Senior Pastor Marshall and Pat Stevens
Pastor Marshall Stevens grew up in Calvary Baptist Church of American Canyon. He was present at the charter service, and his parents were charter members. He received Christ as his Saviour at the age of six and was baptized into Calvary Baptist Church. Pastor Stevens met his wife Patricia while attending Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College (now Heartland Baptist Bible College), and they were married in 1974. After graduating in 1978, he worked on staff at the Covina Baptist Temple. In August of 1980, he and his family moved back to Calvary Baptist Church, where he worked as Associate Pastor under the leadership of Pastor Norman Simpson. In March 1988, Pastor Stevens assumed the pulpit and leadership as the third pastor in the history of Calvary Baptist Church. Pastor Stevens’ messages are timely, practical, and Biblical. Pastor Stevens has served on the Executive Committee and as the President of the Alumni Association for Heartland Baptist Bible College. He is a regular chapel speaker at HBBC and continues to serve in various capacities for the college. He and his wife Pat have two children, both serving in full-time ministry.
On the occasion of Pastor’s 30th anniversary as pastor on March 11, 2018, he relayed an extended history of the events leading to him becoming the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church. The following is excerpted from that sermon:
It is hard for me to fathom that I have been pastor of Calvary Baptist Church for 30 years. Not because that is such a great accomplishment, but because it has gone so quickly. I thought it good that we go over some of the history of this milestone in our lives – and as I say, it is “ours.” Let me give you just slightly more than a brief history. I was born here in Vallejo and I grew up in this area and my parents and four of my siblings were charter members of Calvary Baptist Church back in 1959. I was too young to be saved at that time, but when I was six years old I was saved at youth camp. Now remember, in the history of our church, we were meeting in what was called at that time the Pythian Castle down on Sonoma Boulevard just north of Tennessee Street.
We were Calvary Baptist Church of Vallejo. That might sound a little tougher today than Calvary Baptist Church of American Canyon. I have fond memories of going down to that building as a young boy with my dad and my brothers and some of the other men in the church. We would meet there late on a Saturday night after the people who owned that place had their club meetings. We would go there and wash out ashtrays, setup chairs, and get it setup for church. I’ve told this before, one of my fondest memories is that they had one of the old sliding soda machines where you put the money in and you slide the soda out. Once in a while my dad would get us a soda from that machine. That was a big deal back then.
We didn’t get soda 24 hours a day back then. I remember also there was a time when the church actually attempted to purchase the property up on Lighthouse Drive which is now Hillcrest Baptist Church. I remember the time of meeting there and some of the things that went on at that place. I remember us driving up to church one Sunday night. It was dark. And Pastor Simpson, as we drove up, came out and told us that he had just gone in the building and somebody had ran out of the building at that time. My dad turned the car around and with the headlights on adjacent field; you could see a guy hiding out there in the grass. As a kid, we were thinking, “Whoa! This is scary stuff.” I have memory of some of those things when we met there. I remember meeting in the warehouse building down on California Street. We leased that building. There was a lot of remodeling and things that needed to be done. I do remember that while the church was meeting there at that time, Pastor Simpson was finally able to be on full-time.
Up until that point, he had worked a job at Mare Island while he pastored. Sometimes as a church we forget the sacrifices that others have made to get us to the point we are. Eventually he was put on full-time salary. We then went back to the Pythian Castle for a time and while there, this property was found and purchased around 1966. I believe the purchase price was $12,000. Then in 1967 the first building was built, which is now called the Simpson Hall. Believe it or not, the contract on that building was for just a little over $29,000. It seemed to the church a big deal back then, and it probably was. I also remember the building of the second building, which is now our nursery and administration building back in 1972. The day before I left for Bible College, I was on the roof helping to get the final roofing materials in place. I went to Pacific Coast Baptist Bible College and I graduated there in 1978.
By that time, I had met and married my wife. By the time we graduated, we had two children. This was interesting. Around April of that year I was hired onto the full-time staff at Covina Baptist Temple. I had worked part-time for the church for a couple of years. My wife and I, by the way, were charter members of that church. I went to work at that time for Pastor Dick Meyers. I was youth director, music director, finance secretary, church secretary, and held several other positions. It’s really cool to work for a church that’s about our size, because you get to do a lot of different things.
In 1980 I realized it was time to leave there. Prior to that, in the presence of Pastor Meyers, he did it with great ethics, Pastor Simpson told me that if I ever wanted to come home and work at Calvary Baptist Church, to give him a call. I believed God was leading us out of there at that time, and I called him, and the Lord worked it out. I moved my family up here in August 1980. God blessed us greatly here. I served as youth director, music director, janitor, bus director, and a few other things, including Junior Church and other positions. My father died in 1986 and the Lord was really good to my kids as they were able to be around my dad for six years. My dad adored his grandkids. We all have fond memories of those times and thank the Lord.
In 1986 he died. He was the church treasurer. My dad was an “old-time” treasurer. He would take the money home and count it. We couldn’t even begin to think of that today. If you forgot to put your tithe in, and you normally did put it in, he would walk up to you and say, “I counted your tithe this morning, you can put it in tonight.” We lived in an older house over there on Cedar Street where my mom was when she died. The old electrical things used to have those old fuses and they would blow out. I remember a couple times, my dad having the money spread out counting it, and the power going out. My dad’s first thought was, “maybe somebody’s trying to steal the money.” A couple times he told me to stay put and watch and make sure that nobody comes in. I don’t know what I was going to do as a kid. It was the man that had to go out there and fix that electricity. After he died, I was put in charge of the finances as well. I have a lot of experiences in various areas in the church and I thank God for those opportunities.
