Our Journey

Hillside is on a journey. We have come a long way since the early days in the Assagay Health Committee Rooms and the Hillcrest Library Hall. Not many of the current members will remember the years of unpacking the container at 6am at Hillcrest High School. And the journey continues. From our earliest beginnings we at Hillside have seen ourselves as a pilgrim people; a people not afraid to embrace change for the sake of the gospel.

Before Hillside was even planted (in 1992), a group of people from Glenridge Church (in Durban) who were living in the Upper Highway met together to pray for the new congregation. One of the first prophetic pictures they had was of a ‘city set on a hill’ whose light could not be hidden. They also saw a vision of a man with his back to Hillcrest and his arms extended over the Valley of a Thousand Hills. Hillside was birthed with a conviction that God has called us to be a blessing to every sector of our local community. This conviction has outworked itself in many ways, including the establishment of the “Little Heroes” Preschool on the Hillside property and the iKusasaLethu outreach program, which teaches life-skills to vulnerable youth in the Valley.

In 1997, five years after starting the Hillside community, Terry and Linda Fouché left to plant a church in Pasadena, USA—by this time Hillside had grown to 250 or so and was meeting in the High School hall. They handed over leadership to Richard and Jill Lawton. As growth continued, we bought five acres of ground, and in 2002 the church moved into the new building which has been our home ever since. In 2008 we opened a pre-school in the newly-completed children’s ministry block. Over the next few years the addition of a kitchen, coffee shop (Café Você) and the Vault (a small hall looking out onto our sports field) has increased our capacity to host the local community and international conferences.

In the early days Hillside walked closely with an apostolic network called New Covenant Ministries International whose leader, Dudley Daniel, inspired passion for the nations and church planting. From 2004 to 2009 Richard and Jill formed part of the NCMI apostolic team, serving in many different parts of the world, from New Zealand to Vancouver to Chile to Mongolia. Hillside was actively engaged in a season of apostolic sending and as a result we are proud to connect with ‘sons of Hillside’ who are as far afield as UK, Europe, Canada, USA and New Zealand. Another prophetic picture God showed us was of all the little railways stations of the Upper Highway area that had long ceased to function and had been converted to pubs and tearooms, shops and clinics. God promised that he would shake us out of our parochial small-mindedness and re-connect us to the mainline. Nations would come and go. We would receive the wealth of nations, but we would also send our best to bless.

From 2009 onwards, in a season of shaking throughout South African and many international church networks, we began to make new friends and to be impacted by other powerful expressions of the gospel and the rising tide of revival spreading across the globe. Amongst others who impacted us hugely in this season were Tim Keller, who taught us to let the gospel of the grace of God in Jesus Christ be the answer to everything, and Bill Johnson, who taught us to not to settle for anything less than the power and presence of God. If you read the values and beliefs that pervade who we are as a church, you will also see the influence of two powerful evangelical theologians – Stanley Grenz, who has restated the gospel in narrative form and Stanley Hauerwas, who has sharpened our understanding of culture and kingdom.

Over the last eight years we have been privileged to host many powerful people from the Bethel church family who have sown into Hillside and into South Africa – Danny Silk, Kris Vallotton, Seth Dahl, Lance Jacobs, Chris Overstreet, Chad Dedmon – and other friends they introduced us to, like Todd White. It has also been a special delight to welcome a number of teams from the Bethel School of Supernatural ministry with Angelo Jeanpierre – young (and not-so-young) people who have paid a huge price to travel here and speak life and direction over our journey. Through Global Legacy we have also travelled and connected with other like-minded South Africans who are believing with us to see the gospel of the kingdom and the power of the Holy Spirit transform our nation. We have a particular affinity for and cooperative partnership with a number of churches through a relatively new apostolic network and movement called House without Walls , which you can read about HERE. We also actively connect, support and partner with other local churches in Hillcrest and our city, Durban.