By: Heather Cox
Richard Lee Cole graduated from Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University) in 1985 with a B.S. in Christian Ministries and an Associates degree in Christian Education. Today, Cole has been the lead Pastor and founder of Daybreak Community Church located in Lapel, Indiana for 20 years.
Before he was a Pastor, Cole was a student. Cole said that during his time at Marion College, he had professors and mentors who not only encouraged him in his pursuit to become a pastor, but they brought excitement into his life for what was to come. Bud Bence, Joe Seaborne, Wilbur Williams, and Duane Caldwell were some of Cole’s favorite professors and mentors at Marion College.
As far as how Cole became a pastor, his story is a bit more unique. Though he felt called to be a pastor starting when he was 18, Cole got married right out of high school, began working for General Motors and pushed his calling to be a pastor aside for a while.
Eventually, Cole came back to this calling and decided to do a course at home in order to obtain a license to become a pastor. Cole explained that this home course did not go well, as there were many distractions at home.
After working for General Motors for around 10 years, Cole was laid off, which was actually the beginning of something new. General Motors offered to pay for his education.
“They said that they would help with some of the financing on getting a degree in something, and I asked them about being a preacher. After negotiations, they said absolutely they would. I realized that I had everything going my direction, and I realized that this was a God thing. I’d been married ten years, had three boys and a home,” Cole explained. “I said ‘Wow Lord, you have opened up the doors… this is a no brainer.’ I just walked through that door that God had opened for me, and Indiana Wesleyan was the school I chose to go to.”
After becoming a pastor for a few years, General Motors called him back to work, so Cole began working full time at both the factory and as a pastor. Cole did this for 20 years, until he was able to solely focus on being a pastor.
“I have never thought of myself as anything but a pastor. I’ve never thought ‘Oh, maybe I’ll go to a different direction.’ Now, I’ve been a senior pastor for 32 years, and I’ve never wanted or looked at doing anything else,” Cole said.
Though Cole is continuously pursuing God’s calling in his life as a pastor, the job does not come without difficulties. Even returning to school brought Cole some difficulties that he had to overcome.
“I was never a good student in school, and it was very important for me to even pass my first test in college. I was dreading more than anything that I would not be able to read the material or write or get anything out of it, but the school really helped me with some reading classes, and I felt very successful,” Cole explained.
Cole said that one of the hardest parts of being a pastor was having to move his family around a few times when his children were young.
“The hardest part for the family is leaving the home that they had grown up in and moving off to a new school system,” Cole said. “There was a lot of soul searching not only with going to college, but also moving up to Marion. Moving to Colorado Springs for my first pastorate was a real tough thing for all of us to be on the same page, but it worked out beautifully.”
Cole’s grandson is currently in the process of pursuing an education at Indiana Wesleyan University to become a pastor, and Cole has a granddaughter doing the same in Oklahoma. In addition, all three of Cole’s sons have become ordained in the Wesleyan church.
One thing Cole has learned over the years and wants to pass on to current Indiana Wesleyan students is to not become intimidated or discouraged by people you work with or for. He said, “Every time I ran into a difficult time I had to remember: I’m not doing it for them. I’m doing this for my Jesus.”
Written by Heather Cox, writer for the Alumni Office. Heather is a junior Journalism major at IWU. She is also the Editor of GrantCOnnected.net, a community news site run by IWU students. She is unsure of where life will take her after college, but she knows she never wants to stop writing!