Lead PAstor Search

Testimonies from Pastor Search Team

(Chris Behling) Who is God’s man for Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church? My role as Chairman on the Pastor Search Team revolved around that very question. Lord, who are you calling to be Your pastor at Your church? For me personally, I would regularly bathe this question in prayer. I waited patiently for His Spirit to guide me.

When it came to Pastor Rick Hardison, I was very cautious at first. In my own mind, he did not look like the man I was envisioning as the pastor the Lord would call to His church here at the Ranch. When sharing with close brothers and sisters in Christ that I was feeling hesitation and worrying about a younger pastor we were scheduling for a visit, God began to work on my heart. This was the start of how God removed all doubt about Pastor Rick and brought not only myself, but the entire Pastor Search Team to unification in knowing that Pastor Rick is undoubtedly the man that God is calling to Shephard His church at Lakewood Ranch Baptist.  

God used His word to show me His man. As I would pray throughout the week and as I would prepare to lead Bible studies in the college ministry and as I would hear sermons from Pastor Rick, Pastor Allen Speers and yes, other potential pastoral candidates, God started to paint a picture using His own Word to confirm that Pastor Rick Hardison was to become our senior pastor. 

First, he used the story of Samuel going to Jesse at God’s command, to choose one of his sons. He used this event to teach me that what I think the pastor should look like is irrelevant. He affirmed this through conviction of how “my own mind” was working.  God has so often chosen someone that totally goes against man’s version or vision of what would work. He has done this many times throughout scripture to prove a very important fact. That He is in control. Not us. Him.

As I continued in the process, I got an email from one of my fellow brothers in Christ who said he was praying for me and the team. In this email, he referenced scripture.  1Timothy 4:10-14


10 For to this end we toil and strive,[a] because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

11 Command and teach these things. 12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.

That very weekend as we had a visit from Pastor Rick and his wife Staci and at some point, someone asked the question about his age and his experience and he responded very well. But what took me back was as he finished his statement, without missing a beat, Staci recited 1Timothy 4:12 right off the top of her head. I immediately felt the Spirit of God speaking to me and affirming that this was not happen stance or coincidence. God was showing me His man.


When the team was down to two final candidates I was preparing a list on both. As I began to write the list, a multitude of memories began to explode in my mind. I was remembering the conversations and the postures and the emails and so many different experiences we as a team had gone through with both candidates and then about an hour before going to a PST meeting God began to speak directly to me. He laid out the two men before me. Both ordained to teach for His ministry, but both are clearly in different seasons in their walk in faith. God began to bring verses to mind and He began to show me these men and where they were positioned now. At this time, I was prepared to lead a study in the college ministry that was from the book of Esther. God clearly said to me that both men are my humble servants but only one is in a season that is meant for “such a time as this.”  Esther 4:14

14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

This was the moment for me where I had no more doubts. I knew the Spirit had completely affirmed in my heart that God was calling pastor Rick Hardison to be His chosen pastor for His church here at Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church. 


Chris Behling

Chairman, Pastor Search Team

(Michelle Davis) As I review the biblical qualifications of a pastor, I am more convinced than ever that Rick Hardison is the Pastor God has chosen for Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church.  Rick Hardison is a man who holds himself above reproach.  I believe Pastor Rick meets every one of the biblical qualifications of a pastor.  A few that stand out to me are:

  • Rick strives for Holiness.  He is wholeheartedly devoted to Jesus both externally and internally.
  • He has a love for God’s word and for God’s church.  He and Staci are spiritually mature for their age and strive daily to gain wisdom in God’s Word and in God’s presence.  Scripture says that spiritual maturity is required in positions of authority, lest pride abound.
  • He is devoted to his wife and she to him.  Rick and Staci are a “team” focused on doing the work of the kingdom
  • . Rick Hardison is quite able to teach sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it. (Titus 1:9)
  • God’s Word is the standard by which Rick Hardison leads his family, leads his church and lives his life.
  • Last, but not least, he is incredibly humble.  Rick Hardison does not profess to know every aspect of leading a church in our circumstances, but he does commit to seek the wisdom of God’s Word along with the council of older and wiser pastors and mentors in his life, where he falls short.
  • For these reasons, I believe God is going to use Rick and Staci Hardison to lead LWRBC to make great strides for His glory and His purpose.
  • In His Name,
  • Michelle Davis
  • LWRBC Pastor Search Team

(Sue Mcintyre) Why I believe Rick is God’s Pastor  for our church

Rick Hardison is a man of God, willing to serve, and compelled to preach and teach the word of God.   He has a willing heart to seek after God, to be led by the Holy Spirit, and to be the best pastor he can be.