In or around August of 1987, Pastor Simpson called me into his office. This was not an unusual thing for him to do. That’s another story. At that time he told me that he believed it was time to put in a plan whereby he would step down as pastor if, and only if, the church would call me (or vote me in) as pastor. Not long thereafter, he preached his Sunday morning message and at the end of the message he read a poem and in that poem he told the church he thought it was time for him to step down as pastor and that he believed he knew whom God would have to be the next pastor. He told the audience that if they came back to church that night, he would tell them whom it was. That’s one way to get the crowd back. Most people would have recognized or believed right off that he was talking about me, but he made a statement that kind of threw things into flux a little bit. He said, “… and it might surprise you who it is.”
There were some people very anxious. He told me that he got some phone calls from several people. I also got a few phone calls. I may be wrong Tracey, but you called my wife and said, “I don’t need to know anything, but I need to know you’re not leaving.” Obviously, we couldn’t yet say anything. That night Pastor Simpson revealed that he believed it was God’s will that he would step down and that I would become pastor. That night a date was set for me to preach in view of a call for the pastorate of the church. When that time came, I preached and then my wife and I went back into church office, which is now where Phil has his office, and waited. The church voted and a short time later, we were called back out. The church had called us in a 100% (unanimous) vote to be the pastor. I accepted, and I thank the Lord for that. I did not become pastor until March 13, 1988 in the evening service. Back in those days, we would have a Faith Promise Missions Conference. Several times Don Kiser had preached the conference for us.
This would be a Faith Promise Missions Conference, a revival meeting, culminating in “Faith Promise Day” and the day we would celebrate the pastor’s anniversary and the day we would celebrate the church’s anniversary, and we would also have Homecoming Day. It was pretty much anything you wanted it to be that day. It was a huge day and a lot of stuff went on. It was quite a big deal when he announced that he would step down as pastor. It was during an afternoon service, and there were several area pastors that showed up to honor Pastor Simpson. To me, that day culminated in a very emotional moment that I really wasn’t ready for. I was excited to be becoming pastor. It was kind of like when my daughter got married – I was excited she was getting married, but when it came time to walk her down the aisle, I wanted a moment. Some of you dads know what I’m talking about. I wanted a moment to go out there and enjoy this, but don’t get me out there too early. I don’t want to be emotional! My daughter says, “We gotta go Dad! We gotta go!” I wasn’t really ready for that moment when he walked off the platform and then suddenly I was the pastor.
I was sad to watch him walk off that platform as the last time as pastor. He had told me that sometime during that next week he would clear out his office, so I could move into the office that was the pastor’s office at the time. I had taken Monday off and when I showed up Tuesday morning, he had already moved everything out. That was another one of those moments. Wow. It was hard. Even though I was excited about what God was doing in your life, it was difficult to realize that his twenty-eight years a pastor had ended. There was a time between when he announced and I preached in view of a call and the time I became the pastor. We called this the transition time. If you were here, you would remember that just about every service he would go over a few things with the church. For example, when I became pastor, stop calling me “Marshall” and call me “Pastor.” And no longer call me “Pastor.” If you have a need, don’t call me, call the pastor. If you have a problem with the pastor, don’t come to me. He would go over things like that and it was a neat thing. When I became pastor, it was very, very smooth transition and I thank the Lord for the wisdom he had in conducting the transition. I’ve been in full-time ministry since April 1978 and I’ve been at Calvary Baptist Church and on staff since August 1980.
I understand that one of the smart-alecky Sunday school teachers asked his class today how many of them were alive when I became pastor. It was my son. And there were only two or three in the class that were barely alive at that time. Then I learned that Brother Jim had asked the question of his class, “How many were already retired” when I became pastor. The first few years as pastor, honestly I look back at those times, and there were really some great times. The Lord blessed us and we experienced sustained blessings. The church was growing, we were filling up our little building, and a lot of things were going. When I became pastor, there were several other pastors that came around and congratulated me and a few of them would say, “Congratulations, but get ready, the hard times are coming.” I would think to myself, I don’t have that attitude about the ministry. I was young and would think, “well, that’s you not me.” But there were a few hard times.
After about four or five years, I began to think this is pretty easy. Of course, as a church, we went through some difficult times. Then of course, the democrats saw to it that Mare Island was shut down, which is the prevailing opinion. We began seeing people moving away, including a number of military families. Then we had, believe it or not, a deacon and a trustee and their families take exception to me and they stood against me and they left the church with a few other people. About that time also, there were some other ways that Satan attacked my family. We were going through some difficult times. I was home one day, and notice I have a phone message. As I listened to the message, it was a pastor, and he said something like, “I hear your church is looking for a new pastor and I’d like to submit my name for consideration.”
At first I was thinking, “What!” I don’t even remember whom it was that left that message, but I remember knowing that this guy was not somebody you wanted around. With a little bit of investigation I learned that I wasn’t getting fired. A pastor friend at that time was putting out a list of independent Baptist churches that were in need of a pastor and there was a church in the area that needed a pastor and because he knew me, he put me down as a contact for that church even though I had nothing to do with it.
The Lord was so good and faithful to us throughout all that stuff. We thank the Lord for that. Because we have seen the Lord sustain us through those times, we have seen the Lord do some great and wonderful and mighty things. It is a remarkable thing for a church to have the same pastor for thirty years. I joke around sometimes and tell people it’s because you don’t know how to get rid of a pastor (audience chuckles). It is as much a testament to the sacrifices of the people of God as it is to any pastor. More than all of that, it is a testament to the faithfulness of Almighty God.— Pastor Marshall Stevens, Calvary Baptist Church