Snapshots of Pastors College Graduates: Rich Richardson

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Over the past weeks, we’ve been sharing some reflections on the Pastors College by past students (see posts 1 and 2). We hope these glimpses into the lives of former students who are now serving as pastors will be inspiring to those considering sending a student to the college, or perhaps coming themselves. This third snapshot is written by Rich Richardson, who graduated from the Pastors College in 2000. Rich is the senior pastor of Sovereign Grace Church in Gilbert, Arizona, and he also serves as the newest member of the Leadership Team of Sovereign Grace as our Director of Global Missions. He and his wife Tiffany have four children.—Jeff Purswell

As a relatively new member of the Sovereign Grace Leadership Team, I’ve been put in the position of having to think much more broadly about Sovereign Grace than I did when only serving as a senior pastor. This is not to say I feel adequate in this task, but it’s been both sobering and exciting to think carefully about how we may labor to remain faithful to the gospel as, by God’s grace, we have throughout our history.

Rich2One thing that’s more clear to me than ever is our ongoing need for theologically informed and discerning pastors. And as I think about that need, I immediately think about the Pastors College—and in particular, my own experience of the Pastors College. It’s that experience that has convinced me of the importance of the Pastors College for our future—and with our new polity, now more than ever.

My wife and I think about and thank God at least weekly for 1999. That was the year we uprooted and moved 2,200 miles across the country for me to attend the Pastors College. God used the college, not just as an “educational option,” but to forge me into a different sort of man. How? Space is too short to pen all of the benefits, but let me give voice to at least three. 

First, the Pastors College opened up to me a world I knew existed but had only a faint understanding of. I loved Scripture, theology, and had devoted myself to study. What I was exposed to, however, rocked my world, showed me how much I didn’t know, and exposed me to waters I’ve continued to drink from since then. And the longer I’m in pastoral ministry, the more I value that season of devoted, in-depth study.

Secondly, my education was never disconnected to real life. The professors held forth the high and lofty truths of Scripture married to our gritty, street-level calling as shepherds. A constant refrain rang in our ears. It was, “What are the pastoral implications of this truth?” That question forced me not just to learn theological truth but also to understand how to serve people with that truth. The very environment of the Pastors College militated against the folly of gaining knowledge without application. I learned that good theology would always lead to rich worship and faithful pastoring.

Finally, the college was embedded in a healthy church. We were blessed to be coming from a church that was faithful in belief, proclamation, and fellowship. I did not know it then, but what we lacked was expositional Christ-centered preaching. I didn’t know what I was missing until I experienced it firsthand. Forever burned into my soul is C.J. Mahaney’s sermon on Mark 5, when Jesus healed a man with a demon. C.J. preached the text with profound clarity and compelling power. “All” he did was explain what the text said. For someone coming from the land of topical sermons, that Sunday seemed like a visit to heaven. This was modeled for me along with many blessings because the Pastors College takes place in and around a church.

As a member of the Leadership Team, and more importantly as a pastor in Sovereign Grace joined in common leadership with our other pastors, I’m more grateful than ever for the Pastors College. Not just as a distant, sentimental experience, but as a context which I believe is crucial for our future. That’s why I believe going to the Pastors College is worth any sacrifice. It was for my wife and me. We might have uprooted our lives and gone 2,200 miles away from home, but in the end, we found that the Lord had taken us a great deal further than we anticipated. And I long for as many Sovereign Grace pastors as possible to have that same experience, both for their good and the long-term blessing of our family of churches.

The Pastors College is accepting applications for the 2015–16 academic year. For more information regarding the program, please contact us. 

As Director of Theology and Training for Sovereign Grace, Jeff Purswell is the Dean of our Pastors College, leads our theological training, and helps develop theological resources. He is also an elder at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville. He and his wife, Julie, have two sons.