Rick has his priorities straight, God first, wife and children second and church third. We have seen this in the way he chose to go about entering the full time ministry field.  After graduating from seminary, being recently married, he decided to go back and get his Doctorate degree.  He wanted to give himself and Staci time to focus on building a strong foundation in their marriage, prior to committing themselves to lead a church body. This is indeed very wise. Rick and Staci are a team and work very well together. Their children respect and obey them, and at a very young age are learning to pray and love Jesus.

Rick humbly acknowledges that he does not know all the answers, but seeks God first and then asks advice from Godly men.  He is a man who is willing to work hard and realizes his responsibilities as a lead pastor and under shepherd of the church.

(Blaine D Benedict) Rick Hardison is my recommendation for the new senior pastor at Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church.  He more than fulfills the requirements outlined in Scripture for pastors, elders, and deacons.  Rick is an exemplary Christian, evangelist, discipler, and missionary.  He is an expository preacher, revealing God’s truth verse by verse and book by book through the Bible from beginning to end.  He does not believe that the senior pastor or the pastoral team is called or able to do all the work of the ministry.  Rick believes in evangelism and discipleship, equipping God’s people to do the work of the ministry. 

Rick loves God, His Word, counselling others and sharing his faith.  He and his wife are very at ease sharing their faith, especially through friendship evangelism.  They have shared their lives and their lives in Christ in whatever setting God has called them to, including the inner city and the suburbs, urban and rural areas, among the poor and the rich. 

Rick and Staci have a very strong marriage, are very committed to God first and then to each other.  They love the church; however, the church is third in their lives, after God Himself and their family.  They love their two children, a girl and a boy, and their children are very well behaved.  This is one of the strongest core relationships I have observed.  And although we are only looking to hire Rick and not Staci, Staci is completely committed to Rick, the mission to which God has called them and their service in the church and the world.

Rick was one of our top three candidates almost from the beginning.  Then he was one of the final two.  It was very difficult making the decision between the final two.  I was impressed with Rick’s maturity from the first.  His answers of our questions were the most mature and complete of all the candidates we interviewed.  This was true throughout the whole process, from the first set of written answers to our questions to my first two-hour Skype interview with Rick to the Search Committee’s first two-hour Skype interview to the Committee’s three day in-person grilling of Rick and Staci to two multiple day Church leadership in-person interviews.  He and Staci have been vetted in almost every way possible and have proven to be excellent.  They are in the process of becoming more like Christ and endeavoring to demonstrate that in every area of their lives.

(Greg Winch) By January, 2017 our Pastor Search Team had reviewed approximately 200+ resumes. We initially “passed over” Dr. Rick Hardison as a top candidate due to his age 34 at that time. However, a bit later on, God began to get our attention as Rick was just about to turn age 35, and we re-read his words, and considered his heart toward God, and the local Church. Alongside of what appeared to be the sincerity of Rick’s thoughts, we considered the strong words of reference from some very established names in the Southern Baptist Convention. God was getting our attention during our own prayers, and considering the strong words of respected men of God as they spoke about Rick and Staci, we reconsidered Rick’s resume:


-       God is the one who does the “calling”, and Rick wrote about his teen years…”After years of praying, searching the Scriptures, and receiving counsel from godly ministers, I surrendered to God’s call to the ministry when I was a senior in high school. I’ve been preaching for 16 years, joyfully pursuing a call I have never doubted.”


-       Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it. Rick wrote: “I love the local church and want to spend myself seeking her good. My time as a pastor has burdened me to prepare believers to suffer while remaining faithful.


-       As Rick wrote about his experience, he told us “I work best in a team because I like to empower others, and I want everyone in the church to use his or her spiritual gifts. The pastor should not do everything. Instead, his role is to equip the church to do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13).


