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Looking into the heart of a pastor

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Bob Richardson and his wife, Robbin, stand with their children, Bailey and Ella. BOB RICHARDSON/Special

Pastor Bob Richardson is from southern Illinois, but enjoys grits and knows how to swat gnats from having lived in South Georgia for several years. Knowing what to do with grits and gnats qualifies Richardson as an authentic, genuine, tried-and-true, naturalized Southerner.

Since Sept. 8, 2013 Richardson has been pastor of First Baptist Church of Blue Ridge in the beautiful North Georgia mountains. The affable and winsome graduate of Valdosta State and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary served as the pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Waycross prior to his move to Fannin County.

In a recent interview with the editor of The Christian Index, Richardson expressed his views on three issues dear to his heart, which should be of interest to those who read this publication.

First, the Blue Ridge pastor expressed his views on the importance of being engaged in the lives of his wife and children. Every pastor should understand that it is not good enough for to just be around his family. He must interact with his family in a meaningful way.

Bob is up most mornings by 6 a.m. to make a pot of coffee for his wife, Robbin, and himself. Once the coffee is made he gets a cup and with Bible in hand proceeds to read the Word of God devotionally and reviews his plans for the day.

Robbin is a teacher at the Mountain Area Christian Academy (MACA) in nearby Morganton. While she is getting ready for her day at school Bob is getting their son, Bailey, and daughter, Ella, up for the day’s activities, packing them sandwiches or leftovers and snacks for lunch.

By 7  a.m. Bailey is off to Chattahoochee Tech, where he is learning welding, and Ella, a freshman at MACA, leaves a bit later for Morganton with her mother.

“Robbin and I always tried to go to as many of the events and activities Bailey and Ella were involved in as possible. I coached the middle school basketball team for the Academy; and we won the Lanier Christian Athletic Conference Championship. I got involved because Ella was on the cheerleading squad.

“Bailey and I have enjoyed fishing and camping together. Now, Ella and I are playing tennis. She is on the school tennis team and using my availability to sharpen her skills.

“Robbin and I will often go out to eat on Friday evenings, but we generally come back home and watch a movie or play some kind of card game. We just enjoy being together.

“I realize that I will fail in my ministry if I don’t minister to my own family. That is my first priority. I want them to see me at home the same way they see me at church when I am serving God’s people.

“I have seen preacher’s kids who said, ‘My dad loved the church more than he loved us.’ I don’t want my kids to say that about me.”

Secondly, Bob Richardson doesn’t claim to be a voracious reader of books, but admitted that he is in the process of reading five books at the present time and reflected on the importance of keeping one’s mind fresh and open to new insights and inspiration.

Pastor Bob Richardson pauses in his office at First Baptist Church in Blue Ridge. BOB RICHARDSON/Special

“John Piper developed a theology of reading,” Richardson stated. "He explained, 'Literacy is the act of reading books through a Christ-centered worldview, with the aim of discovering truth, goodness and beauty, leading to life change, pleasure and worship.'”

The Blue Ridge pastor added, “I would like read more than I do, for there are books that have greatly influenced by life. One of the first books to really impact my life was The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

“Another book that was a great inspiration to me was The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitfield by Dr. Steve Lawson. Whitefield’s deep theology and remarkable surrender to God led him to risk all that he had to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Richardson continued, “I love reading biographies of missionaries. Years ago I read the biography of Rowland Bingham, the man who started the Sudan Interior Mission. It was a brief account of Bingham’s missionary adventures, but it was life changing. I just love reading the touching stories of ordinary men and woman whose trust in God accomplished extraordinary things for the Lord.

“Another book I thoroughly enjoyed was Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. The book contains a series of lectures that the great pastor presented to the students of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1969.”

The Blue Ridge pastor added, “Reading is important because God has gifted men with incredible knowledge and the ability to share their insights so that we might see God’s glory. These writings stimulate me, challenge me, and help me to think Godward.”

The third issue Richardson wanted to discuss was missions. His passion for reading the biographies of missionaries fueled his love for missions. He explained, “I got interested in missions from reading about great missionaries, and from getting to know Clint Bowman, who was an International Mission Board missionary to Nigeria. We became good friends in Waycross when I was a bi-vocational pastor and the soccer coach at Waycross Middle School and Clint was the soccer coach at Ware County Middle School.

“Clint had plans to return to Nigeria and I told him, ‘If I ever become a full-time pastor I would love to come do some work with you in Nigeria.’

“When I became pastor at Calvary, I connected with Clint and we went to Jos, Nigeria. I went with him into the African bush country and for the first time I met people who had never heard of Jesus Christ. That had a profound impact upon my life.

“I went to the place where Rowland Bingham ministered in Miango, Nigeria and went into the missionary graveyard. While I was standing there, I heard a group of children singing in the nearby chapel. They were singing a cappella 'Glorify Thy Name in All the Earth.' I stood by that tree and wept and praised the Lord. It was the most beautiful sound I think I have ever heard.

Bob Richardson visits with the Jhar people, members of The Church on the Rock in Nigeria. Without a building, the church meets under a tree. BOB RICHARDSON/Special

“Clint taught me how to reach unreached people groups. I learned the value of equipping indigenous people so they could reach others. We had the opportunity to reach out to the Jhar people in Nigeria and the Maswanka people of Gambia.

“Now, God is using our church in Blue Ridge to touch the lives of these unreached people groups in Africa as well as people in the urban city of Tokyo and Yokohama, where less than two percent of the people are Christian.  

“I know God has given me the heart of a missionary. I heard a man from the International Mission Board say, ‘There are 44,000 job openings at the IMB; and the job openings are for pastors. Be a missions-loving pastor and send as many people as possible to the mission fields.’

“That is what I want to do, but I know that if I am not effective at home, we won’t be effective in a church in Gambia or Tokyo.”

Bob Richardson is a young pastor with a heart for his family, his church, and the world.

Africa, Blue Ridge, family, missions, priorities

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