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 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.