SHINING STAR PASTOR AND HSU BOARD MEMBER RICHARD DARDEN RECIEVES BAPTIST PASTOR OF YEAR AWARD
The vision of one local Abilene pastor that led him to spread the gospel was recently recognized and honored. The transition from his career in business to the field of Theology during his Christian journey has brought him to where he is today. Shining Star Church Pastor Richard A. Darden was recognized as Baptist Pastor of the year last November by the Abilene Baptist Association who also ordained him. Pastor Darden is also on the Hardin-Simmons University Board of Trustees and has been chosen to be on the search committee to select the new President of the University. The plaque he received for honorary pastor of the year is on the wall of his church office with his other hard earned degrees. Darden’s college tenure began at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa where he completed a BS in Business Administration in 1987, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in 1996, and his Doctor of Ministry from Hardin-Simmons University in May, 2015. Pastor Darden’s journey brought him and his wife, Evangelina, to Abilene from San Antonio when he accepted the Associate Pastor position at Primera Iglesia Bautista in 1999. They are originally from Baltimore, Maryland. The couple has a son, Jermaine, that resides in New York. His background experience in Ministry goes back to 1993 when he was hired to be Executive Director of Metro Family Ministries and then became Pastor of Center of Praise Baptist Church from 1993 to 1998. Dardin shares, as a Baptist pastor, he is a member of Abilene Baptist Association that is connected overall to the Southern Baptist Association, and affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas. “Each church is autonomous. We make our own decisions. In our local community we are associated with other Southern Baptist churches in relating with Anglo, Hispanic American, African American, and each church offers tremendous cultural benefits.” said Pastor Darden. In the year 1999, Pastor Darden fulfilled his vision by becoming the founding Pastor of his own planted church, Shining Star. The church has a Sunday service, and on Wednesdays, dinner is provided for families and their children. There is a bible study for the adults and a separate one for the children afterwards. He explains why his congregation is not connected to some of the other local churches in Abilene that evangelize and take part in bigger events. “Being a single staff pastor, you are only able to focus.” Pastor Darden said. “Our membership is represented by persons that are not just from the surrounding community. We have a food pantry. What we target are the people of the church. If we ever see the need, I have a bags of food and if a homeless person walks in. I will give them one if they are hungry.”Every now and then someone might drop in that is looking for a church to attend, or a prayer for their needs. Just as Pastor Darden was about to share about how his church provides to the community, he receives an important call that he felt obligated to answer from someone who he volunteered to go pick up and give a ride to the church. He commented on the end times and the issue of vulnerable churches whose doors stay unlocked to possible violent acts from the public.“I think the bible says we should be prepared and be wise. If you are living in times where the kindness of a person is few and far between. You have to be concerned of things you need to do for your personal safety.” Darden shared. “Our community is the Old Town Abilene. We have been here since 2000. The crime rate and indication of drug trafficking appear to be declining.”Pastor Darden shares about his main concern in society. “In the midst of concerns for terrorism, and about gun control in society, it is my opinion that poverty is the greatest concern. The tentacles of poverty reach every facet of our society affecting employment, education, family relationships, sociability and self-esteem” He goes on to share about the end result of poverty in his view.“We see many negative consequences. High crime rates, broken families, increase in single parent families, and everyone can see a rise in violent attitudes,” Darden said.His insight and deep concern of poverty might have been his motivation that led him to organizing his church leadership based on his doctorate project.“The strategy of Shining Star Church Plant was to plant a Multi-ethnic church that reached out to several cultures in Abilene. It was not my intent to start another African American church.” Pastor Darden said. He goes on to explain how he organized the mission of the church by using his thesis project during his college tenure at HSU while studying to obtain his doctorate degree.As a student studying to obtain his Doctor of Ministry at HSU, Pastor Darden project thesis was; Developing People Influenced by Poverty to Take Leadership Positions in Shining Star. “The project consisted of volunteer church members. It started with twelve people and overall seven of those people took leadership positions in the church. Some of the positions include finance, men’s ministry, and women’s ministry. The seven church members had to complete an eight week seminar before taking on the leadership role.” said Pastor Darden.Darden shares about the mission of Shining Star church. “It is an intentional other speaking church . Bilingual services are required when you have ministry opportunity.” He said. The population he speaks about is his Spanish church members who decide to join, and then at times may decide to move on to their own language speaking church.“They eventually move on to their heart language church. While they are open to any. The whole point of a church and outside the church is to reach and outreach; and while doing so, we win souls to Christ. We evangelize the lost by sharing.” Darden explains.Shining Star church will continue to outreach to the community and welcome people who are led to visit his church. The church is unique with a diverse culture, and is open to individuals who are looking for a church to fellowship with and want to listen to the gospel.