-       Regarding the Church’ staff, Rick wrote: “A key to leading the staff is character. The senior pastor must lead by example, and insist that others cultivate an intimate walk with God.”…


-       Rick has served in quite a variety of ministries, and spent much time “living out” what became his Doctoral thesis. Rick wrote: “A church must strive to be relevant to its community while not overlooking its own traditions. I want to lead people to do whatever it takes to reach others for Jesus, balancing the interests of different generations. I pray for a massive kingdom impact, and then give God all the glory when it happens.


-       Rick wrote about how he preaches: “As our culture becomes increasingly hostile to the faith, Christians look increasingly weird. Jesus provides the only way of salvation; sex is a gift for men and women in marriage only. Many people find biblical truths like these offensive, so I aim to teach believers how to respond to the world’s objections with boldness and compassion – showing how God’s laws are not only true, but beautiful.”


         Then, we considered the Apostle Paul’s direct Pastoral advice to young Pastor Timothy – I Timothy 4:11 “Command and teach these things.”, then verse 12 “Let no man despise thy youth” …


         I am going to pay special attention to three critical areas that Rick Hardison’s Sr. Pastor ( Dr. Hershael York) shared with me:


1.    What kind of pastor is he?

He is incredibly thoughtful. Convictional. Passionate about teaching the Word of God. Loves to see people grow. A heart for evangelism.  

2.    What are his strong points as a pastor?

Great Preacher. Solid Preacher. I teach Preaching at Southern Seminary…Fine Preaching…Biblical…Christ-centered. Real balanced.


3.    What are his major accomplishments while pastoring your church or another church?

            At Great Crossing, he led them to have a much more biblical ecclesiology. Remarkable. Gave them a Church Covenant. I consider that to be a difficult Church. Remarkable. The Church rose up in support of Rick. They (later) formally

            apologized to Rick, admitted they were wrong. Deacons resigned. He could go back. He has gone back and preached for them. No evidence that Rick led them badly at all. I would sit under Rick’s ministry, I would be happy to have my 

            children, and grandchildren sit under Rick’s ministry. Staci expands his ministry.

         Bonus - “Rick was successful in business before he entered the Ministry full-time.”.


Today, we are confident that Rick Hardison is “God’s man” for our Church


In His’ service with you.

Your Pastor Search Team.

Greg Winch

(Sally Bennett) My Thought regarding Pastor Rick Hardison

In summary of my experience, I praise God for stretching me and teaching me each step of the way.  I thank Jesus for His Word and His Mercy and Patience with me through this process.  In my devotions this morning I read how I am to praise the Lord in everything and  that “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor His pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His Stedfast Love.”


What was I looking for through this process to find our Senior Pastor?

We wanted a man who is a fervent follower of Jesus Christ and has a personal relationship with Him that shows.  PASTOR RICK HARDISON is such a man.

We wanted a man who knows and preaches the Word of God boldly, unashamedly, and in an expository, practical style.  (Ephesians 4:11).  THIS IS PASTOR RICK.

 Our Team looked for a man who has disciplines of prayer and Bible study...both to prepare to teach, and also personally.  I was looking for a man in whom this was so important that he would miss this as one misses oxygen when not available to breathe.  THIS IS PASTOR RICK

The Pastor Search looked for a man who is able to receive God's vision for our church and lead the leaders and the congregation in God's direction for GOD'S GLORY AND FOR EACH BELIEVER'S BEST. THIS IS PASTOR RICK.  He is not ashamed of the Gospel and his life reflects this fact.  He went to Jordan to evangelize, he also ministered to people of all backgrounds here in the USA.  He supports missions.  He works in his community (Habitat for Humanity) and spurs other Christians to help. 

We wanted a  man who is outgoing and hospitable, but still is a deep thinker who listens to Spirit God who leads him, who convinces him and convicts him of Truth and just as God's Love is Stedfast, he is stedfast to stand on the Word of God, Jesus.  RICK HARDISON REVEALED THIS IN HIS 200 YEAR OLD CHURCH, WHERE THE CULTURE AND BELIEFS WERE LIBERAL AND WATERED DOWN TRUTH.

I knew God wanted us to seek a man who was ACCOUNTABLE to God first, his wife second and our church also.  PASTOR RICK MEETS THESE STANDARDS.

