Frank Wooden: “Anything you put before God can become an idol, whether it’s a fitness regimen or...climbing the corporate ladder.”
  • Frank Wooden: “Anything you put before God can become an idol, whether it’s a fitness regimen or...climbing the corporate ladder.”
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Sweetwater River Church

6090 Banbury St., Paradise Hills

Denomination: Assembly of God

Membership: 125

Pastor: Frank Wooden

Age: 53

Born: Berkeley

Formation: Vanguard University, Costa Mesa; Bethany Bible College, Santa Cruz.

Years Ordained: 24

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?

Pastor Frank Wooden: We do something different at Sweetwater. I’m gifted with a great pastoral team of credentialed ministers, and we do a team process twice a month. At the moment, we’re looking at an upcoming sermon series, so one of us will be assigned the duty of mapping out the message series. Each week, whoever is scheduled to preach for that week will preach their own sermon using the notes and research we’ve gathered. So between the notes and research done beforehand, and what it takes me in any given week, it’s probably around a 12–14 hour process to develop a message.

SDR: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?

PW: I’m big on the concept that hope does change things. Our God is a God of hope. We designed our whole ministry around hope and use as our website. I think at some point we’ll probably change the name of our church to reflect that same idea. I really believe the world is searching for hope. That hope is found in a person named Jesus Christ. So anytime someone visits our church, the whole goal is to encourage their hope.

SDR: Which of the Ten Commandments does your congregation have the hardest time keeping?

PW: I think all of them can be challenging, but the first one, to have no other gods, can be tricky. We pat ourselves that we’re more educated than to bow before an idol, but I think we can have other gods that go by more palatable names which can worm their way into our lives. Anything that you put before God can become an idol, whether it’s a fitness regimen or trying to make a success in life climbing the corporate ladder. I think those are the things in life that are most subtle in the ways they work their way into us.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PW: I sensed a call by God. It wasn’t an audible voice but I knew that ministry is where he wanted me to be. Each time that the next step came…there were confirmations that came along that just kept reminding me I was on the right path.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PW: My favorite verse in scripture is John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except by me.” I think we all appear before Christ. The goal is that Christ came to give us abundant life (John 10:10), and we look at abundant life as not only eternal life, although that’s a component of it, but also as a certain quality of life we can live now. I look at it as a continuum. Christ came to change my life for now, but also for eternity. The key is that this must happen through Jesus Christ…. There is no other way except through Jesus, and heaven is our eternal home. We also believe there is a hell. If heaven can be described as eternal paradise with Christ, hell is a place I would describe as eternal torment.

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