Paul Daugherty will turn 29 on Aug. 27, three days after he becomes the senior pastor of Victory Christian Center, one of Tulsa’s largest churches. His parents, Sharon Daugherty and the late Billy Joe Daugherty, were about the same age when they founded the church 33 years ago, and watched it quickly grow to one of Tulsa’s leading charismatic churches.
He will oversee a ministry that draws 7,600 weekly worshipers to its state-of-the-art facility at 7700 S. Lewis Ave., runs an international Bible school network of 1,542 schools in nearly 100 nations, and operates a major Christian school and the Tulsa Dream Center, an outreach to the north Tulsa community.
And he will remain in a neighborhood that has been central to his entire life.
Daugherty was born in 1985 in what was then ORU’s City of Faith.
He grew up attending Victory while the church met at the ORU Mabee Center.
He attended Victory Christian School, from kindergarten through 12th grade.
He graduated from ORU in 2008 with a major in theology and minor in business.
He married Ashley McAuliff at Victory in the fall of 2009.
Their wedding was postponed one day so that his father, who was battling cancer, could complete a chemotherapy series and officiate. It was his father’s last public service.
Five weeks later, at the Mabee Center, he and 12,000 other people from around the world celebrated the life and mourned the death of his father, who was just 57. His mother has pastored the church since then.
Daugherty said in an interview last week that the first time the thought came to him that he might pastor Victory was at his father’s bedside at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
“The night my dad passed away, I was holding his hand ... and just, crying, ‘God, please let my dad live.’ And I just had this moment, where God was like: ‘He’s with me now, and he’s happy. Serve your mom and serve the church, and get ready because you’re going to step into this role one day.’ That scared me, because I had never thought about being the pastor of Victory.
“I was the youngest sibling. ... I didn’t say anything. But I took it to heart, and started serving my mom wholeheartedly.”
Confirmation came a year and a half later, he said, when his mother told him: “I think you should know that your dad had spoken that you would one day step into the role as pastor, but that you needed time to develop.”
One of his father’s close friends later told him the same thing, he said.
From that time, he began to preach regularly at Saturday night services, and take on more responsibilities at the church, where he had already been serving as youth and young adult pastor.
“I’m young. I don’t have all the answers,” he said. “And I am nervous about taking on this role. But I do think that with the help of the Holy Spirit and with the help of the solid, strong, smart people around me, ... that our church can continue moving forward.”
Daugherty said he sees his role as that of a team leader.
“I think the day of the one-man show in ministry is over,” he said. “It’s unhealthy for one person to try to do everything.”
“Victory has always been a church of love, acceptance and forgiveness, and a church that loves to reach out. And we’ll continue doing that.”
Daugherty said he grew up admiring his parents, but gave no thought to the ministry until he was in high school.
Even then, his interests were in music, sports and youth work. He never considered that he might one day pastor the church his parents founded.
Through high school and into college, his band, “Envoy,” played at churches and youth camps from coast to coast, making just enough money to pay for their travels and to produce two albums.
To make ends meet he mowed lawns, worked as a janitor, and for a short time was Rudy the Rooster, the mascot for the Tulsa 66ers basketball team.
Two spiritual crises shaped his journey, Daugherty said.
“When I was 18, I had a real ‘come to Jesus’ moment,” he said, realizing that he had developed a self-righteous attitude that was exhausting him and everyone around him.
“I realized that I didn’t want to be a Pharisee. I wanted to be someone who looks at everyone with grace and hope and love. That’s when I really started to have a breakthrough.”
Later, in college at ORU, he went through a crisis of faith that lasted several months, questioning the Bible, and even the existence of God. He dropped out of church for a time.
“But I never questioned my parents’ integrity, or their heart,” he said.
One Sunday, he sat alone in an unlit section of the Mabee Center, wrestling with his doubts while a Victory church service was under way on the opposite side of the giant curtain that divided the arena.
“I remember wanting so badly to believe in God,” he said. “In that dark moment, I told God, ‘I’m ready to believe in you regardless of what I feel, or see or experience.’ “
The assurance he received at that time, he now believes, helped him get through his father’s death when many others were questioning why God let him to die in the prime of his ministry.
“It brought a depth to my relationship with God.”
He said that faith also helped him get through the challenges of the last two years, a difficult time for the church. In the summer of 2012, Victory was rocked by a sex abuse scandal involving two janitorial employees and charges that church leaders did not report it promptly to authorities.
“We’re not perfect. We’re learning from our mistakes,” he said.
“It’s about having faith in God. At the end of the day, that’s what matters, loving people, and trusting God.”
Daugherty is the third of his siblings to become senior pastors of a church.
His two older sisters and their husbands are pastoring churches they started, Ruthie and Adam Sanders in Frisco, Texas, and Sarah and Caleb Wehrli in Orlando, Florida. Daugherty said he has the support of his older brother John, who has told him he does not feel called to be a pastor.
Daugherty and his wife have one son, Liam Josiah, born on Jan. 4 of this year.