We were glad to find a man who is well educated.  Rick excelled in this and shows his maturity on all levels.  He is young, but so was Jesus when He had his ministry.  So was Timothy.  So was David, in fact God had to remind us that it is the heart He looks at, not the outward appearance.  Every person who interviews or comments on Rick Hardison states that he is mature for his age.  This is just what we need at LWRBC.  The Staff recognizes Rick's maturity and the PST is convinced that he will be just what our Staff, our Leaders, and those seeking Jesus (who may not even know it) need.

When it came to my ideal:  “a pastor with experience of 6 years or more and experience with a staff, God convinced me that I need to trust HIM, not myself.  I especially paid attention to the verse AFTER Prov. 3:5 & 6.  Verse 7 says, “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” 

I have a LOT more I could say, but how wise of God to convict the Team that we ALL NEED TO BE UNANIMOUS IN THE DECISION OF WHO GOD WANTS TO BE OUR PASTOR. We have that UNITY. 


God has convinced both the PST and me that Dr. Rick Hardison is our man to be Senior Pastor.  He has the  support of the entire Team, the entire Staff, all the Deacons and their wives in the church.  Do we have CONFIDENCE?  Yes.  Not in ourselves, not in the world's ways, but in Jesus.  Now faith is CONFIDENCE in what we hope for and ASSURANCE about what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1)  Rick Hardison is the man we agree 100% is to be our Senior Pastor.  We hope you can stand with us!  

What Can I do to help?


  • Pray for the man God has chosen for Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church. Pray for his current situation, pray for His family and their needs. 

Be Faithful

  • Times of transition in church can also be times of the greatest spiritual growth. Please be dedicated to personal growth through this process.
  • Remain an active member and attender of Lakewood Ranch Baptist. Or even better, get more involved. LWRBC needs you now more than ever. There are so many ways and a number of ministries to jump in and serve in here at LWRBC, so please join us in serving right now! 


  • Support the church staff as they fill the gaps during the interim period. Check on them, encourage them, pray for them. They will shoulder more responsibilities during this time and a quick note or handshake can go a long way. 

Pray Again

  • Pray for church unity and patience as the search committee seeks after God's direction in their search. Prayer is on this list twice because it is that important, so we invited you and encourage you to join us in prayer during this process. 

Search Committee Members

On September 18th our search committee was presented and voted on at a church conference following morning service. Please keep this team in your prayer as they start praying for direction and start the search process, and continue to visit this page for ongoing updates.

Chairman: Chris Behling

Vice Chairman: Greg Winch

Secretary: Sally Bennett

*March 14th Update: The Pastor Search Team continues to meet weekly and continues to covet your prayers for the Lord to open our eyes and hearts to see His man for the Senior Pastor position. We just had our 24th meeting and our progress is very encouraging. We now have 3 pastors in a top and separate stage from the other 200+ resumes. At this point of the search we are meeting with the pastor and his wife to get to know them better and whether they could be God's choice for LWRBC. Needless to say, we are busy with details and ask you to continue to seek God on our behalf and ask the Spirit to make His choice clear to the future pastor and his family as well as our Team. Thank you in advance. It is a privilege to serve in this way.

*February 5th Update: The Pastor Search team have met Jan. 25th and Feb. 1st, and will continue to meet every Wednesday evening.  We have stopped receiving resumes.  We have looked over 200+ resumes, and have now stopped.  We have met our goal of 10 top candidates, and that number has been reduced to our 6 top candidates. We are excited about these 6 men!  We will continue to review and inquiries will be made to each candidate.  Please, continue to pray for the team as we seek the Lord's wisdom and discernment for our next pastor for Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church.  We also ask that you pray for these 6 men and their families.

**January 15th Update: The Pastor Search Team have met January 1st, 11th, and 18th and continue to review resumes from pastor applicants. We have now looked over 200+ resumes, and have 9 "promising" applicants that have met our initial criteria. Further review and inquiries are being made to candidates who receive initial approval by all team members. We are encouraged by the number of potentially qualified applicants. Please continue to pray for the team as we seek the Lord's wisdom and discernment on the next pastor for Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church."

**December 26th Update: "The Pastor Search Team met on December 21st and continues to review resumes from pastor applicants. Further review and inquiries are being made to candidates who receive initial approval by all team members. We are encouraged by the number of potentially qualified applicants. Please continue to pray for the team as we seek the Lord’s wisdom and discernment on the next pastor for Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church."

