By Teresa Hairston
Without question, Bishop Ira Van Hilliard is one of today\’s most influential Christian voices and one of the nation\’s most accomplished pastors and leaders. As the saying goes, â€œEverything is bigger in Texas,â€ and Hilliard\’s Houston-based ministry is a prime exampleâ€”with six Texas locations (four in Houston and one each in Austin and Beaumont) that serve over 30,000 members; he is a force in the Kingdom.
Hilliard\’s ministry has become the â€œposter childâ€ for success among many pastors and leaders. He is known for operating in excellence, although some may say â€œin excessâ€; but he\’s quick to point to his private jet, multiple vehicles and luxurious lifestyle as â€œthe maximized lifeâ€ rather than â€œa life of extravagance.â€
Indeed, his adherents, and there are many, are devoted to his teachings. His pastor\’s organizationâ€”Association of Independent Ministries [A.I.M.], attracts upwards of 7,000 attendees to its annual conference, which is widely known for providing a wealth of information that supports church growth.
Hilliard\’s ministry is also a family affair. His wife, Lady Bridget, hosts a phenomenal women\’s conference. â€œShe is my partner in life and ministry,â€ says Bishop Hilliard. â€œWe\’ve been married 35 years. She brings perspective that I don\’t have, and together we have the power of agreement. I grew up in a tradition that suppressed women and didn\’t allow women pastors. In the home, I\’m the head, but I understand that in the church there is neither male or female.â€
The Hilliard\’s three daughters are also active in various aspects of the ministry; with one (Pastor Irishea Lewis) at the helm of the ministry\’s West Houston location. â€œIrishea started as the head of our teen ministry,â€ Bishop Hilliard explained, â€œnow, her annual youth conference draws about 8000 attendees, and she is the on-site pastor at the West Location. She\’s the heir apparent who will take the reigns of the ministry when I rearrange my schedule.â€ (He says he\’ll never retire!)
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