Part 2 of 2
Part 2 of our interview with Rev. Stephen E. Richardson, pastor of Jordan Temple Missionary Baptist Church, 900 N. Lockwood:
AWN: How long have you been pastor of Jordan Temple?
Richardson: Coming up on 14 years in February. We will be celebrating the anniversary next month. Our ministry, I would like to think, is a very progressive ministry. What we try to teach people is that once you come to Christ, you’re saved. You have salvation, so how are you going to live between now and the time you get to heaven? God could be very generous to you and allow you to live another 50-60 years, so you’ve got to think about how you’re going to live.
We want you to maximize your life and live the best life you can while you’re here. We embrace and challenge these young people-not only the young black brothers, but also the sisters too.
We’ve been blessed and fortunate to be able to see things that most people haven’t seen because I came out of corporate America, and I’ve been around very wealthy people and see how they live. I challenge young people to prepare their foundations. They can get the foundations and the education right and most of all be very careful about the mistakes that you make in life. If you can avoid making mistakes early in life, you have a great opportunity to excel later in life.
Just recently we had what we call the “scholars banquet” for all of our teens. The focus was on the teenagers. We did not have a head table for the preachers. We had a head table full of teenagers. All the young men were dressed up in tuxedos, and it wasn’t an option.
We call it the scholars banquet. What we do is call you something that you may not have achieved yet and we keep calling you that over and over until you believe it. Because you are a C and D student now, I’m still going to call you a scholar because I know what’s within you. You just haven’t discovered it yet. I keep calling you scholar while other people are calling you “knucklehead.” I’m calling you scholar until it soaks in and you believe it. Then all of a sudden you say, You know what? I got on my tuxedo. Now I’m in the scholars banquet. I’m up front.
Everybody participated. They had to give speeches, they had to talk about their education, they had to talk about lifestyles, they had to talk about Biblical principles. That is what we call “the principles of inspiration.” We inspire them to do better. Sometimes you got to dress them up for where they are going, don’t dress them up for where they are. Initially, some of the boys didn’t want to put on tuxedos, but when they put those tuxedos on, oh my goodness, their whole demeanor changed. The girls and boys had on formals, and they did ballroom dancing, tango and line dancing. We had this event in April 2007. I’m not sure if we are going to have it this coming year although I know the young people would love to.
Here’s the most amazing thing: 75 percent were boys-the girls were in the minority. That’s not the picture of our church, that’s not the picture of our community because all of our young men are in prison, in the cemetery or on drugs. That’s not what we showed that night. That night we had more boys in church and right now we got more boys in our teen church than girls. We have three different services taking place at the same time: We have our adult service, we have our teen service and we have youth service.
We do not have Sunday School. We have something called “Flight School” and it’s very unique. We have six Flight Schools-two on Sunday mornings. These are small groups at 8:30 a.m. We have one on Monday night at 7 p.m. We have one on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. and one at 7 p.m. We’re starting one on Monday night out at The Sanctuary (Hillside).
Sunday School didn’t work for us, so what we have are small groups because you have an opportunity to dialogue if you’ve got questions about the Bible. Some of the other benefits are: When you have small groups, you tend to know that’s your team and you monitor, you keep track, you motivate, you encourage within your group.
As a pastor, I can’t keep up with a thousand members, but if you are in a Flight School, we have what we call a pilot and a co-pilot. The pilot teaches the class and the co-pilot backs him up. They are responsible for the people who are in their class, so if I asked them about a particular parishioner, that pilot better know because that parishioner is flying on their flight.
We grew up. The culture is changing, people are starting to work on Sunday. What we have is classes during the week. See you can’t tell me, “Pastor, I couldn’t come Sunday because I had to work.” If you can’t come Sunday, come Monday night. Some people say, “I work nights.” Then good, come to our 12 noon on Thursday. The beauty of this is during the week, all of our classes teach exactly the same thing. For instance, this week we’re teaching from the first chapter of Revelations-everybody gets the same thing. We also put it up on the Internet so the whole church can tap into this and anyone can come to any class they want to. Every flight class is an airline, and every class has a different name. Every so often we have Jumbo Jet night. That’s when all the classes get together, and that is when I will do the teaching. The attendance is almost perfect.
AWN: Do you touch on sensitive subjects, such as teen pregnancy and sexuality?
Richardson: No we don’t do that in flight school. Flight school is basically scripture-oriented. Everybody knows in advance what lesson we are going to be teaching, so everybody has an opportunity to read and study before they come. We’ll cover that in my Sunday sermon or we will cover that in our teen ministry. On Wednesday night, typically what we call our Bible class, we go into topical lessons, which you’re asking about.
AWN: Where do you want to be in your career and family in 10 years?
Richardson: Personally I would like to be retired by that time and doing some traveling and spending time with my wife and just enjoying life like we’re doing right now. The kids are grown and gone. They all are doing fine. My baby daughter is a senior in college and she will be out in a couple of months. We think we’ve done a good job raising them, so they should be pretty self-sufficient. They shouldn’t need my money. All I want to do is to be able to visit churches, visit people and just see the world. It’s a big world out here that people have not seen and I have not seen. Years down the road, I just want to go fishing, get me a little house by the river, and I’ll just stay right there.
I’m not that important, but I just love the work that we’re doing for God.