MAKING HER-STORY: Irishea Hilliard makes history after inheriting Houston megachurch

Erica Simon Image
Monday, February 26, 2018
First black female pastor of megachurch
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Dr. Irishea Hilliard makes history as the first female black pastor of a megachurch in the U.S.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- When Dr. Irishea Hilliard speaks, people listen.

She's been preaching and teaching for nearly 20 years, but now she's doing it on the biggest platform of her career.

"It has been a journey that has been amazing. I've been preparing for it for years, but to finally be here is exciting," she said.

Hilliard is the new senior pastor of New Light Christian Center Church.

Before the title, she was on staff as the chief operations officer. She has also been the youth pastor, in charge of New Light's west campus and hosted numerous conferences.

She's educated, she's stylish, and according to her father, she's ready.

"He really wanted a boy and I was supposed to be a boy. He always thought, you know, I don't have a boy, so I don't have someone to pass the church to, but in that moment, God spoke to him and told him he got it right, and that I was always meant to be his successor and take over the ministry and I was his promised seed," she said.

Dr. Hilliard has many goals as she carries the torch, including showing the world her heart and joining generations together.

Despite her intent and soon-to-be-impact, the truth is that ministry is still a male-dominated field.

"I've seen the pushback. I've heard the pushback, but I don't pay attention to it," Hilliard said.

As for the size and the vastness of New Light, we talked about that too.

"This sanctuary seats, I think, like 4,500 to 5,000. Something like that. Lots of members. This is one of our campuses. We have one in south Houston and one in Beaumont as well," she said.

Hilliard has watched the church grow since she was a child -- from 23 to now 20,000-plus members.

Not only does she share the same initials as her father, they share the same desire to lead with character.

Hilliard encourages every woman to recognize their God-given calling and do the same.

"It's now time for women to step up to the plate. I think we have to do it and continue to do it from a place of integrity, do it from a place of character and know someone is watching," she added.

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