Introducing Our New Senior Pastor, Jason Swanson
The RBC congregation met on Sunday June 10th at 6pm in the sanctuary for the purpose of voting on the following motion:
I Affirm the Lord's leading in the elders' recommendation of Jason Swanson and agree to call him as Senior Pastor
Howie Klein opened the meeting in prayer and outlined the agenda. Klein continued on to review how the team worked together and used resources to assemble two profiles concurrently:
- about Rancho Baptist Church for applicants to view
- a candidate profile for the team to use as candidates entered the process. He referred to the 3 C’s Chemistry, Competency, and Character as the framework on which the profile was built.
The profile itself was not reviewed but was alluded to through the recommendation letters from the team and the elders which included discussion of leadership, teaching, a shepherd’s heart, and a God honoring marriage to name a few profile characteristics.
Four members of the search team then addressed the congregation, Jim Orr, Doug Schell, Bree Lapp, and Jennifer Stroder who each covered a portion of the candidate process and their thoughts during those times.
The floor was opened for Discussion of the Motion and a single comment in support of Jason and his ministry was made.
After the discussion Brad Braley, Elder Board Chairman spoke about how the Lord’s Leading has been evidenced throughout the process as far back as the assembly of the team, to the preparation of the process, and the unanimity of the team in evaluating candidates and ultimately recommending Jason. Braley emphasized the board had similar unanimity once Jason was presented as a candidate from the search team.
Klein then called for the vote to be taken. Active RBC members had been given paper ballots upon arriving to the meeting. The vote required an X to be placed by Yes or No for the motion. The ballots were collected by Mitzi Neverman and Kathy Porter who had the responsibility for counting the votes and providing the result. During this time of counting, Tom Marsala led the congregation in singing several hymns.
When the ballots were counted, the ballot total was brought up front and read by PST member Joni Beckman who said the following:
“Regarding the motion tonight that RBC affirms the Lord’s leading in the elder’s recommendation of Jason Swanson and agree to call him as Senior Pastor.”
“The church has voted Yes with a percentage total of 98.75%!“
There were 162 ballots received, with 159 Yes and 2 No and a 1 abstention (no marking on the ballot).
The Swanson family entered the sanctuary after the announcement was made for a chance to say thank you and to enjoy time together as a church family.
So often, the Search Team has told the congregation, “we have never been closer” tonight we can say, “We are Here!"
Pastor Rick was contacted about the vote as he was traveling to a meeting in Chicago and he commented “I am very excited for Jason and the Swanson family, they are a great fit for RBC”.
The evening was closed with fellowship and prayer glorifying God and thanking Him for guiding us through this process.
This is the final report from the RBC Pastoral Search Team. The team thanks the entire RBC congregation for their faithful support in words, deeds, and prayer for the team during this twenty-month process.
Jason's first Sunday will be July 1st, 2018
Meet Jason and Shannon Swanson
A Letter from the Search Team
The team first met with Jason in February. Our work with Jason through the candidate process included surveys, interviews, reference checks, and sermon reviews along with other activities.
We have learned of Jason's love of the Lord, his passion for teaching, his desire to raise up disciples for Christ, and his love and care for his own family. His experience as a shepherd, leader, teacher, and visionary on the mission field for sixteen years in Papua New Guinea were strong components in his candidacy.
We look forward to you meeting Jason and Shannon Swanson next week. Below are some details about next week’s schedule so that you can take advantage of the opportunities to meet and get to know them in more intimate settings. In addition to hearing Jason preach, we are excited for you to be able to meet both of them, to ask questions, and simply get to know them outside of the Sunday morning service.
To download the flyer with the candidate week schedule, please click the link below.
A Letter from Our Elders
Dear Rancho Baptist Church Family,
The elder board of Rancho Baptist Church received a recommendation from the Pastoral Search Team for Jason Swanson to be a candidate for Senior Pastor. Over the last six weeks, we have reviewed the wide-range of information from the search team which was gained through their interviews, in-person home-visits, sermon reviews, and fifteen reference checks. In addition, we have met with Jason for get-acquainted sessions, we have heard him teach, we’ve conducted interviews, and have shared meals with him and his wife, Shannon. From these reviews and activities,
Jason’s background, education, experience and qualifications have been examined.
As a result, the elders wholeheartedly endorse and, without reservation, recommend that the congregation of Rancho Baptist Church call Jason Swanson to the position of Senior Pastor. We understand that it is not possible to gain the same level of familiarity with Jason through the candidacy events we have planned, but we do want you to know that the elders are excited about Jason serving as our Senior Pastor and we welcome and encourage your review of his background and qualifications by participating in the events planned for this coming week. Would you please prayerfully consider his candidacy?
Here is a list of a few of the things about Jason which have been important to the board and are the basis of this recommendation:
- The Pastoral Search Team, selected and commissioned by the board and RBC, has diligently searched for and reviewed over 100 candidates and has determined that Jason fully meets the requirements for the role of Senior Pastor at Rancho Baptist Church.
