Well, how did I get here?
It’s quite a journey. I’ll won’t even try to keep it focused…
First things first: I come from a GREAT family full pastors, all from the tribe of churches called Foursquare. My teen years were spent in Southern California really involved in a youth group at a place called Florence Avenue Foursquare Church in Santa Fe Springs. I loved Jesus, but I sure didn’t have any desire to ever pastor a church, or serve as a pastor of any kind. However, God had different plans. He called me into vocational ministry right after I graduated High School in 1987, at a summer camp while listening to a guy named Gregg Johnson. I ditched my plans to get into film school and headed off to Youth With a Mission in Scotland. I came home not knowing what I would do, but embracing an undeniable pull to pursue serving Jesus with all I had.
While going to Bible College, I spent about a year and a half volunteering under a guy named Brad Davis at a church in Van Nuys called The Church on the Way. Then I left with him to help plant a church in Fresno, where I was put in charge of setting up and tearing down on Sunday morning, and on the side I started a youth group and college group. I made lots of mistakes, but I also grew leaps and bounds…there is nothing like getting thrown into the deep end of the pool to help you learn to swim!
After a little over a year of serving hard, I headed back to LA to finish Bible College at L.I.F.E. Bible College (now Life Pacific College). While there I served as the full-time administrative assistant to Doug Andersen (still one of my best friends) in the Youth Department at The Church on the Way. My time on staff there is still foundational for my ministry today.
A few years later, I was asked by Valley Christian Center in Fresno to be the Jr. High Pastor. While there, I finished my BA at Fresno Pacific University, started a worship band that played at camps and colleges, led lots of missions teams, and started a college group. Eventually I took the High School group, too. Overseeing the youth ministries alongside my friends David and Lucinda Chumley, with a ‘congregation’ of about 450 students was a blast. The best part of that season, though, was learning as I was mentored by Pastor Roger Whitlow.
Oh, during that time I met my wife. It’s a long story, but the short version of it is I went on a missions trip to Kenya and came home having spent quality time with the woman who would become my bride one year later. Deborah grew up in Eugene at a dynamic church called Faith Center, and served for a few years at the Youth For Christ office in Eugene before she made her way to LIFE, and found her way to me.
As Deborah and I were having a great time leading this ministry, seemingly out of nowhere God started speaking to us about planting a church…in Seattle. Again, long story short, but one year later Valley Christian Center graciously sent us to pioneer a church in the University District of a beautiful but spiritually dark city. We got to know a lot of great people and received wonderful support in challenging times. More than anything we found out that sometimes God takes you to a place not to make you successful, but to teach you what you could not learn any other way.
Two years later, we handed the church off to dear friends (Drake and Crystal McCalister) who had given up everything to help us start it, and we went to Newberg, Oregon, although it was way out of our comfort zone: We are city people, and this was in a suburban/rural area; we had been big church people, and we were going to a more traditional established small church with an old building. One thing Newberg had going for it was George Fox University (can you tell we love College age folks?), but it is a smaller Christian University, not the big public one we thought we were going to reach…but God told us to go, so we went.
It’s a decision we are still grateful that God called us to make. Newberg Foursquare Church turned out to be a fantastic place to serve. We ended up reaching and discipling hundreds of college students, with quite a few of them still in full-time ministry today. The church started bumping into 700 Sunday attendance within five years, with a multigenerational congregation that was vibrant and alive. We watched God form an out-of-this-world leadership team. We were reaching out to undocumented immigrants, the poor, the disenfranchised, and the drug addicts as well as the rich, the powerful, and folks in parachurch ministry as well as those who had been kicked out of ministry; you know, people who you’d think should have had it “more together”. But we realize that we all start out broken and we all need Jesus. We sent out missionaries and church planters. I was honored to serve our denomination as a divisional superintendent, as the district church planting catalyst, and sit on the ethics and licensing committee. I further developed close lifelong ministry friendships in the Northwest. It was everything a person could want in a place of ministry. Who would ever want to leave such a perfect situation?
Well, when everything felt perfect, the Lord started to speak to us about Life Pacific College. Our friend and mentor, Dan Stewart, had been serving as president there for a few years, and I was asked to be the Dean of Students. While I felt no great passion for college administration, Deborah and I had (and have) a deep love and calling for young adults and emerging leaders, so after much prayer, many tears, and the clear voice of the Lord in our hearts to do this for a season, we said yes to LIFE, and goodbye to Newberg. At LPC, I was able to influence some big changes, and I learned quite a bit about administration as I was blessed to oversee a management team of 6, a secondary staff of 60, I was directly responsible for a budget that was quite a bit bigger than anything I’d ever managed before, and I served on an executive team that stewarded many times more than that.
But I LOVED the local church, and though I told myself I’d take a break from leading a church, I got involved in this Sunday chapel service at LIFE. The elders (Larry Powers, Caleb Quaye, Dan Stewart) who shepherded it had always intended it to be a full-blown church, but it hadn’t quite gotten there yet. Eventually the elders asked Deborah and I to pastor the church. We did, and we officially launched Lifehouse as a Foursquare church in October of ’07. We saw great grace and growth over that season, with students and members of the community finding life in Jesus as they came together to be the church. We saw people get saved, get baptized, and get discipled.
In December of 2010, our life took another turn. Sensing a call back into full time pastoral ministry and away from educational administration, Deborah and I took a step of faith and resigned at LPC; we knew we were to be open for a new season in our lives, whether it would be leading Lifehouse or being called somewhere else. Little did we know that “somewhere else” would be the invitation to serve as Supervisor of the Greater Los Angeles District of Foursquare Churches. It’s a story I won’t get into, but I went from serving as a Dean at the Bible College, to serving as the pastor of a small church on campus, to overseeing 140 churches in Los Angeles. It’s a city, and region, we’re passionate about and believe with all our hearts God put us here to serve and prepare the church for a coming explosion of God’s life! We now live in Burbank, our office is in La Crescenta, and we’ve got a great team, great churches, and we live in an amazing neighborhood.
And, along the way, Deborah and I had 2 Oregon boys (Caleb-13/Johnny-10) and our Pasadena girl (Abigail-6), and somehow, I’ve gotten “old” (45). But we still love college students and still love the local church, and I still love to lead through building a great team and to preach the Word of God in such a way that people are inspired and transformed.
That’s my story; I pretty much stuck to the high points. There were plenty of low ones, too, but It’s been an amazing work of grace that God has done in our lives. It’s really all beyond us and we are thankful for God’s provision for an impact that is more than we deserve. We look forward to a future season of God’s love and grace and can’t wait to see how He continues to touch the world He loves through us.