Rev. Richard Copeland, B.D.'65, MDiv '70, began serving as pastor at DeSoto Baptist Church in DeSoto, Kansas in 1967.  This month he will retire from the same church after 55 years of ministry there.  We asked Rev. Copeland to share some of the highlights and challenges of ministry, his time at Central Seminary, and advice for for those beginning in ministry.  Read Rev. Copeland's celebrations, insights, and wisdom in his own words below.

HIGHLIGHTS OF MINISTRY ~ Two major highlights of my Ministry would be experiencing people making life changing decisions in finding God for themselves in a personal way and the added joy of being with people sharing their lives in various situations with me.   Significant inclusions especially would be weddings and funerals, both of which can have life impacting influences.  Through the years, with a strong emphasis on Youth Work, with many trips and involvements in their various areas of leadership growth, experiencing the observation of life-changing decisions in finding God in a personal way has been significant in confirmation of answering God’s call on my life.  In our early years, DeSoto Baptist was recognized as one of the four fastest growing churches of the 225 in our Region, a great affirmation for the significance of our Ministry.

Being in a small town, brought numerous opportunities for significant outreach and impact on lives in the name of Christ.  Some of these would include DeSoto Days in the summer and being named, with my wife Mary Etta as “Outstanding Citizens,” and featured as Marshall of the Parade.  Mary Etta and I were also inducted into the DeSoto High School first “Hall of Fame” event. The 1 block long street in front of DeSoto Baptist Church was renamed COPELAND WAY.  I was called to serve as President of the Bethel Neighborhood Center Board of Directors and blessed to bring messages at the Annual Gatherings of the Central Region.  For 17 years I drove a school bus for DeSoto High School athletic activities, for the cheerleaders who my wife coached, as well as for her many choral Musical events.  I Baptized more than 1,000 people, and conducting 646 weddings as well as funerals . . . and most importantly experiencing the changing of lives for the glory of God’s Kingdom! 

GREATEST CHALLENGES ~ First is being called to Pastor a “split church”, which at a very young age I found more challenging than expected!  And right along with this would be dealing with negatives and controversies.   An additional challenge was maintaining an active youth and children’s program throughout changing times, especially of the last 10-12 years.  Then with the advent of Covid challenges came with Pastors preaching to empty pews and an entirely new mind-set.

ROLE OF CBTS ~ My time at CBTS couldn’t have been more beneficial, with outstanding leaders and professors providing insight and training over a 3-year period.  I consider this time of vital importance to my ministry.   And I have great appreciation for the sharing of knowledge and this impact on my life, which has thus contributed to 68 years of pastoral and church leadership, also with some continuing opportunities for further growth with seminary contacts. An area for which I feel Central prepared me quite well was that of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage, which through the years has been a continuing and growing need in congregations.  And having a Biblical foundation in ministry to couples and families has been a great blessing. During the last 2 years of my studies at Central, my wife was privileged to work in the Business Office, which during her breaktime allowed her to serve as chapel organist!

ADVICE TO THOSE STARTING MINISTRY

Final words . . . Be yourself!  Don’t compare yourself to others!  Be quick to apologize when you need to, and have a mentor, hopefully another Minister that you can be totally open with.  For me it was the Rev. Don Allen, 10 years older than me but just a year ahead of me at CBTS.  Have your own personal devotional life, staying close to God.  Also trusting Him with all your heart and the confidence that He will guide you in critical situations.  And finally, stand on the promises of God, which for me is Romans 8:28 . . .  “For we know that all things work for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”  And for me, of utmost importance, consider myself and my wife as partners in Ministry together.

Richard G. Copeland

Pastor DeSoto Baptist Church September 1967 – August 2022

(Prior to DeSoto, after Seminary I served 2 country churches east of Ottawa, Ks. For 2 years . . .  New Hope Baptist and Ruhama Baptist.  And during Seminary, the 1`st year I did Youth work at 1st Baptist in Leavenworth and then the same at Calvary Baptist in KCK, where my wife was also Organist & Choir Director.

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