- Jason has great love for Jesus and a passion for teaching God’s Word
- He was ordained by New Tribes Mission in January 1998
- Jason has been a pastor for more than 16 years in Papua New Guinea
- The Swanson family spent nearly 20 years preparing for or being on the mission field to plant and grow a church as the Lord allowed
- That church is now led by elders raised up from within
- Well into his pastoral career Jason began working on his seminary degree (Master of Divinity) to be better prepared to lead a church
- Jason has graduated from Master’s Seminary this past semester with his MDiv
- Jason has received strong references as a teacher and shepherd throughout his career
Over the next week you will have opportunities to hear Jason preach and to attend smaller group sessions to ask questions and get to know him better. (See the schedule above). We encourage you to take the opportunity to meet Jason and Shannon; they are very interested in meeting RBC people and these smaller group meetings will be a great way to do so.
The week will end with a Congregational Business Meeting on June 10th for the purpose of voting to accept the board’s recommendation and to call Jason to be Senior Pastor of Rancho Baptist Church.
In the meantime, please be praying for Jason, Shannon, and their family as they begin a very full schedule this week.
May God be glorified in all things at Rancho Baptist Church.
RBC Elder Board
Lay Elders: Brad Braley, Howie Klein, Ralph Loper, Steve Norris, Mike Peay
A Letter From Jason
I was born and raised in a single parent home in the South Bay of Southern California, and brought to Christ as a teenager through the ministry of Hume Lake. Even though I was raised in a non-Christian home I became very involved in my Youth Group and developed a deep thirst for the Word of God and a desire to share the hope of the Gospel with others.
The Lord began calling me into full time ministry shortly after my Youth Pastor left our church. I took over the responsibilities of the Youth Group from him my first year in college and led the ministry of the youth until I moved to attend The Master’s College. I became very involved in leading mission’s trips to Mexico, Northern California, and eventually went to Papua New Guinea on a short-term mission’s team. It was during that time that the Lord made it clear to me that He wanted me to become a tribal church planter.
I met my wife Shannon at the Master’s College and she too desired to be a missionary and had recently come back from a mission’s trip to Papua New Guinea. We were married shortly after I graduated college and then we spent sixteen years with a remote people group learning their language and planting an indigenous church. Once the church was functioning on its own and there were qualified elders, deacons and missionaries being sent out to neighboring villages, we believed the Lord was leading us back home to begin a ministry in the States. Rather than seeking out another missions related ministry, I felt a strong calling by the Lord to be involved in the preaching, teaching and leading ministry of the pastorate.
Still thirsting for a deeper knowledge of my Lord and desiring to receive great training on shepherding and preaching I decided to pursue a Master of Divinity at The Master’s Seminary. During my time at seminary God has further confirmed my calling into ministry as I served as the Mission’s Pastor of a church in Redondo Beach before coming on staff at a camp for abused kids in the foster system. There is nothing I want to do more than preach the Word, shepherd the people of God, and pour my life into others. I believe the Lord has used all my experiences on the mission field planting a church, all the exposure and service in supporting churches over the years, along with my training through seminary, to better prepare me to serve my wonderful Savior as a Senior Pastor.
My family and I are excited about starting this new stage of our lives as I seek God’s direction in following His calling in pastoring a church where I can serve the people of God and share the hope and truth of the Savior that has so radically impacted me and changed my life. As I have interacted with the Pastoral Search Team and gotten to know the elders and staff of Rancho Baptist Church, I am delighted about the possibility of joining the team the Lord has already raised up here at RBC.
Pastoral Search Team Recommendation Letters
Each member of the Pastoral Search Team wrote a letter of recommendation of Jason for Senior Pastor and are written below for your consideration. Please click the member's name to see their letter.
The purpose of this letter is to explain why I whole-heartedly recommend Jason Swanson to be the Senior Pastor for Rancho Baptist Church.
By the time Jason's candidacy began we had already gotten experience in evaluating applications, interviews and sermons. In fact, his candidacy was overshadowed originally as we had another candidate who was quite well liked by the team and had also gone through all the interviews, sermon reviews, and had received a visit from the team to hear him preach. We were in a strong position with this candidate when we first met Jason in Interview then heard/watched his sermons over a three week
period prior to his second interview in late March.
In late March we were at a crossroads, Jason was a promising new candidate while a very strong teaching candidate had come up short in his references. Ultimately after a week of prayer, the team unanimously agreed to end the candidacy of the strong teacher and continue on with Jason. Since that time, we have received additional applications but we have set them aside as we continue with Jason's candidacy only.
In my recollection, each step of the process with Jason has been unique to all the other candidates, the group enthusiasm for him has steadily grown. In other instances, some were in favor of other candidates while other team members were less enthusiastic for the same.
Jason's application and resume stood out to the review committee first then to the team as they presented Jason to the entire PST. He presented a passion for God's Word and people which just hadn't been exhibited in that way or as strongly by anyone else. His background as an overseas church planting missionary made such a strong impression as we considered the Great Commission and how he had lived it in a fashion unique to his candidate peers. I think Jim's application review comments maybe set the tone, "Wow! Might be too good to be true." In light of the team already having been in the candidate review process for a few months, this really demonstrates how Jason's application and story really caught our attention.
