amuta (non-profit charity). I will also preach once a month on average. So I’m not going off into the sunset 🙂

“We are permanent residents of Israel and our hope and prayer is to serve in this Land until the Lord takes us home.”

You recently launched an ambitious new initiative to raise awareness of Israel and her role in God’s plan of redemption among Christians worldwide. Can you tell us a little about that?

“Another dimension of our future is to lead the newly-established Fellowship of Israel related Ministries (FIRM).

“The Lord laid on my heart the vision for FIRM over four years ago. I first shared it with pastor Jack Hayford. He immediately responded that such an endeavor is needed and it is the Lord who has inspired it.

“With my many responsibilities related to King of Kings, I wasn’t able to find the time or energy to launch FIRM until I was sure we had the right person to succeed me as senior pastor. Once that was established, several months ago I began to invite some of the most respected Christian and Messianic leaders who have a heart for Israel to join the board of FIRM.

“I was overwhelmed by the positive response to the invitation. Our FIRM board and internationaladvisors are featured here: http://firm.org.il/about/board/

Why were you compelled to start this new initiative? We already have the International Christian Embassy, Christian United for Israel, etc. Where does FIRM fit in?

“In many ways, FIRM is consistent with the third goal of King of Kings — to be a catalyst for unity and cooperation in the body. As it says in Psalm 133, where brothers dwell together in unity, ‘there the Lord commands the blessing.’ The more we work together with one heart, the more each of our ministries will be blessed and bear good fruit.

“A distinction of FIRM is the vision to be a fellowship of ministries. Rather than a front-line ministry standing on its own, FIRM seeks to undergird a variety of ministries, providing the widest possible platform to promote their efforts.

“FIRM seeks to introduce FIRM members to potential partners and supporters around the world. This includes not only financial support, but also prayer and man-power support.

“We are encouraging people around the world to give 1% of their day to pray for Israel — 14 minutes in total. We are also challenging people to give 1% of their year to volunteer for an Israel related ministry — 3 1/2 days in total.

“FIRM is a ‘matchmaker.’ We introduce front-line ministries to potential new friends and partners around the world who would like to support the kinds of ministries who are members of FIRM.”

You have a fairly innovative approach to this challenge. Can you share a little about that?

“We’re in the process of creating a web-based APP that uses a similar template to matchmaking services.

“Frontline MEMBER ministries provide their profile, which includes what kinds of ministry they do best. In tandem, ALLIES, who may include pastors, congregations, denominations, foundations, business people and other individuals, provide their profile, in which they state the types of ministries they are passionate about and feel called to support.

“The FIRM online APP then suggests appropriate partnerships based on mutual interests and vision.

Of course, matchmaking is more effective face-to-face. But to see partnerships develop globally, it’s impossible to bring together everybody in one place to make these introductions.”

What kind of response have you had so far?

“FIRM launched in February of this year. Our first conference was held in Loveland, Colorado. With only six weeks to promote the event, it sold out in 12 days. 1,700 attended, including 500 students. Most of the publicity for the event happened through social media, one of the things that FIRM is highly active in.

“Because we have a heart to reach new generations, we are very engaged in using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others. FIRM already has over 20,000 Facebook Page LIKES. An average FIRM Facebook post receives over 1000 engagements (LIKES, Comments, or Shares). This is quite remarkable, seeing that FIRM is only 7 months old.”

Next year in Jerusalem?

“We’re excited about our first FIRM-sponsored conference to be held in Israel. FIRM’s ‘JERUSALEM ENCOUNTER’ conference will take place May 31 – June 2, 2016. Leading up to the conference is an adventure tour, especially geared to young adults. We hope to have at least 1,000 in attendance from outside of Israel, as well as several hundred locals. For more information, have a look at at the website here: www.jerusalemencounter.com.

“More information about the Fellowship of Israel Related Ministries (FIRM) can be found at www.firm.org.il.”FIRM_logo325