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Pastor Paul Richardson- Part 2

Pastor Paul Richardson- Part 2

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Pastor Paul Richardson- Part 2

What resource would you recommend to another pastor who may be looking at the idea of taking on a church like Licking was when you walked in the door six years ago?

Something I wish I would have had was a mentor or a coach.  I really felt that I was turned loose with just a set of keys and a building when I started pastoring at 24, and I really always wanted somebody who could come alongside and mentor me, coach me, and cheer me on, and that’s something that I’ve not had.  I wish I would have had that when I started out.

As far as books are concerned, there is a great one out called “Dangerous Calling” by Paul Tripp.  It reminded me of how serious the calling is.

What was your biggest fear as a pastor?

Failure. (no pause in his response)  It still is.  Now, failure changes.  What is failure, just like success, looks differently at various times.  Now, failure is being in this big new building and not be able to pay the bills.  But greater than that is the failure of not seeing changes in a community, or not seeing people saved or baptized in the Holy Spirit.

Failure is my biggest fear.

What is your biggest hope?

My hope is for an increasingly redeemed Licking, Missouri.  What does that look like?  It looks like families who had grown up dirt poor with no hope, finally changing things around.  Seeing drug rates in our community going down.  See the number of single parent rate go down, and the marriage rate goes up.  To see all of the churches filled.

What is the one habit that has helped you as a young pastor?

I think reading.  Studying and constantly pushing to become a better me has been one of the greatest habits that I have developed.  I read 50+ books a year, and constantly study and try to improve.  I’m glad that I developed it early because it is hard to do develop later in life.

Who has been your champion?

I’ve had a bunch of them.  I’ve got a good family who cheers me on.  I’ve been engaged at the sectional level since I was a teenager, so sectional pastors have always cheered me on.

I appreciate Pastor Don Miller, who was my Executive Presbyter when I came here and made the mistake of giving me his cell phone number.  Brother Stan Welch has really been a champion and told me, “You didn’t cause this problem, but you’re the man to fix it.”  That gave me the encouragement to do what needed to be done.

What has been the most difficult personality you have dealt with as a pastor?

The personality that says, “We’ve never done it that way before.”  Sometimes they are trying to be negative, but other times it is a cry or help to say, “We’ve not done it like this.  So Pastor, can you show us how to do it?”

We are now surrounded by a 25,000 square foot building that you moved into six weeks ago, but walk me through what it felt like before this was on the radar. What did it feel like to be in a building that was substandard, and what does it feel like now?

My mood as recently as this past Summer was a feeling of being stuck!  It’s a bad place to be, feeling that you’ve taken it as far as you can go and all these dreams are going to die with you.

We pursued all the options of building on land that we owned and it was more than we could handle.  We were stuck.  It was tempting to feel like maybe I had taken them as far as I could and it was time for someone else to come and lead.  I asked myself, “Am I the lid of this church?”

There were some really difficult days, where I didn’t see the hope anymore.  I saw the fear.

I took some time to step back and work on being a leader and over one weekend everything changed.

A 23,000 square foot building on the main intersection of town became vacant and was available for purchase.  In one casual conversation occurred where I said, “Hey.  How much do they want for that building?” literally changed our course.  That conversation took place on August 20th, and by September 20th, we were signing papers to purchase that building.  We took possession of one-half of the building on November 1st of 2016, the other half of the building on January 1st, and had our first service on January 1st of 2017.  We went from being a church of 55 or 60 to a church of over 100.  Overnight, the atmosphere changed, and even the culture changed.  All the seeds that had been planted over the years that I thought would never come to pass, grew and matured seemingly overnight.

I’m thankful that God didn’t allow me to give up.  All the dreams and visions that I thought were about to die, God suddenly breathed life into them in a way that I could have never imagined.

So, what does it feel like to look back on that feeling of despair, to where you are now, (with a new set of challenges)?

Thankfully, before this process began, I started journaling my thoughts and feelings.  It was not pretty.  In fact, they were ugly.  I was down in the dumps.  This January, I started looking back and reading what I was feeling then, and see where we are now.  I think, “Wow!  He did it.” 