What I liked about Jason from the beginning is the uniqueness of his experience relative to all the other candidates who applied. He had done a lot of teaching and work in the church under much different circumstances than the others. Moving and raising his family far from home, having to learn and teach in a tribal language in addition to learning functioning local language. His willingness to finish the work someone else had started. Staying when it would have been more than reasonable for he and his family to leave. His desire to continue to visit the Siawi and continue to minister to that body is very reminiscent of the characteristics described in the early church.
Jason is not without opportunity for improvement. He has exhibited a wandering nature in conversation, especially if asked a question. On more than one occasion I had to really keep track of what the original question was so I would either know the answer when he got to it or I would be able to ask it again if he too lost track. In his teaching, his stories can get long, though interesting, I missed his point in a couple of instances because of the length of the verbal journey. However, as I have grown to know Jason through his candidacy two things have begun to crop up. First, I am tracking with him better, his style has patterns which I am beginning to learn. Additionally, he is very receptive to direct feedback such as: "Jason, did you forget my question?" He has requested, been open too, and commits to acting on coaching/feedback as I have presented it.
Today, Jason is a fine teacher, not the best teacher we have heard but I am confident that with the opportunity to preach weekly (which he is extremely excited about) he has the potential to meet and exceed the others. I think his style will quickly develop within RBC as he acclimates to full-time preaching after four years away from it. I think too, the congregation of RBC will adapt to his style and soon come to appreciate his pace, method and passion for what it is, Godly expository preaching with plenty of application.
Of the important characteristics mentioned in the pastoral profile teaching gets emphasized because of the obvious weekly attention paid to it. However, Jason's attractive strength starting immediately is his desire to build relationships as a shepherd and in discipling others. He is a strong advocate of doctrine but delivered in a voice of grace, love, and care. These shepherd characteristics are Jason's core strengths and if a ranking took place, I think they would be placed at the top of the chart in terms of importance.
Finally, Jason; by every method we can see, is a man who loves God, sees himself as an imperfect vessel, and desires to know and love Jesus more. He stresses this in how he lives with his wife and family, how he desires to learn more about Jesus as he prepares to teach each week, and to simply be God’s man in whatever circumstance the Lord places him. He has spent the last two-years commuting 3+ hours each way to school, doing a job he doesn’t want to do, living in a place he would prefer not to live, in order to accomplish what he believes God called him to do at this time; go to seminary. He is very eager to move on to what he hopes is the opportunity to serve full time as pastor, to bring his wife and children into a church family, and to spend his time investing in a church family. Jason has not asked about salary or benefits beyond saying one time, “We have relied on the Lord for provision through our whole ministry, that won’t change now.” Jason’s references spoke very highly of his strong character, we have only seen examples which are aligned with and support these reports.
Please know, to the best of my ability as a member of the RBC Pastoral Search Team, I believe that Jason Swanson has been appropriately questioned and vetted to be a qualified and worthy candidate for the position of Senior Pastor at Rancho Baptist Church. I would encourage the board to continue the process and I am confident it too will reach a similar conclusion regarding candidate Jason Swanson.
Reported for your information and review,
I would like to share my thoughts and feelings regarding Jason Swanson as our Senior Pastor Candidate. Most of this information will come from memory, however, I have read over my notes recently which refreshed my thoughts.
I was not on the panel that read and scored Jason’s application and resume, but I had started reading it prior to our meeting that evening. I was very impressed by his writing, his experience as a missionary and his obvious heart for the Lord. As I went through this process, it was amazing to me how some candidates would leap off the page and declare who they were while others, most candidates, simply answered the questions on the application. Jason shared his experience and his love for the Lord in such a way that we all took an immediate interest.
The next step was our informal interview. Jason had requested to meet with us in person as he had to drive down the mountain to get good internet service for the Zoom interview anyway. But we did not want to break our format from other candidates we had interviewed, so we declined. Jason was Zooming in from Wildomar! He found that to be funny and he had not done a video interview like this before, so he seemed a bit awkward and nervous. I was part of the interview team and had also not done a video interview, so I was probably also awkward and nervous. Jason spoke fast and he responded to a couple of questions with odd responses. For example, when asked what drew him to Rancho Baptist Church, he responded that he did not care at all to live in the desert so he knew this must be the Lord leading him to apply. That was not at all an answer I was hoping to hear! Some of his answers, however, demonstrated a humility and reliance on the Lord that was refreshing. We took the time during our debrief to go over the Pastoral Profile and found that Jason matched most of the criteria. This was a helpful part of the process to confirm there were objective measures and not just subjective feelings.
In Jason's sermon review, I started by watching his short video about the Siawi tribe in Paupa New Guinea. I tried to imagine a life living in such a remote place, learning a language so very different from our own and learning it well enough to teach. I was glad that I watched this first before viewing the sermons as it gave insight into his dedication and commitment to sharing the Gospel. Overall I recognized a passion for the word that was inspiring. Jason has seen things and done things in his ministry, he has demonstrated a faith so deep and he has seen God move in mighty ways because of that faith. And that passion is what I want in my life and what I believe RBC would desire as a church body.