**December 19th Update: "The Pastor Search Team met on December 14th and continues to discuss and discern the many resumes we are receiving from the posting of the position of Senior Pastor for Lakewood Ranch Baptist Church. Please pray for time management for the Team members to go over these and also pray for our unity when we discuss them. Also, please pray for all pastors represented by these resumes to get confirmation from the Lord concerning His calling on their lives."

**December 12th Update: "The PST continues to meet weekly and have reviewed their first batch of resumes. The result is very encouraging as several are being pursued further. The Pastor Search Team continues to covet your prayers for these candidates and for our wisdom from God to make clear who the Lord desires to be our Senior Pastor."

**December 5th Update: The Pastor Search Team has now compiled their list to begin discerning which resumes will be considered for our Senior Pastor. This is an important step that is the result of much prayer, discernment and surveying of Staff, Deacons, Congregation and the PSTeam. Please continue to pray for the Team to have a right heart before God so that He will give His Wisdom. “May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalms 90:17.

**November 11th update: "The Pastor Search Team continues to meet weekly. Thank you to all who participated in the Survey for Pastor Qualifications. We had a good response and appreciate the help. We have also interviewed the Staff and the Deacons to get their input. The PS Team appreciates your continued prayers as we move forward in unity and godly discernment to find God's choice for His church in His perfect time."

  • Chris Behling

    Chris began attending the church as Sarasota Baptist Church around 2005. He is married to Terri Behling and they have two girls. Allie is 14 years old and Marissa is 11 years old. Chris has served in the preschool for 5 years, as a Deacon for 3 years, currently serves as the College Ministry leader, he has also been a member of the worship team for about 8 years. 

  • Sue Mcintyre

    Sue came to LRBC about about 2 yrs ago. She has served as a Pastors wife in the ministry with her husband, Dave for 30 years, and has also ministered in 3 county jails for over 15 years. She is currently taking care of her 98 year old mother, and has 3 grown children.

  • Bill Davies

    Bill and his wife Kathy have been attending LRBC since 2008, and became members shortly after. They have been married 24 years and have 2 grown children; Emily (21) who is attending FGCU in Fort Myers and Jack (18) attending PBA in West Palm Beach. They have served in the Children's Ministry and in other areas as well. Bill is currently serving as a Deacon and they are enjoying this new season of their lives as "empty nesters".   

  • Greg Winch

    Greg and Karen have been married 35 years. They met at the Open Door Baptist Church near Chicago, and 30 years ago they moved to Sarasota. They have 3 adult sons and 2 grandchildren. They are very glad that w joined LWRBC a little over a year ago. Prior to LWRBC, Greg has served as a deacon, treasurer, Sunday School teacher, Children’s Ministry Director, AWANA Game Director, AWANA JV Director, Bus Director, Bus Captain, and Jr. Church leader. Attended Bible College at Hyles-Anderson College, and has credits at Liberty University, and Faith Baptist Institute. For the past 20+ years Greg has been working as a Senior Sales Consultant at Stewart Signs (“LifeWay Sign Sales”) making signs primarily for Churches. Prior to that he worked for seven years as an Account Executive for WWSB-TV (ABC7 / 40) in Sarasota.

  • Sally Bennett

    Sally and her husband, Richard have been married for 46 years, and have lived in Parrish for 35 years. They have two grown children and ten grandchildren who all live in Florida. She has been at Lakewood Ranch Baptist since it began as a small home group. "I represent the older members of our church and hope in being on the Pastor Search Team to represent those who vibrantly have a passion for Christ's Church and Truth and the Holy Bible."

  • Michelle Davis

    Michelle and her family have been members of this church for over 8 years. Her husband, Greg, and she have been married for 23 years and have 3 daughters, Skyler (15), Katie (13) and Marina (11). She has served in the children's department in some capacity for all of those 8 years and has also served on the benevolence committee and as a wife of a deacon.

  • David Benedict

    Dave Benedict is former Vice President for Academics at Trinity College. He taught and administrated at Houghton College for 20 years. He holds two Fulbright Awards to teach and research in the Caucasus and China as well as a Rotary International Award to do the same in Russia. For ten years, he served as an American diplomat in Mexico, Taiwan and China and as a Russian analyst in the Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research. His PhD is in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania. He has served as a Southern Baptist Deacon in both Virginia and Taiwan as well as worship leader, lay minister and soloist.