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  • Ron Gladden


Can an Adventist denominational church give birth to a Mission Catalyst church? We don’t know, but some unconventional thinkers have decided to try. Here is their story. Hillside Community Church started eleven years ago in South San Francisco. They were led by two volunteer leaders who love God, care about people who need Him, and had attended a conference at Saddleback Church. What would happen, they wondered, if we create a purpose-driven church that shares the good news through our theological prism? Hillside adopted a purpose-driven model and through contemporary music, relevant preaching, and a genuinely welcoming and generous spirit, they grew to about 150. People enjoyed worshiping, eating and fellowshipping together. They were, by denominational standards, a success. They baptized several unchurched people over the years. All in all, a pretty good run. A year or so ago, the church came together and began a process of evaluation and re-visioning. The leaders huddled up for a long weekend with a church consultant. Ideas bounced around like a pingpong ball at a charity tournament at The Palazzo Las Vegas. They considered putting more energy and focus into the existing church. They saturated a flip chart with the pros and cons of relaunching Hillside with a new name under the denominational umbrella. They even talked about shutting it all down and restarting as a brand new church.

Each option had its merits, but also raised some questions. Would an energized Hillside really be able to reach people far from God any better than the old Hillside? Would a relaunched Hillside have the finances and the structural freedom to make a serious kingdom impact or would it, eventually, end up in the same place? And what about the Hillsiders who are good, devout Christians who would rather not leave the denomination? It boiled down to this: Can one church meet the needs and the vision of the whole group?

After a long, fortuitous, and often gut-wrenching process, they arrived at an answer, and the answer was NO. One church can’t do it, but maybe two can. Maybe two churches, one inside the denomination and one outside, working together, can continue to nurture the generation that prefers the time-honored traditions and at the same time be a launching pad for the next generation whose singular focus is reaching far-from-God people. Two churches. Two missions. One vision.

Hillside will continue to meet at 12:00 pm as part of the conference. Meanwhile, a new church has been birthed. Gracepoint Church worships on Saturday afternoons at 5:00 pm (when unchurched people are more likely to check it out), and Gracepoint will affiliate with Mission Catalyst.

This approach is new. I didn’t think of it. Not a soul brought this notion to a brainstorming meeting as the best way to go. The strategy evolved. Everyone was surprised. So the jury is out. The path is unexplored. Or as they say in the Show-Me State, “We’ll believe it when we see it.” But here is where I stand: I have to hand it to people who try something that has never been done. (And they have a great start; Gracepoint has already celebrated two baptisms in their first few weeks!)

Pastor Caesar Evangelista ties the knot for a California couple.

The Gracepoint team is led by a kingdom schizoid called Caesar Evangelista. (If that isn’t an evangelistic name, I’ve never heard one.) Caesar attended planting team assessment and was fully recommended. He has assembled a group of leaders who fully embrace the team-led approach of the pivotal design. With God’s wisdom and blessing, Caesar, Mike, Dino, Aldrin, Ken, and Christina are determined to create a Healthy, Unselfish, Growing church that never stops making an ever-larger impact for Jesus.

One of my favorite sayings (that I hear all too rarely) is, “Ron Gladden! You have won Powerball!” But a slight notch higher on my favorite-sayings scale is, “Hey, Ron. God is blessing more than we ever dreamed. Unchurched people are coming to Christ. People are inviting friends. Giving is strong. The church has an insanely unselfish DNA, and the sky is the limit!” What if God smiles on this approach? What if the Gracepoint team jells and the church takes off and a lot of people end up finding a place they can call home?

Here is what I’ve decided to do. Pray. Pray for Hillside. That God will bless them for their willingness to try something new. And I am praying for Gracepoint. For every leader. And especially for the thousands of precious people in the South San Francisco area who probably won’t go to heaven unless something changes between now and the end of their life on this earth.

Will you unite with me in prayer? And will you help us financially so we can resource Caesar and his team as fully as possible? Thank you so much!

Ron Gladden Directional Leader

P.S. This month marks our ninth anniversary! Will you help us with an especially generous gift so we can start even more churches for those who need the Lord? Find out how to give.

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