As a team, we decided to move forward with another interview. The second interview was held at Doug’s home so we could meet Jason in person. Jason still seemed nervous and at times he did wander off topic. But we did learn more about his family and his leadership style. His response to how he would lead an experienced staff was admirable, he stated he would lead "humbly and with trepidation." I saw in him a man who recognizes his weakness but trusts in the Lord to lead and give him strength. I also appreciated his response to the question about measuring his success as a pastor. He described a church that is 4 miles wide and 1 inch deep. He would much rather see those in the church grow deeper in their relationship with the Lord before he sees the church increase in number. I think it is difficult for a pastoral candidate to express his true feelings in this regard because they know that most people view a growing church body as a successful church. But Jason has experienced the true change that can come about when people grow in the knowledge and truth of the Lord. We were impressed with Jason as we got to know him better in this personal interview and agreed to move forward.
The third interview was a behavioral interview and I felt it was Jason’s strongest impression. I’m sure he was still nervous, but did come across as a bit more relaxed and less intense. He gave us some strong answers, in particular, about the importance of knowing his congregation and teaching and preaching according to the needs of the body. He displayed a heart for people and relationships that I believe is real and approachable. We were able to address the questions that we still had about Jason in this interview and in the debrief there was a sense of excitement about Jason as our candidate. Personally, I could see Jason as a pastor who will not only shepherd our congregation but our staff and elders, too.
The reference checks were another confirmation to my thoughts and feelings about Jason. Each reference talked about Jason being real, “what you see is what you get on Sunday morning or at home.” The references also confirmed what we had learned about Jason’s passion for the word and how he measures all things against the truth of the word. The most outstanding reference in my opinion came from Pastor Myron Drent. When asked if he would be excited to attend a church that Jason was pastoring, he said he would state it a little differently. He said that if he were no longer the pastor of his own church, he would want Jason to be the pastor. We were excited as we discussed all these references and realized the confirmation of our thoughts and beliefs about Jason.
The next meeting was a dinner at Jason’s home. I was anxious to meet the Jason’s wife and family to see if that chemistry existed. I could not have been more pleased. Shannon was warm and gracious. The children were friendly and talkative. I was so impressed with Jason’s children as they sat with us the entire time, listening and engaging in conversation. We had such a pleasant time, it was obvious to all team members present that we were ready to make a commitment to Jason as our candidate. I had prayed for a clear word from the Lord and He, indeed, answered that prayer with this meeting with Jason and his family.
At this point, I was completely sure that I wanted to present Jason to the board as our Senior Pastor Candidate. I have been amazed by the work of the Lord throughout this process and I feel confident that we have sought His guidance and prayed for His will to be done. It is with this confidence that I respectfully ask you to consider Jason for the position of Senior Pastor.
May His will be done,
It is with great humility, but also great joy, that I recommend Jason Swanson to you as the next Senior Pastor for Rancho Baptist Church. Throughout our search process, the team worked off a pastoral profile and job description provided by the elder board and compared each candidate against the qualities listed in these documents. We were prayerfully checking to make sure that each candidate had the necessary competency, character, and chemistry to be our next Senior Pastor. I am very pleased to report that Jason Swanson presented himself as an excellent match.
In addition to simply meeting the requirements of the pastoral profile and job description, Jason stood out in several areas. For example, he has an encouraging and compassionate shepherd’s heart and demonstrates a genuine love for others. Jason is interested in investing his life in people. He wants to see them grow in their knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore, when Jason preaches, you get the sense that he is not preaching at you, but sincerely trying to come alongside you in order to pursue Jesus together with you.
Furthermore, Jason is doctrinally sound. He was one of a few who received a perfect score on our doctrinal survey and he has an excellent education (with very good grades) from Masters to back it up. Beyond that, though, Jason understands that the role of the Senior Pastor is not just to preach doctrine, but also to use his knowledge to protect, lead, and guide the flock. Jason is also humble and transparent. You quickly realize that there is no guile in him and that what you see is what you get. He is teachable, approachable, and ready to admit his weaknesses. Additionally, Jason is hospitable and family oriented. He has repeatedly expressed his interest in having families over to his home in order to get to know them and invest in them. He strongly feels that a Senior Pastor cannot only meet with the people on Sunday and expect to have the kind of trusting relationship needed to fully guide the church. Finally, Jason has proven that he is willing to take on challenges and does not quit on what God has called him to do. In Papua New Guinea, Jason willingly chose to take on a difficult ministry because He understood God was calling him to it. Through many trying times, and even though he was presented with many “legitimate” opportunities to quit, Jason persevered in the strength of the Lord until his ministry was fully accomplished. This is especially encouraging as we consider the special needs and challenges facing RBC in the coming months and years.
