The Builder Pastor

Words are strangely inadequate to describe Dick Leon or capture what it meant to work alongside of him here at BelPres.  Dick was my mentor, spiritual leader, friend and great encourager.  He made me a different person.  Many of us say the same thing.

Dick has often been referred to as the “Builder” pastor to describe his legacy here.  Among his Builder accomplishments, Dick built church attendance, the Sanctuary building, choir wing, staff offices and Community Center.  But Dick’s last years were dedicated to building and catalyzing the missional impulse of BelPres to heal and restore our community and world.

I came to BelPres in Feb 1999, as the first full-time Mission pastor.  Dick was leading the Session through a book written by Princeton Seminary professor Darrell Guder called “Missional Church”.  The book was one of the first to call “The Church” back to its Biblical mandate to go into the world and demonstrate God’s Kingdom through its life and witness. Dick had a marvelous way of translating densely packed theological material into easy- to-understand and applicable bites for church leaders.  The study prepared the way for three main initiatives before Dick retired. The first was the completion of a new Community Center  which was purposed to reach out to the Bellevue community and provide dedicated space for sports events and various other non-church activities. The second was a series of meetings which resulted in a 5-year plan called “Your Voice, Your Vision”


“Dick was a builder. But he always wanted more for us than to be vending machines.”


Most notable was the missional emphasis on increasing congregational participation, mission partnerships and a signature project on the Eastside “big enough for all who desire to participate.”

(Can you say Jubilee REACH?) The third was an “Assault on Poverty” based on Ron Sider’s book, “Just Generosity”.  It was then that Dick skillfully handed the missional reign to the rest of us. After preaching through a sermon series based on Sider’s book, Dick invited those interested to form into focus groups around employment, hunger, housing, education and health care. Each group studied poverty as it impacted their specific area, researched what was being done and shared where the gaps were. 

After several months the result was  the formation of ministries, like KidREACH and Auto Angels, that are still reaching out to the Eastside today.  Dick was a builder.  But he always wanted more for us than to be a vending machine, dispensing good programs and ministries to everyone who stepped inside the church.  Leading us to take the first steps toward discovering our calling to love and heal our world was part of Dick’s legacy too.  Good leadership outlives itself.  It builds vital environments that are free to innovate and create something better, fuller and richer.  Telling stories like this one reminds us of the man, pastor and friend Dick Leon was; of the vision he cast, the sacrifices he made and of the hard work he did to prepare the way.  We owe it all to Jesus. And, we are so very grateful for you, Dick Leon.  Thank you.

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