By Richard Brown
Pastor Mark Foster of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said the three words of our title clearly describe his initial coming to the North Carolina district and have sustained him ever since. “We had been in town for a week and a half,” Pastor Foster recalled, describing his journey to the Carolinas, “and we were on a spiritual high. We were so thrilled to be in North Carolina.” But then, Brother Foster remembered, his faith was put to the test.
“The Lord had blinded my eyes to the financial disarray that the church was in. It was through no one’s fault, but quite simply, they had built a church that was too big for the congregation to pay for.
“I came here completely by faith – full – time- to do a work for the Lord. Then, ten days after I got here, I found out how bad it was. I cannot honestly say that if I had known the financial situation before we came that I would have come. Therefore, I truly feel that God helped to blind my eyes.
“I had the bills stacked all over my desk on a Saturday. My wife was sitting in a corner in the office. I guess this was the only time that my wife and I had both been discouraged at the same time. That’s a very dangerous place for a pastor and his wife to be. It’s always good for one of them to be up.
“But then, the door to the church opened and a man came in. The man had to come through three doors to get to us. I could tell immediately that he was drunk. The man leaned against the doorpost, tried to focus in on me, then pointed a wavering finger at me, and said, ‘Preacher, God sent me here!’
“Now you’ve got to understand that the devil had already jumped on my shoulder and told me, ‘You’ve been a successful evangelist; it’s time for you to leave here. You’ve only been here only ten or eleven days and most people don’t even know you’re here. If you stay, you are going to be a failure. Everybody all over the fellowship is going to know that you were a failure. But if you’ll pack up your boys and wife and car now, most folks won’t even know you stopped in North Carolina.”
Temptation, Bro. Foster recalled, attacked his faith viciously.
“But then,” the red-headed preacher continued, “the drunk looked at me and said, ‘Preacher, God sent me here.’
“So I felt at that time like, ‘Thanks a lot, God. This is exactly what I need,’ facetiously of course.
“Then the man went on. ‘Preacher, God sent me to tell you that you’re His man for this city. He’s called you; he put you here. This is your city and He’s going to give you revival. Don’t you think about leaving!’
“My wife and I jumped up together! We were weeping and laughing at the same time. We hugged, shouted, and danced. That is something that, anytime the devil has come against me, I have brought back to remind him that I am in God’s hands.”
Faith and determination—those are the ingredients that Mark Foster believes are requisite for any revival preacher. And they are characteristics in-bred in him by the man he cites as being most influential in his life: his own father, Bro. Fred Foster.
After his birth in New Mexico, Bro. Foster lived most of his youth as a pastor’s son. At age three, he was in a church in Albuquerque, New Mexico where Elder Foster ministered. Then, at age seven, he and his family moved to Orange, Texas, where Fred Foster again was pastor.
It was in that church, at age ten, that Mark Foster received the Holy Ghost.
“I was one of those hard cases,” Bro. Foster mused. “Took me a long time to get it. I wore all the saints out. Nobody knew I had it when I finally did get it, because I was the last one left at the altar.”
Bro. Foster said his calling to the ministry came at age fifteen at a Texas youth camp, but that he did not acknowledge that calling until age seventeen. He later went to Texas Bible College, a school founded by his own father. He attended there for two years and later finished his B.A. at Northwest Louisiana University. Another school started by his father, College of Pentecost (Now Twin City University) awarded Bro. Foster his Master of Arts degree.
“My dad and [former pastor] Bro. James Kilgore are two men who greatly influenced my ministry. My dad had a profound influence upon me. And then during the seven and-a-half years that I attended Bro. Kilgore’s church, he had a powerful influence upon my life and ministry.”
Pastor Foster met his wife, Paulla, while in Bible college. The Fosters have two sons, Jeremy, sixteen, and Jonathan, who is eighteen. The Fosters first went to Winston-Salem in February of 1981 after several years of evangelizing. On February 25th they held their first service. At that time, there were about forty people in the church.
“We drove into town on a Monday night. We didn’t have much money, so we slept on the floor of the little church office. And then we lived with one of the families in the church for two weeks, and then we bought a trailer that was badly in need of repair. We repaired it and moved into a mobile home park and lived there for two years.”