I am excited to recommend Jason because RBC does not need a pastor who just teaches, although Jason does that well. We need a pastor with the heart of a shepherd. We need a pastor with tenacity. We need a pastor who has proven he will not quit when the going gets tough (because our going is a bit tough right now). We need a pastor who wants to invest in the staff. We need a pastor who loves the Lord. We need a pastor who is going to model a healthy home life. We need a pastor who is missions minded. We need a pastor who is devoted to prayer. And we also need a pastor who is hospitable. Therefore, in light of the many stand out characteristics that Jason exhibits and because he is a fantastic match to our pastoral profile, his great love for the Lord and others, and his devotion to prayer, I fully recommend that Jason Swanson be Rancho Baptist Church’s next Senior Pastor.
With respect and humility,
How do you know when you’ve found “the one”? This is a question the search team has asked frequently throughout this process. Much like finding a spouse, seeking out God’s man to be RBC’s senior pastor is a much more detailed endeavor than simply hiring for a standard job. We are tasked with evaluating a man’s LIFE; not simply his skill set pertaining to a job description, but his heart, his character, his deepest failures and shortcomings, his family, his hopes, etc. I am so thankful for the diligence that God granted us in how the search process was put together. I believe we have thoroughly vetted each applicant that God has graciously brought to us. I am also overwhelmingly thankful for every member of the search team. God chose to richly bless each of us through our experience together. I am very excited to say that I believe our search has been fruitful in bringing us to Jason Swanson. I would like to outline my personal process of coming to this conclusion.
When we first received Jason Swanson’s application, we had already assessed a sizable amount of applicants at length. Each candidate had their own strengths and weaknesses, but I didn’t quite know what I personally felt was consistently missing in these candidates until we read Jason’s application. Jason was real and raw. He had no problem delving into his own shortcomings and beautifully displaying how God has used him despite of them. Because of his experience overseas as a missionary in Papua New Guinea, he wasn’t locked into the traditions of the American church; instead he just looked to the Word for guidance. Jason displayed a real sense of humility in the way he worked with his tribe and relied on the Lord whenever things became extremely difficult. Many applications we received read like a seminary textbook. While Jason’s application was entirely theologically sound, it read like a glimpse into a man who knew what it looked like to live for and rely on the Lord entirely in a completely different way than most Americans will ever have the chance to experience.
We discussed at length Jason’s lack of experience leading a church stateside, and the fact that he did not have practice leading a large staff. However, through these discussions, we kept coming back to the idea that Jason and his family had gone to an unbelieving tribe, started from scratch, encouraged an understanding and love for the Word, raised up leaders and elders from a congregation of new believers, and was able to step back and let the church run on its own. Yes, this wasn’t the typical church we’re used to seeing here, but that is undeniably extensive pastoring experience. I am actually increasingly excited at the fact that Jason does not have exclusive experience in the American church. I have always seen this as one of his strengths. While obviously experience is valuable, I think there is something to be said for the idea that Jason would be able to see areas in need of growth at RBC that we may overlook because it’s simply “how it’s done”, or “what we always do”. He has a different perspective on what’s truly important in God’s kingdom, and hasn’t become blind to potential areas of sin or misguided motives that may have become entrenched over the years. He has an extensive track record of fighting the good fight for the sake of Christ in his work overseas and I have no reason to believe that he’d do anything less at RBC.
When I listened to Jason’s sermons, all of these same themes continued. When you listen to Jason teach, you are left with an overwhelming sense of how amazing GOD is, not at how great Jason is. He is passionate and engaging when he speaks, and it is very apparent that Jason is personally challenged in his study of the Word when preparing the sermon. He BELIEVES what he is preaching. He personally connects to what he is saying. I found that this made me really pay attention to what this man was so fervent about. It was interesting to learn about his experience teaching overseas in the native Siawi language. Jason has told us repeatedly how excited he is to be able to teach in English and have no constraints as to what will translate well in the culture, or how word choice could potentially impact his teaching. He was faithful to deliver consistent solid teaching that resulted in much fruit in the tribe despite the language barrier. I am excited to see how much more he will blossom without language constraints to constantly worry about. He has the heart and spiritual compass to deliver God’s Word in an effective and truly powerful way, and truly shines God’s amazing light from the pulpit.
Through the next three interviews, we saw many more strengths come to light. Jason sometimes wandered in his responses, but I was always able to follow him back to his point, and often found myself nodding in amazement at the picture or concept he was able to ultimately illustrate. A few instances stick out in my mind when I recall the interviews. At one point, we asked him to share about someone who has challenged and deepened his relationship with God. We obviously were looking to hear about someone who had mentored him, but instead he shared about how his best friend had strayed from the Lord throughout his life, and how Jason has had to really press into the Lord because of this relationship. It was an unorthodox response to be sure, but his ability to think outside the box and come up with an incredibly moving response on the spot impressed me. Another instance was when we crafted a question about a time when maybe a Papua New Guinea reference fell flat. We were actually trying to gauge his awareness about how often he talked about PNG, and he immediately pinned the true purpose of the question. He responded very clearly that he was aware of his frequent PNG references, and that he would be strict in his sermons regarding how often he used these illustrations and make sure to never repeat stories. I never knew exactly what to expect in Jason’s answers. At first, this took me off guard. As time went by, I couldn’t wait to hear what Jason was going to say.
