Part 1 of 2
Jordan Temple Missionary Baptist Church, 900 N. Lockwood, is where you will find Pastor Stephen E. Richardson, known by his congregation as the “miracle preacher.” After the death of the churche’s founder, Rev. Willie F. Jordan, Sr., Richardson was elected in February of 1993.
Parishioners like educator Patricia Easley, Ph.D., say Richardson’s greatest attribute is to “communicate with his congregation. He’s able to get across a message to a very diverse congregation and then he follows up to make sure you are implementing change. And he’s a good guy.”
Coming out of corporate America, Richardson brings an array of progressive ideas to his ministry and preaches the importance of education as an avenue to growth and personal development. He and his wife Cynthia have been entrepreneurs for 15 years, owning a variety of businesses from hair salons to dance studio clothing store to commercial cleaning, drywall, painting, and, most recently, general construction.
In addition to the Lockwood Avenue location, Richardson has developed a second location in Hillside (4421 W. Roosevelt) called The Sanctuary, as a Christian Educational and Development Facility, affiliated with Jordan Temple M.B. Church, to provide a Christian environment whereby Christian organizations and churches can hold meetings and conferences to train their members. The Sanctuary can accommodate up to 350 people for a banquet-style meeting or event and up to 600 people for theatre-style events in the great room. Additionally, it offers one small meeting room to accommodate 20 people and one large meeting room to accommodate 30 people.
AWN: If you weren’t a pastor what would you be doing?
Richardson: I would probably be continuing in the business I was in, doing construction and general contracting, sub-contracting and building homes. So I would be in the real estate business. I gave that all up so I could pastor full-time.
AWN: What type of family did you grow up in, how many siblings?
Richardson: I have two brothers and one sister. It was a disciplined family. My father was on the Chicago police force for 25 years. It was one of those households where mom did not spare the rod. It was a blessing-we didn’t know it then, but none of us ever got in trouble. We’re not on drugs. We all live pretty decent lives, and I really attribute that to our upbringing by our parents who tried to keep us in church until we got of age.
AWN: Who was your role model growing up? Do you have one now?
Richardson: It was really my father. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and become a Chicago police officer. I took all the exams, all the tests, and I got through the last test and changed my mind. I started looking at the pay and thought: Well, if I stay a police officer and earn a certain amount of money and get a two-percent increase every year, this is where I would be in 10 years. I felt I could do better by going into corporate America. So that is why I changed at the last minute, but he was my role model. I do not have a role model now. I have a lot of people I admire, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them role models.
AWN: How do you think your parents would describe you?
Richardson: Most likely both of them (both are now deceased) would probably be in shock because my earlier childhood, my character-I was disciplined but I was disobedient. Never got into real trouble, just a typical rambunctious boy. Just hanging out, and to see the transition from where I was to where I am today, I think they would both be pleased. I think they would both be proud, but I know they would both be very surprised.
AWN: Where were you born and where did you attend school?
Richardson: I was born here in Chicago at Cook County Hospital. I was raised in the projects on 43rd & Cicero-that’s LeClair Court. I attended Kennedy High, located at Archer & Cicero, and at that time, it was practically all white. There were very few blacks. We kind of had to fight our way to school every day. When my mother and father divorced, I ended up living with my father on the South Side. So my junior and senior years of school were at Bowen High School.
AWN: How do you think your wife and children would describe you?
Richardson: As “persistent.” Probably my wife would say a little hard-headed at times, and a bit risk-taking. I do some things that are not very characteristic of people in my condition. I think they would say I’m pretty independent, make up my own mind what I want to do. I just don’t follow anybody or anything. I make up my mind to do something and go out and do it. My wife and I have three children: Kesha, Leontina and Stephen II.
AWN: What’s the biggest challenge you ever faced?
Richardson: The biggest challenge was dealing with the physical issue of needing a heart transplant and actually having the heart transplant and trying to recover from that-that was very challenging, just dealing with the thought that at an early age I could actually die. Like most people in their 30s or 40s, [you think] you are really invincible. It’s not supposed to happen to you. It has been 11 years since the transplant-Nov. 11, 1996.
AWN: Why did you need a heart transplant?
Richardson: I had a disease called cardiomiopathy, and there is no cure for it. Other heart conditions, they can go in and do surgery to repair it-valve replacement, you can have angioplasty where they open up your arteries-but with the heart I had, there was nothing they could do. They actually have to take your heart out and replace it with somebody else’s heart.
AWN: Do you have any pet peeves?
Richardson: I have two. Number one would be time. I respect people’s time, and I like you to respect my time. We don’t have a lot of it. When you go through what I’ve been through and you live a life like I live, your time is precious. I don’t waste other people’s time and I don’t like people to waste my time. Being late is almost like a sin. Be late with someone else, don’t be late with me.
The other is just excellence. Whatever you do in life, I feel you should do your best at it. I call that a “spirit of excellence.” We represent Christ, we represent God. He gave his best and so while we’re here, everything we do should be done with a spirit of excellence. Do your best. When people fail to do their best, then we’re kind of challenged. I motivate people to become the best they can be. A lot of people I meet are just coasting through life and that is when I have a problem. I’m going to encourage you and uplift you and exhort you to do better in your life. I don’t care if you’re 14 years old, 65 years old. I’m going to squeeze the best out of you I can squeeze.
Next week: Taking flight through Flight School.