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Bonita Valley Baptist Church

4701 Sweetwater Road, Bonita

Membership: 200

Pastor: Jim Carpenter

Age: 58

Born: Denver, Colorado

Formation: University of Denver, Denver, Colorado; Denver Seminary, Littleton, Colorado; Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena

Years Ordained: 33

San Diego Reader: Can you think of a time when you gave a sermon that completely flopped?

Pastor Jim Carpenter: I don’t think you ever know how it’s going to go. There’s a dynamic in teaching God’s word. There’s something the Lord is doing in spite of what you’re doing and that happens quite often, I find. I work hard to prepare and hope for the best, but sometimes the Lord may have another plan. It’s humbling when people comment on something that was really meaningful to them even though I didn’t plan to say it.

SDR: What is your main worry as member of the clergy?

PJ: That I’ll dishonor Christ in any variety of ways. I fear I may act one way up front and another way in my private life. If you saw me at my home I would not want you to see anything that would cause you to say, “What a jerk that guy is. On Sunday morning he seems like this godly person, but look at him now yelling at this other driver on the road.” I’m by no means perfect, but I would want to be the same on the inside as I am on the outside.

SDR: What is the most prevalent sin you observe or hear about from your congregants?

PJ: The most prevalent sin is idolatry for a lot of people. I think idolatry is not necessarily having a little plastic God-figure on your bookshelf but worshipping and serving something other than the God of creation. That’s a biggie. We’re not talking about literal golden calf but about people who say, “Look at me!” or “Look at my car!” That was one of God’s First Commandments, of course — not to have anyone or anything above him.

SDR: Why did you become a pastor?

PJ: I guess the short and spiritually trite answer is that God called me to be a pastor. I began to feel that calling when I was in my early teens. I became a Christian when I was 15 years of age, following the death of my father. At the time, my bent was toward teaching and my mother wanted me to be an attorney — a tax attorney, preferably — but after studying God’s word, it was odd how often there were opportunities for me even as a kid to pastor people and teach from the Bible. I was in a little farming community in western Colorado, and my minister one day said, “I’m going to be out of town. Would you like to preach in my place?” I was 16 years old at the time and I said okay. In any case, that started a long journey I guess I’m still on.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PJ: My conviction comes out of the Bible, as you might expect, and I believe people live eternally in hell or in heaven. I think that the factor that ends up determining that is their relationship or non-relationship to Jesus Christ.

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