The team noted several quirks that were somewhat puzzling at first, but we discovered that almost every one of these were present in him as a result of his time overseas and his intentional sensitivity to Siawi culture. We learned that his bluntness of speech came from the fact that if you mince words or speak around a subject in Siawi, the meaning would be entirely lost. We also recently learned that his lack of eye contact arose from the fact that in Siawi, eye contact is seen as a threat to men and flirtation to women. Even our small, somewhat nit-picky critiques of Jason have come to have very understandable reasons. Does he need to adapt back to our culture and make sure that he applies these same cultural sensitivities here? Yes. Am I confident that he is 100% willing and able? Absolutely.
I found myself thinking often through the interviews that his lack of refinement and polish was incredibly refreshing. I never felt like I was seeing a mask or a “put on” version of Jason. People want to follow someone who actually believe and practice what they preach, and Jason seems like a prime example of this. During his in-depth behavioral interview, Jason had an abundance of past examples to share regarding everything from leadership to admitting wrongdoing to persevering through challenging times. If past behavior is indicative of future conduct, then I am excited about what God would be able to do through Jason at RBC.
We, as a search team, always made it a focus to never turn a blind eye to any potential problems we saw in candidates. It didn’t matter if six of us were of a similar mind and one was not, we always gave full attention to the one with any kind of concern. The interviews did leave some of us with questions that needed to be answered. Is Jason impulsive? Does he speak before he thinks? Is Jason teachable? Will he be able to delegate work after being essentially a one-man-show in PNG? We made it our effort to fill in any gaps in our knowledge through our extensive reference checks. This is where my personal excitement for Jason substantially grew. Every single potential negative thing that we were trying to research regarding Jason was explained or completely refuted by his references. For example, in wondering if Jason was impulsive, several of his references went as far to say that, if anything, Jason would go out of his way to take extra time to pray before making a decision. When we inquired into whether Jason tried to wear every hat, we were reminded that Jason’s job in PNG was to work himself out of a job. His entire focus was in raising up leaders to replace him; therefore delegation was a key part of his whole purpose there. When asked if they had ever experienced Jason being impulsive, we were met with a resounding, “No, absolutely not.” The references could not speak higher praise about Jason. One stated that if he could choose his replacement as head pastor of his church, it would be Jason. Many of them said that they would be quick to go to any church Jason pastored. Jason’s ministry partners in Papua New Guinea praised his willingness to be flexible in whatever God wanted to do, and attested to a long history of consistent faithfulness. They sang his praises for his boldness in the gospel and willingness to try new tactics to get people to see the amazing love and grace of God. These are only a few examples of the myriad of affirming things that Jason’s references had to say about him.
One of the most interesting parts about the reference checks was the increased look into Jason’s ministry in PNG. We learned from his missionary partners that the tribe he and his family were tasked with ministering to was considered an extremely difficult situation that some missionaries had abandoned and other missionaries had then passed on. The tribe was only ten years removed from cannibalism, and other missionaries who began their work there had decided to leave. Jason’s family faced many trials and ongoing sickness, and “no one would have blamed them for coming home” on multiple occasions. Yet, they stuck with it. They not only chose to go to an undesirable area, but they persevered and ended up coming to completion in their mission there. We didn’t learn about ANY of these aspects until we talked to his references. Jason had every opportunity to paint himself to us as somewhat of a hero in the missionary world; yet he either chose not to, or didn’t think to. This speaks to his humility and character more than anything. I believe that he truly sees God as the champion of his story; not himself.
The next and final large step in our process involved going to Jason’s house to meet his family. I can only imagine how intimidating that kind of meeting would be. People are coming to judge your house, your life, your kids, your interactions, etc. The Swanson family handled this pressure beautifully. Shannon was gracious and a wonderful host. Their kids were talkative and involved in the entire (admittedly long) afternoon without so much as a single complaint or request to go do something else. They all helped each other in a very natural way. Jason obviously is present and intimately involved in each of their lives. Two things stand out the most to me from this visit. The first involves Jason’s response when we stated our intentions to move forward with him as our only candidate, and asked him to stop pursuing any other positions at another church. This was our “proposal” moment if you will. Jason didn’t even blink an eye before responding, “I already have.” This was impactful to me because up to this point, we didn’t know where Jason stood in his desire and willingness to come to RBC. This confidence in God’s clear guidance was very reassuring. The second memorable moment happened a few seconds later when we were all somewhat distractedly talking amongst each other. Jason very quietly started speaking to each of his kids in Siawi, I assume to affirm that he had all of their support. He made eye contact with each one and they spoke a few words back and forth. Some members of our team didn’t even notice this exchange taking place. I feel like I was able to witness how seriously he took his relationship with each of his children, and acknowledged that this decision greatly impacted each of them as well. They are a family unit, and really show a respect for each other. If we weren’t already excited about calling Jason to continue on in the process, we definitely were after the home visit.