Bro. Foster says that God immediately began to bless the church with revival. “We had several young people receive the Holy Ghost the first two years that we were here. Many of them were into drugs and alcohol and lived a very rugged life-style.
“My wife had had a dream that we didn’t have any music in the church, and that the young people began to provide the music. We had no music and later the young people did indeed provide the drums and guitar. For the first three-and-one-half years, that’s all we had: a 12-string guitar and drums. But we continued to have revival.” And Bro. Foster says that he did not recall that the services were hindered at all by the lack of a musical program.
“We did not let the lack of music stop us; we had faith in God. I would like to encourage any pastor, and church that is out there today, that if you don’t have adequate music, I would like to say: You can make it! You can get soundtracks to sing choruses by. A great musical program isn’t essential for revival. Right now, all we have is a piano, drums, a guitar and a bass. But our piano player is a precious lady who takes it as a ministry. She practices much during the week. So approach it with faith, and God will give you revival.”
Heavenview Tabernacle currently averages close to 300 during the winter months and around 255 in the summer. This represents about a 500-600 percent growth since the Fosters’ first year.
The church is now completing its third remodeling. “We enlarged the auditorium and added some new pews around seven or eight years’ age. Then we did some more remodeling around three years’ age. Now we’re making room to seat 150 more people.” Bro. Foster said the sanctuary will then have the capacity to seat a little over 400 people.
In this third remodeling, the church has added a lobby, new restrooms, and a nursery. They have also extended the sanctuary even further. “We’re going to be building an office complex as well and re-doing our hall and prayer rooms.”
The church currently owns about four acres with three buildings on the property. “Eight years ago,” Pastor Foster pointed out, “we bought a volunteer fire department which was right next door – a very large building, one which was a faith proposition. And then about five years ago, we bought a house with another acre of ground behind the church.”
Bro. Foster, who has served in several leadership capacities, said he is a believer in delegation. He has served as the district youth secretary, president, and is currently the regional home missions director for the southeastern United States. He has come to believe that leadership plays a large role in making a church grow.
‘In looking back over the years, I feel I should have started teaching leadership principles and training leaders much more heavily than I did in the beginning. I’ve been doing it now for some time, but I didn’t do it as much as I feel I should have. One man put it like this: ‘If we produce followers, we will add to our church; if we produce leaders, we will multiply our church.’ It is imperative that we produce leaders! Today, pastor needs to be a coach as well as a manager. He needs to be someone who shows people how to do the job, then allows them to do the job, and then comes back to check on it regularly.”
Pastor Foster currently has several departmental ministries effectively operating within the church. In addition to the normal Sunday School and youth type ministries, the church places a heavy emphasis on outreach. They operate a growing bus ministry, a prison ministry, a nursing home ministry, a door-to-door-to-door evangelism ministry, a NOVA team (Newcomer’s Outreach Visitation Alliance), which is a committee that follows up on all church visitors, as well as the contacts made during other outreach programs, and a home Bible study ministry.
“I feel like home Bible studies are a paramount key to building a church. I believe also that a bus ministry is very important. We’ve won many, many people through the bus ministry. Many people today have lost interest in the bus ministry. To them it was just a fad or passing fancy. But if you combine bus ministry with active soulwinning, and then teach Bible studies too, you cannot help but win souls.
“A pastor must preach what he wants. I believe you get what you preach. If you want a soulwinning church, you preach soulwinning. If you want revival, you must preach revival.”
Bro. Foster said that he has also found an annual spring attendance drive to be effective. He said that each year, the church has used this idea and the results have been satisfying.
“We have broken our record almost every Easter since we’ve been here. Last Easter, we had 504 in attendance. We almost always come out of the Easter drive averaging more than we averaged before we went into it.”
Not surprisingly, Bro. Foster said his philosophy in ministry is to “operate by faith in God.”
“I am a faith preacher. I’ve tried to operate with the philosophy that it is never as good as it seems, but at the same time, it is never as bad as it seems. I’ve not always been perfect along those lines. But I have had a deep faith in the Word of God and the will of God.”