“You will come to this place and you will raise up for me a warrior church . . .”
The HOB church has its genesis in the Elim Pentecostal movement of the 1990s. In the early nineties the Elim Church of New Zealand had nearly 40 churches throughout the country with significant branches in the main centres.
On Sunday 28 April 1991, 36 year-old Pastor Norm McLeod (a freezing worker) conducted the first service of the Gisborne branch of Elim in the school hall at Te Hapara. Norm had been a Christian for ten years, four of which he had been spent as a deacon and then an elder in the Western Presbyterian Church in Oamaru – the town where he was raised. He had a further six years as associate pastor under Pastor John Ballantyne in the town’s Elim Church, when he felt the call of God to relocate his family to the North Island and start a new branch of the church. This sense of duty came by way of a vision in 1989 where Norm was taken up over Young Nick’s Head and shown the shimmering silver waters of Poverty Bay. Upon the waters were many waka moving into the city of Gisborne. The spirit of God said to him, “You will go to Gisborne and raise up a warrior people who will use Christ’s ways to release great blessing upon Tairawhiti.” When he asked, “Where are the warriors?” he was told,
They are yet in the earth. I will draw them up and you will train them. Your battle will be against injustice. When the time is right I will send waka out from this church to the coast, nation and the nations of the earth.
In its first four years the Elim Church in Gisborne experienced a mini-revival. Dozens of miracle healings took place, addicts were delivered and whole families came to Christ. As many as 500 Gisborne/Wairoa people joined its ranks compelling the congregation to shift twice to larger premises. It had been many years since the Gisborne community had seen a church grow so quickly. Indeed, it was one of the fastest growing churches in the nation. Its parishioners came from different walks of life and a wide variety of economic and social backgrounds, but all in common had received help or healing for their own lives, marriages or families.
The impact the church made during this period resulted in it featuring twice on national television. The two documentaries focussed on the success the church was having with the rehabilitation of former gang members and its work in reconciling Maori and Pakeha.
Norm had wanted to plant a church that would address the social needs both in the city and its surrounds to help break the generational cycles of hopelessness in many of its people —young and old. During this period, assisted by Trevor McDowell, he took the church to its community, displaying simple acts of kindness, offering budget advice and marriage enrichment seminars, leading outreach missions both into the Tairawhiti community and beyond (eg. streets, parks, marae, schools, prisons) as well as overseas (ie. Fiji, India, Cambodia).
The church was quickly identified as having a ‘warrior’ character because it demonstrated a fighting attitude in the war against decaying morals in society and also in administering the healing power of God against sickness, disease and spiritual oppression. Healing teams, who themselves had witnessed and experienced many curing miracles, were trained and stood ready to respond to the call for prayer from the sick.
The promise of miraculous deliverance from illness and disease has always won followers to a faith and certainly healing was one of the motives for conversion among some in this congregation. More than this, however, these early members of the church experienced a real change of heart, and as a result their lives were transformed. But like the seed that fell in ‘stony places’, in the parable of the sower, the enthusiasm of some withered away because their roots had no ‘deepness of earth’. There would be other committed parishioners, however, who would hold fast to their convictions through the years of change, and they provide the core element of leadership in HOB today.
It was at this point (1996) that Norm and Jess made a commitment to remain in Gisborne and invest their lives primarily in reaching the lost in the city and throughout the Tairawhiti region.
As early as 1994 God had put on Norm’s heart to see 10,000 people in the Tairawhiti region planted in the house of God. While the parishioner numbers had swelled in the first five years to over 500, church attendance plateaued in the second decade. While structure was clearly needed, part of the plateau-ing of the church during its second decade came about when it took on a culture of excellence. The ‘excellence’ message came through visiting pastors from Destiny Church and City Impact and led to the 100-fold message being adopted with fervour. The effect was that Gisborne Elim implemented a structure and standards from those Auckland churches, which we have adapted overtime to our own cultural makeup.
In 1995 the church purchased a property in Childers Road from where it ran an office for nine years. At the end of 2002, after nearly 12 years of hiring halls for its services the church bought its own building on the corner of Ormond and Lytton Roads. Its auditorium had the capacity to seat 1000 people as well as space to develop its youth and education programmes. It also relocated its offices to the central city. The location of the new building provided and opportunity to highlight the church’s new name ―House of Breakthrough. The name change reflected the church’s character and identity: ‘house’ being the house of God and ‘breakthrough’ speaks of the breakthroughs that many of its members experienced since living after Christ. The church also adopted a 5-10yr vision:
We are House of Breakthrough making a three generational healing impact on the lives of 10,000 people, marriages and family. We are doing this through preaching the Gospel and social impact ministries.
At this time Norm agreed to mentor a Palmerston North based church and in November 2004, became House of Breakthrough Manawatu. Jess was inducted as a pastor in 2003 followed a couple of years later by Lance Rickard, his wife Margie and Scott Cowan.
In February 2007 the church was released from the Elim Organisation. Norm had realised the distinct identity and culture of HOB meant that it would eventually come into conflict with the Elim philosophy. After much prayer and consulting senior pastors around the country, he asked Elim headquarters to bless HOB by allowing it to take a new direction.
On 1 October 2008 the church established the HOB Trust primarily to improve its access to funding for its community outreach projects.
On 2 May 2010 a further branch of HOB was established in Oamaru under Pastors Damien and Jacinda Goodsir.