Big Interview - June 2011 - Richard Taylor 'I smoked the Bible'

In prison, Welshman RICHARD TAYLOR read John’s Gospel and discovered Jesus. Now a pastor, he’s on a mission to win Wales for Christ

I was brought up in a working class family in Llanelli and we didn’t have much money. Dad divorced mum when I was 10 and I became very rebellious and got involved in petty crime.

By the age of 13 I’d started to go around with guys who were much older than me who introduced me to cannabis, ecstasy and speed. At 15 I was in prison, where I learnt a lot about criminal activity.

By age 18 I had over 30 offences to my name and had the regional crime squad following me for breaking into a chemist. In 1993 I was remanded into custody.

I was locked up for 23 hours a day and thought life would always be like that.

One day, I wanted to smoke a joint but had no papers. I saw a Gideon’s Bible in my cell and used one of its pages to roll the joint and literally smoked the Bible.

I was about to tear another page out but started reading it instead. I’d never read the Bible before and became fascinated by it.

I read John’s Gospel and couldn’t understand why Jesus, a man who’d only done good, was crucified. I asked a vicar about it and he explained to me about forgiveness of sins and about having a relationship with God. I’d never heard about that before.

I went to my cell and prayed: “God, if you are there, change my life.” Nothing happened, so I just left it there but I kept reading the Bible.

Then a man from Prison Fellowship came to see me once a week to talk about Jesus. What blew me away was he considered himself to be as much of a sinner as I was. As a result I began to pray.

One afternoon, a founder of Victory Outreach invited me to go and live in their rehabilitation centre in the Welsh valleys. So I agreed.

It was full of ex-offenders. They regularly attended lively worship services. I’d never seen anything like it.

At one of the meetings I had an encounter with Jesus that radically changed my life. I cried out to him and told him: “I give you my life”.

Everything changed for me. I stayed there for a further two years then joined the staff, later trained for public ministry, became a church pastor and got married.

I knew God’s hand was on my life. I travelled as an international evangelist, speaking to audiences which ranged from 10 to thousands of people.

Then I was approached to be an associate at Renewal Church in Solihull and we left Wales to take up the post. I was there for nine years and saw the church grow from 900 to 2,000.

I was then asked to do TV work for the BBC which focused on my knowledge and experience of crime. I always used the opportunity to tell people my life had changed because I’d become a Christian.

It was a successful time in my personal life and public ministry but in spite of that I felt dissatisfied. I wanted to do something big but didn’t know what.

I had the opportunity to go and pastor a church in the USA, but after praying about it, I felt God wanted me to work in a grassroots ministry with addicts and ex-offenders. It seemed like a step down and at first I objected, thinking Wales was dead spiritually, but God seemed to say: “I can raise the dead,” so I lost that argument!

I then became a trustee of Victory Outreach in Wales and eventually became director. Since then I’ve been very busy speaking, presenting for television and writing.

We’ve developed a horticultural project and have five homes for ex-offenders and former addicts. We see Jesus change them and raise them up to be leaders.

In January 2010 we planted our first church – Victory Church in Cwmbran, which has grown to 500 people. We’re expanding the homes around the country and one opened recently in the Midlands. We’re also setting up an academy to train people in theology, leadership and church planting. Our vision is to win Wales for Jesus!

As told to Mandy Pilz

  • For further information about Victory Outreach UK go to www.vouk.org.uk. Richard Taylor tells his story in To Catch a Thief (New Wine Press, £6.99)

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