God did it.  I didn’t do it.  Just like he said he would, and just like he promised he would.  It builds some faith and gives me hope for the next challenges which are even bigger.  Moving from a 4,000 square foot building to a 23,000 square foot building means that now we have to fill this thing.  Pay the increased utilities.  We have a building dying to be filled, and I have faith that God did it once, He can do it again.

What’s next for Licking Assembly of God?

In Licking, there is nothing for teenagers to do.  There is no YMCA, and unless you are in sports, there is nothing to do.  Hopefully, by the next school year, our sanctuary will become a youth center with a gym.  We hope to have a staffed youth center so junior and senior high schoolers can come and get tutoring with homework, get help, shoot a basketball, and play games in a safe place.

The next stage for us is literally wearing this building out for the cause of Jesus.  That’s it.  It is a tool for the redemption of Licking, Missouri. 

What’s next for you? (growth goals for you individually)

My next step is to move from being a doer, and a “jack of all trades,’ to being an equipper of the saints.  To multiply myself, and to learn what it means to pastor, and to lead a staff and teams of volunteers versus myself doing it all.

When you had 20 people, you almost had to do everything…but now I don’t have to do that as much and need to stop doing as much, so I can let others and their gifts shine, and I can do what I have been specifically called to do.

Would you do it again?

Yeah.  I would do it again.  Because not everyone is called to Licking, Missouri.  Not everybody is called to go to a place that is dead and see new life. 

I love church planters, and that’s a cool thing, but it’s a really cool thing to be called to do what I am doing, and that’s to take something that is dead and see Jesus bring it back to life and be made new. That’s a really cool thing.

So I would do it again in a heartbeat!

This is Part 2 of the Revite Pastor Spotlight Interview, check out Part 1 here

Paul Richardson- Part 2Paul and Julie Richardson have been ministering to the community of Licking, Missouri as the Pastors of Licking Assembly of God since 2010. If you like to learn more about Licking Assembly of God, check out their Facebook page.

Pastor Paul Richardson: Part 1

Pastor Paul Richardson: Part 1

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Pastor Paul Richardson: Part 1

Do the little things right, and do them consistently, day in and day out.

What were the conditions/circumstances when you arrived?

On our first Sunday, we walked into a building that smelled like it was 100 years old.  It was hot.  There were 20 people.  Grass in the parking lot.  The building was run down.  Windows were knocked out.  It was rough.  There wasn’t much hope there.  There was a little money in the bank, but not much else was going on when we got there.

What were you thinking as you came there as the new pastor?

The initial thought was, “Well, apparently we can’t go downhill from here, so we have to go up, right?”  I remember thinking, “Can we make it?  Can we do this?  We’ve never been full-time staff anywhere.  Never been pastors anywhere.  Are we the right people for this job?”

 I still don’t know if I’m the right person for the job or not.

What did you do first?

In trying to clarify what to do, I believe the Lord spoke to me and said, “Preach the Word and love the people.”  So, that’s what I did.  I kept it simple.

What was people’s first reaction to this new guy?

Many people couldn’t believe I was their pastor.  I was 24 and looked like I was 12 they told me.  And so, I carried my credentials card around to prove to people that I am old enough to be an A/G Minister. 

But then they really stepped behind me and said, “Pastor, you’re my pastor.  Lead us!”

They gave me permission to lead, and they gave me permission to fail.

What did you envision happening in your first year?

I was just trying to get my feet on the ground…to get into the rhythms of pastoring a church and working an additional job.  It was important for me to find out, “Who am I called to be, and what am I called to do in this place.”

What was your most significant challenge in that first year of pastoring?

Trying to convince people to do quality ministry where they were.  I had inherited a church that owned property and had dreams of building a brand new building on the edge of town.  Because of that mentality, they didn’t want to do any upkeep on the existing building, and that ended up causing more problems.

We couldn’t attract people in order to grow and need another building.  It was a death loop of people who would come and then leave because the building was terrible. 

