â€œAt 9,â€ Hilliard says, â€œI had a supernatural experience. An angel of the lord appeared to me and called me into the ministry. I told my mother and she told my pastor (Rev. N. T. Burks, sr.). He sat down with me and then made me wait a year to see if I had the spiritual conviction that I said I had. I preached my first sermon at 10 years old.
â€œMy pastor, (wisely) told my mother to let me have a childhood, so I wasn\’t this weird kid. I was able to play and get spankings like everybody else. There were other boy preachers that were around during my era, and their parents treated them really special, and to the man, each one ended up in jail because they felt deprived of their childhood; but I enjoyed my life.â€
Although his parents understood that he was a child, growing up as a â€œwonder boyâ€ preacher in the Baptist church made for a very unique experience that could have easily led to his becoming unbearably arrogant. But god mercifully and strategically orchestrated his steps.
As a young minister just starting out, even though he was a phenomenal preacher, things didn\’t go so well. â€œI went through a church fight early in my ministry. Everybody was laughing at me because initially, I had a big church, but after the fight, I voluntarily left the big church and started a ministry and it was very small. â€œI was very frustrated in ministry,â€ he recalls. â€œI could see things that were happening in the bible that weren\’t happening in my church. The bible says, â€˜if you hunger and thirst after righteousness you will be filled;\’ God always fills us to the level of our thirst for his plan.
â€œSo one day, while praying and crying out to God, He ministered to me about forgiveness. I had to forgive the people who had hurt me. Then he began to show me how to meditate in his word, and he brought me into relation- ship with people who could mentor me, starting with a guy named Phil Jackson, who taught me how to be bold in the things of god. Later, I came into contact with Dr. Frederick K. C. Price, and he taught me the principles of faith. I worked for E. V. Hill, and he taught me the principles of delegation. A. Lewis Patterson taught me the art of alliteration in preaching.
â€œWe are the sum total of what people impart into our lives that we choose to make a part of our lives. Those men ministered to me and I incorporated the things they taught me into my life, so when you look at me, you\’re seeing a lot of other people who helped me get where I am.â€
Unbeknownst to Hilliard at the time, his tutelage was at the hands of some of the greatest trailblazers in the gospel. However, the defining experience that would shape his future occurred at a church growth conferenceâ€”at a time when his ministry was not growing!
Read the final part of this story next week at GospelToday.com