SHOUT OUT to John Hilliard

A Shout Out

A shout out is when you draw people's attention, in a positive way, to someone or some thing. It can be an organization, an event, a trend, but most often, it is a person.

It is about someone who is doing something good that should be recognized.

Of course, the person getting the SHOUT OUT is usually uncomfortable with the attention they get from the shout out. Sorry John, but really not "that" sorry!

But First, a Shout Out to John and Joanne

When Becky and I moved back to Living Word in 2003, we were only back for a few Sundays when Connie Milchling came up to me and said, "I just met this wonderful couple. You are definitely going to want to meet them." She was, of course, referring to John and Joanne.

Connie was right, and so began an almost two-decade relationship.

John and Joanne are an amazing partnership. They are married and just celebrated their 50th anniversary. And the love and affection they have for one another is beautiful.

They are awesome parents and simply outstanding grandparents. When I watch them in action I think, those grandkids have NO IDEA how blessed they are.

They are dedicated servants who deeply love people and invest an enormous amount of time and $$$ in helping others.

They have a delightful gift of hospitality (both of them, but Joanne does get the extra shout out for how she uses her gift to turn their home into a place so many have enjoyed). At times I refer to their home as Living Word's Bed and Breakfast for missionaries. Even when they are not at home, their home is available for global guests.

Joanne and John are both highly trained in spiritual formation and spiritual direction. For many years, they gave direction to individuals and training for groups.

And the love, commitment, and dedication they have given to Living Word is beyond description. Pastor Aaron talked this past Sunday about serving one another and the list of gifts mentioned in Romans 12:3-8. I think John and Joanne have ALL those gifts. But even more, those gifts are used in love. The fruit is remarkable.

And Now, Back to John...

Leadership Development
One of the reasons Connie told me I needed to meet John ASAP is because I had come back to Living Word after being a lead pastor in the Syracuse area for 7 years. During that time, I had moved into a leadership development specialty, and was working with Brian Newman doing leadership development in Europe.

When I came back to Living Word, my role would be adult formation in general, but leadership development in particular, both at Living Word and globally.

John was passionate about leadership, and already had decades of leadership experience. He was exactly the kind of partner and colleague I was looking for to develop leaders at Living Word and also globally.

Becky, Brian Newman, and I started Leadership ConneXtions International (LCI) to be a platform for global leadership development. John became our NEXT partner to join. I lost track of the number of mission trips I did with John to train leaders, as well as to do spiritual formation of leaders.

John not only worked as a teacher, trainer, mentor, and consultant, but he joined the LCI board and contributed so much to the organization.

Even though we ended Leadership ConneXtions as an official organization, John continues to train and coach key partners, especially in India, where the models we used are having an incredible impact on leaders, pastors, and missionaries.
Meanwhile, Back at Living Word
At Living Word, John joined with me in the leadership development ministry and later the spiritual formation ministry. I simply could not have done all that was accomplished without his aid.

In addition, John joined the Living Word board as an elder in 2004 .

When we knew our founding pastor Steve Almquist was stepping down from that role, and we anticipated getting an outsider in as our next lead pastor, we made an important change in our governing structure. From the beginning, the senior pastor of Living Word had been both the lead pastor (kind of a spiritual CEO role) and the chair of the board.

Organizationally, and in compliance with both the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) and good governance of non-profits (which all churches are), we knew we needed to separate those two roles.

So we did, and we created the board chair position. The board chair, and not the senior pastor, would now lead the church board. The lead pastor was called to lead the church and staff, and the board was responsible for leading the senior pastor. That obviously requires a relationship of great trust and integrity.

It was about as obvious as you could imagine. John Hilliard would be the person to take that role. And he did in 2014. And he did it very well.

John led the board through strategic governance change, where we increasingly brought the governance and financial structures of Living  Word into full compliance with the best organizational standards for churches. (We had always been strong on this, but joining the ECFA, they had even higher standards. We now meet those standards.)

John led the board through the transition from a founding senior pastor to an incoming new lead pastor.

John led the board during The Best is Yet To Come building expansion.

John led the board during the COVID-19 disruption of everything. These were several very challenging and tense years, in our entire nation, and in most churches.

Look at those previous four paragraphs. That was the season of John's board leadership.

My gratitude and debt to John's leadership is enormous. Maybe I should say, "Our - Living Word's" gratitude is enormous.

But Wait, There's More...

John did all this board leadership WHILE he was on staff at Living Word.

John was our missions pastor from 2013 until Covid hit and our missions program went on pause for a season. I have rarely met someone who has as much love as John does for the under-resourced people of the world. John's heart goes out to those who are in need, those who hurt, and those who need others so they can make it.

John worked tirelessly, strengthening the global and local partnerships of Living Word. John worked directly with those partners, helping them. And John worked with Living Word to get us connecting and serving in our local and global community.

I MUST ALSO GIVE A SHOUT OUT at this point to Glenda Kelly, who among other things, served as the administrative partner who organized so much of our REACH ministry. While John was gifted organizationally, the sheer amount of detail needed operationally required an outstanding administrator. Thank you, Glenda, for your partnership that made possible global and local reach. Even though Glenda retired from full-time service, she continues to help us out with part-time hours. 

Finishing Well, But Not Yet Done

How does John spell retirement?

He doesn't. The word is not in his vocabulary.

John has other words in his vocabulary, like vocation and calling.

Even though his full-time role as mission pastor at Living Word ended with the COVID-19 disruption, John continued serving in the community, especially with the Food Bank. So much of the Food Bank's success over the last several years has been because of John's leadership and service. He just works hard to bring his very best.

 John also provided leadership and support when LifePath in its transition time between CEOs.

John continued to help out with missions and is now doing some "contract" hours when we need help with our program.

John is also a part of the Counseling Center at Living Word and does spiritual direction and executive coaching (and career coaching and Second Half coaching) as well.

And even though John has stepped down from being the board chair, he continues as an elder for Living Word.

When I think of John, I think of the Energizer rabbit that goes and goes and goes. John's energy and stamina just seem to have no end.

Oh, and did I mention... John is a life long learner... constantly reading, thinking, and pursuing wisdom.

John, thank you.
Thank-you for your servant leadership.
Thank you for your partnership.
Thank you for your friendship.
Thank you for your ministry that is always done with love and excellence.

And thank you for inspiring us by showing how to run the race set before you, and keep running, and keep running to the finish line.

In your case, I think (hope and pray) that line is still many years ahead of you.

Love you, my friend,
Pastor Brian

In an upcoming blog post I'll tell you more about Kirk Eberly, who is stepping into the role of board chair. And just as John was the obvious choice for the role when he began, our board feels the same way about Kirk.

Stay tuned...
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