Getting people to change their mentality from “If you build it, then all of our problems would be fixed” to (a mentality) of “Do quality ministry where we are, and that will carry over to a new building someday.”

Did you ever feel like quitting?

Yes! (There was no pause in his answer)

Why didn’t you?

A retired minister in our section called me and asked me these questions: “Paul, were you called there?”  (yes)  “Do you KNOW you were called there?” (I do) “Do you know that you are called to leave?” (no)  He said, “If you were called there, then you better know when you are called out of there.”

I stepped back, and started investing in leadership, and becoming the best leader I could be.  Preparing for the next season of life and ministry and whatever that might look like.  And lo and behold, the Lord had a new building for us right around the corner.

What have you learned about yourself in this process?

I have learned that I am far needier that I want to be.  You look at other pastors who are good at everything.  These guys that can build buildings, and they can hang drywall, and they can do plumbing, and they can exegete a passage in Greek, and they can do all of these things.  And you want to be that guy, and you get to pastoring and you realize that there are a few things I am good at, and a lot of things I am bad at. 

I have found that it is in those areas of weaknesses, the Lord sends people who can come along side and do those things even better.  I do not have any full-time staff, but the Lord had given me the people that I have needed to show God’s power in the midst of my weakness.

I have also found that I am a dreamer when it comes to other people, and I am a pessimist when it comes to myself.  I have to make sure that I stay grounded and rooted and make solid decisions based on what the Holy Spirit is saying, and not what my mind and will and emotions are saying.

What have you learned about your church through this process?

I have learned that rural people are dedicated, they can be extremely faithful.  They’re good people.  Trust your people.  Love them.  Communicate clearly.  Take smaller steps than what you would normally do as a leader. 

Things move slowly in small churches.  Instead of hating it all the time, embrace it.  It is part of the culture.  It’s part of who they are.  I’ve learned that my church is able to do a lot of things.

What did you learn about ministry?

Ministry is messy.  It is SO messy.  Anytime you involve people, there are going to be messes involved.  There will be situations you never saw coming. Relationships can be strained.

If you’re doing it right, it’s probably going to be messy.  Embrace the mess and allow the love of Jesus Christ to really shine through. 

In small churches, ministry involves more than just preaching.  It might involve swinging a hammer or pushing a broom, or cleaning toilets.  It might involve mowing a yard in the morning and doing a funeral that afternoon. 

What do you wish you would have known (or someone would have told you) when you started?

I wish someone would have told me how stressful Pastoring could be.  How you are always “on.”  And how in a small town, you are always Pastor So-and-so.  I wished someone would have told me so I could have put up better guard rails in my life.  I wish someone would have told me how lonely ministry could be, even when you’re surrounded by hundreds of people.

What do you see as being the key to seeing things turn around here?

The key was being involved in outreach.  We went from being inward focused…just trying to survive and pay the bill, to starting to put faith into action by reaching out to our community.  When we started doing that well and also started giving to missions and paying the pastor a little better, it changed the trajectory of our church.

So, what was the turning point?

One of those turning points was when we decided that we could not afford NOT to support missions.  It doesn’t make sense when you don’t have enough money to go ahead and give to missionaries anyway, but as we did things started to change.  One of the things we did was starting to tithe off our general fund.  It makes no business sense, believe me, but we started tithing off our general fund into other churches, into missionaries, into projects, and into our community, and since then, God has really stretched our dollars.

Do the little things right, and do them consistently, day in and day out.
When was the time you started to feel, “Hey, this is going to work?”

When we finally got over the 50 mark (in attendance) on Sunday mornings.  I thought, “This might work now.”

It wasn’t as much to do with the people, but me as a leader, that I could believe this could happen here.  I didn’t have to go to Springfield or a larger city to see it happen.  Once I realized that God could do it here, just as well as he could anywhere, to me…THAT was the turning point. It changed the way I led this church. 


Paul and Julie Richardson have been ministering to the community of Licking, Missouri as the Pastors of Licking Assembly of God since 2010. If you like to learn more about Licking Assembly of God, check out their Facebook page.

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