Going from our initial survey to actually being called to candidate as RBC’s next senior pastor is a very long road. Our search was built in such a way to evaluate each candidate as thoroughly as possible. We evaluated candidates through surveys, on the phone, through writing, in person, with their families, in situations of pressure, etc. Getting to the place where each member of the search team was entirely excited about Jason as our candidate was quite a process. All throughout the journey, I have been challenged with the temptation to fear man instead of rely on the Lord. What if the pastors and elders don’t like him? What if the congregation wants a different kind of man? What if he doesn’t perform well during one of the interviews? I have been reminded time and time again that this is God’s church, and we are simply to seek the Lord. Our team did its best work when we removed ourselves from the equation and sought out God’s heart. It is a freeing place to be now, after all this work, to know that each one of these outcomes have been in God’s hands all along.
From our first meeting, we have prayed for unanimity amongst our team when we came to the right man. With Jason, we have found that with flying colors. We have continually submitted this to the Lord and asked Him to either very clearly open this door wider or to swiftly close it if this man is not in His plan for RBC. We can unreservedly recommend Jason to you as a unanimous decision, and I truly am excited at the perspective that Jason will bring to RBC. I am thankful for this journey, and couldn’t be happier to recommend Jason Swanson.
What makes a trip an adventure? I think it is the many unknowns you experience along the way. Being a part of the Pastoral Search Team for the past eighteen months has definitely been an adventure! We had a vague idea of what was in store. But we had no way of knowing the grace and unity God would supply to our team. Further, we could not have imagined the loving support, prayer and patience we would receive from the RBC church body. For all of these reasons and many more, I am grateful to be a part of Rancho Baptist Church. I am writing to recommend Jason Swanson as RBC's next Senior Pastor. In doing so, I would also like to retrace my path to this decision while sharing some of the high points of the journey. My hope is that you will also view the past eighteen months and the coming months as only part of the journey the Lord is leading us on. We don't know exactly what lies ahead. But we know our Savior has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He will certainly provide for our needs and bring glory to His Great Name.
What is needed in RBC's Senior Pastor? The initial stages of the search process sought to answer this question. The obvious primary source of information was God's Word. Doug led us through a practical study of 1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus. Each qualification of biblical leaders outlined in these epistles was studied and crafted into portions of our selection criteria. We also studied Chris Brauns' book, When the Word Leads Your Pastoral Search. The qualifications of biblical leaders derived from this study became the basis of our prayers as we asked God to give us the man He had prepared for RBC. A very important distinction is that the search team sought to understand and apply the criteria God gave as essential and not what we considered to be important. Some candidates looked very good from the standpoint of externals such as "contemporary style, very polished public speaker, and appeals to a wide audience." With the access we all have to gifted Bible teachers through radio or the internet, we had to be cautious not to compare our candidates with nationally or internationally known Christian leaders and Bible expositors. After all, each of these men were once new pastors and Bible teachers. Further we understood that appealing to the particular tastes of individuals in the body (ours included) would never satisfy everyone. The only way to achieve unity as a church body was to seek God's perfect will and not any of our own imperfect, short-sighted preferences. The bottom line is; we had to trust God to give us what we needed.
Beyond the initial stage of the search (deciding what was needed) a very important point of interest along the journey was what I will call The Reflecting Pool. It was humbling, to say the least, that a team of imperfect people would now hold experienced, trained pastors up to a biblical standard. We found it was impossible to do this without reflecting on how we were meeting these standards in our work, in our families, and in our personal lives. This was cause for immediate pause. We stopped searching long enough to say, "God, search my heart and show me what needs to change." This continued throughout the year and a half long search process. As you meet Jason, I urge you to visit the Great Physician. It may be that you need to see the 'Great Ophthalmologist' as I did and say, "Lord please take the plank out of my eye so I can see clearly."
The last stop on the pastoral search journey was Returning to RBC's Foundation. At this stop the Search Team had time to look carefully at all of the structures that are standing strong. No doubt a very destructive force came against the church. But we were led by Pastor Rick and the elders to consider the strong points of the church. Rebuilding would involve putting things back in order. But the foundation is unchanged. It is Christ alone! We trust in His inerrant Word. We love God. We love one another and we love the lost with the gospel. The SWOT assessment conducted by RBC's Pastors and Elders revealed some weaknesses and some things that would need to change. But more than this, it revealed the foundation and the girders that held us together were all still very strong. Humility, unity, uncompromising biblical teaching, genuine relationships with Jesus and with one another were all foundational elements or RBC. This was a good place to start the reconstruction. In the consideration of who RBC's next Senior Pastor would be, we had to acknowledge this was not about one man coming to solve all of our problems. All we could ask of God is to give us a shepherd who intensely loves God, and fervently and sacrificially loves God's people by caring for them and feeding them according to His Word. This is what God has sent us in Jason Swanson. I can truly say with all my heart that Jason is a faithful shepherd of God's flock. Based on every conversation we have had with Jason and on every bit of feedback given to us by those who know him over the past twenty years, I am convinced Jason is the man God has provided to be the next Senior Pastor of Rancho Baptist Church.
