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'We need a heart change'

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Pastor Richard Ware often uses props to relate his message to church members.
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Pastor Richard Ware of Higher Praise Worship Centeris animated during a service at the church.

By JEFF STANTON - jstanton@newsexaminer.com

Some people find a life calling they never dreamed would happen. Richard Ware is one.

Ask anyone who knew him as a youngster. He was respectful of his parents, but was also a wisecracking kid who liked to make jokes and have fun.

Now he’s the pastor of Higher Praise Worship Center, 812 Ziegler Road.

He started humbly. 

After completing an associates degree at Vincennes University, Ware worked in the detail department of a Rushville car dealership. He moved on to an Indianapolis company that produced advertising inserts for Sunday newspapers.

He met and married his wife Stacey in 1995. The couple began a small family. That brought the responsibility to provide for them. He got a better paying job at a Connersville manufacturing company.

First “church”

He began to hone ministerial skills with those he worked with at Visteon, taking prayer requests and showing a serious side.

“In Visteon’s heyday, they had some 3,000 people there,” Ware said. “It was a city underneath a roof. Some of them knew me growing up and some of them didn’t know me. They would come by, and people I didn’t even know would come by and say, ‘you’re a minister, right?’ I would say, ‘yeah,’ and they started dropping off prayer requests at my work station. They would say ‘would you pray for this or pray for that.’”

Ware’s life began to change. 

“Some of the people that still come here (to church) today, I met them through working at Visteon and I became their pastor.”

A first

He relates a story that led to his first official sermon. Without warning, while visiting a friend’s home in Indianapolis, he said, “I’ll be preaching soon.” A woman sitting next to him said, “What did you say?” Ware replied, “Absolutely nothing, I didn’t say anything.”

It was the holy spirit talking, he said.

It didn’t take long to happen. “It was the same day, I was driving back to my mom’s house in Connersville,” he said. “I was going to a Methodist church at that time. I kid you not, out of all the people I’m behind on (U.S.) 52, was the pastor (Berniece Goode) of the Methodist church.

“We get to Rushville and she waves me over and comes up and says, ‘I was wondering if you would want to give the Sunday message on Sunday, because I won’t be there. I want to know if you’ll preach Sunday.’ I’m like, ‘OK.’ That was my first sermon I preached there. ... Out of all the cars on the highway, she flagged me down and asked me.”

Ministry takes shape

The first church service under his leadership came at the former Holiday Inn, now Growing Branches for Christ church, on Western Avenue. About 20 people came. His wife Stacey sang to music on a boom box. 

Soon, the group moved into a space on 30th Street. Then Janet Kidd, a local real estate agent, showed a location on Ariens Avenue.

“We remodeled the whole thing; we built the stage, we built the classrooms, laid the carpet, and it used to flood every time it rained,” Ware said.

A permanent solution

Higher Praise grew to about 200 members before the church started to think about another move. Church members were parking on both sides of Meyer Avenue and eventually in the grassy area of the Frazee School playground.

Ware knew a larger church was needed but didn’t want to buy property and build. “That’s when the economy was low; that’s when everybody’s unemployment ran out from Visteon,” Ware said. “It seemed to be the wrong time to do anything, because of how the environment around town was getting.”

He said God spoke to him again.

“I think God wants us to start a building fund,” he told the congregation. In less than a year, they raised $80,000 to buy land.

Ware says God spoke to him again. “He goes, I’ve got a perfect place for you but you can’t get there from here; that’s what the Holy Spirit told me.”

A church member had a client, Bill Parrett, who was selling eight acres. One problem: there was no road to get to it. Ziegler Road had not been constructed.

“I liked it, so we were going to negotiate about it and I’m going to just tell him what God gave me for a vision,” Ware said. “He was selling eight (acres), but we wanted 10. He said, ‘if I didn’t have bills, I’d give it to you.’ I said you’re selling eight, we kind of want 10. He goes, ‘how about if you pay for eight, and I give you the other two for free?’ I said, ‘OK.’ That’s how we got here.”

Pastors share many messages. Ware has a simple one.

“We need a heart change,” Ware said. “We vote different people in, we vote different people out. We march for different reasons, whether it’s for this right, or gun control, but none of that changes the heart. It’s never too late to change the heart.”

He shares a vision, too.

“Some days I sit back and close my eyes and I look to see what Fayette County would be if we all acted like Christ. If we did that, that would be the whole answer to the community. If it was, we would have people beating down the door to live here. If we adopted that Christ mindset, put other people before you, love people, help people, be an answer, not the problem. We could take care of our drug problem in less than 10 years if we would adopt that. That’s my hope the community to have a heart change toward Jesus.”

This is the first of a series of profiles about pastors living and working in the area. Profiles will be published on Fridays.

PASTOR PROFILE

NAME: Richard E. Ware

AGE: 49

PARENTS: James Ware and the late Phyllis Ann Ware

EDUCATION: Connersville High School 1985; Vincennes University

MARITAL STATUS: Married Stacey Baseden August 1995. Originally from Seattle, Wash., she is a social service/activity consultant with American Senior Communities.

CHILDREN: Justice, 20, a student at Ball State University; and Jasmine, 17, a senior at Connersville High School

PASTORAL EXPERIENCE: Associate minister at Mt. Zion Baptist Church; hosted shows on Trinity Broadcast Network in Richmond and Indianapolis; evangelist at Second United Methodist Church in Connersville; founded Higher Praise Worship Center, 812 Ziegler Road.