From the beginning, I was well aware that this task was way too heavy for me, and the only way I could be part of this team was to rely on God and be led by His Holy Spirit. I was, and still am excited to see what God has planned for this new season in the life of RBC.
Our first few months together were spent going through a series of team building exercises. Through these we learned the importance of knowing our goal, the process it would take, and the information that we needed to know to arrive at that goal. Through that we built our profile (with input from the elder board) and the process each candidate would go through.
When Jason’s application came to us we were well into the interview process with other candidates. There were a few that we were interested in, but using our pastor profile, they were lacking in a couple very important “must have” areas. At that same time, we were starting the interview process with Jason, and those “must have” areas that others were lacking in, we could see were strong characteristics in Jason.
We had three in-depth interviews with Jason. Each one designed to go deeper into who he is. At the end of each interview I grew more interested in him. After the interviews, there were still a couple concerns from the team, but in interviewing his references, these concerns were addressed and dissolved. Our meeting in his home with his family was the final step, and it was better than I expected. In talking with him through the interviews, he came across as a strong family man, but seeing him in that setting was impressive. I could see that pastoring at RBC, or any church, would not be just a job for Jason, but a family ministry, much like they had experienced in PNG. We asked his wife and each of the kids how they felt about RBC and moving to Temecula. They were all excited and on board for where ever the Lord would take them.
Things I saw in Jason:
1. His experience. He is lacking experience in preaching in an American church.
1. His experience. During his time in PNG, he had to first learn the language of the tribe. Then he took this tribe from a basic belief in Jesus, to a church of solid believers that love Jesus and love the Word, established a group of elders, and sent out missionaries to the surrounding villages. He encountered numerous cultural obstacles and hurdles that had to be dealt with.
2. His high energy.
3. His love for the Lord and the Word.
4. His desire to disciple and mentor others.
5. His heart for missions.
6. His desire to preach the Word.
7. The importance he puts on his wife and kids, and they on him.
8. His excitement for the Lord is contagious.
He is passionate in his beliefs. He truly desires to help others grow in their relationship with Jesus. I see him bringing contagious energy and excitement to RBC which has been in a “pause” mode too long. I am excited, not only to see how God uses him to work in our church family, but also to see how he works in our staff, discipling, encouraging, setting a vision, etc. I see him as a strong leader in all these areas.
As a member of the Pastoral Search Team, it is my pleasure to enthusiastically, and without hesitation, recommend that Jason Swanson be called as the next Senior Pastor at Rancho Baptist Church.
My first direct exposure to Jason came when I reviewed his application. While most candidate’s answers to application questions lacked depth, Jason’s answers stood out for their thoughtfulness, completeness, and candidness. His application was the best one that I reviewed.
During interviews, Jason’s passion for teaching the Word stood out. Not just the teaching but his entire process of preparation and his holistic approach to ministry. How he digs into the text and first finds application to his own life. In reviewing his sermons, I found his teaching to be solid. While no one interview answer can encapsulate all that I like about Jason, the following response about how the skills he used to learn about the Siawi tribe would serve him as a Senior Pastor, did resonate with me:
"It totally applies, ministry isn't in a box, it is people. I am not saying I will compromise on God's Word. My fellow students want to just go straight to teaching doctrine…I say, hold on guys, find out where your people are. But meet them where they are…teaching like John MacArthur…sure that is great but our goal is to assist people in their process of sanctification, tweak what you do, meet your audience."
Finally, I find the story of his, and his family's, life as Missionaries to be beyond impressive. To learn a foreign language, teach God’s Word in that language, identify elders, train elders up, turn the church over to those elders, and have it continue to thrive; that does not happen without the anointing of the Holy Spirit. I am excited to see what God has planned for RBC under Jason's leadership.
Candidate Event Reports
The Pastoral Search Team has been writing report summaries of the week's candidate events. Click the pull down menu below to download the PDF reports of each event.
Click Here to Open Reports
Monday Night Men's Meeting
The men of RBC descended on the campus Monday night to meet Senior Pastor Candidate Jason Swanson.
Tuesday Night High School Parent's Meeting
Parents of high school students were invited to join us at youth group on Tuesday night as another opportunity to get to know pastoral candidate Jason Swanson and his wife Shannon.
Wednesday Night All Church Town Hall and Q&A
A Town Hall meeting was held in the sanctuary on Wednesday evening with approximately 120 people in attendance.
Thursday Night Ladies' Meeting
The final event of Candidate Week took place Thursday evening with the RBC Women having a time of prayer, worship, and sharing with pastoral candidate Jason Swanson along with his wife Shannon.
Wrapping Up the Week
The Town Hall meeting time didn’t allow us to get through all the questions received, here are those questions and Jason’s answers gathered during the search process or during the week.
To download Jason's candidate brochure, click the link below.