Rusty Lyon is the lead pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Turlock and part-time football coach.
Q. How did your call to service come about?
A. In my teenage years and into my early 20s, I had no inkling that I would be a pastor one day. It was certainly not on my “radar screen!" But at a time of transition in my life, when my faith was deepening, various people that I respected gave me encouragement to consider it. One day, while living in Round Lake, Ill., I received a phone call from a church in California to come and be a youth pastor. So, my wife and 4-year-old daughter moved across the country to California and it’s been quite an adventure ever since!
Q. Who has been your biggest inspiration and why?
A. At every stage of life, especially upon entering the ministry, I’ve had informal mentoring relationships with older men who have poured their wisdom into my experience. Dr. Bob Cox, a former university president and pastor, who is still alive into his 90s, has especially impacted my life. He taught me a great deal about dealing with people graciously, and has helped shape within me a humble spirit.
Q. What is the biggest change you've seen in Turlock's faith community?
A. Over 13 years, I’ve been overjoyed with the spirit of unity that has characterized the pastors with whom I spend time. While I don’t believe we’ve had disunity, in these years I’ve been a part of a movement where walls have clearly come down. As pastors, we open our hearts to one another and truly care for each other. There is no competition between us and we are all on the same team.
Q. What do you look forward to the most each day as you go to work?
A. I love sharing a message of hope and transformation and inspiration with people – with anyone who wants to hear it! The message I’m graced to give, I believe, is ultimately what every person is longing for. Whether I’m preparing or presenting a message, shouldering a burden, or putting my hands on the shoulder pads of a freshman football player, I’m in a position to really bless people.
Q. What change would you like to see happen in Turlock in the next five years?
A. Unquestionably and unapologetically, I long for a spiritual renewal and revival. A community-wide discovery of faith in Jesus Christ is always on my heart. If what I desire to happen ever happens, we’ll need to build more churches and call more pastors to meet the need!
Q. What do you think Turlock should be most proud of?
A. I love the ethnic diversity of our community! I have so appreciated, for example, getting to know and be a part of the Assyrian community. What wonderful people! And before moving here, to think I didn’t even know that Assyrians existed (shame on me)! The fact that I live among so many Hispanics, Indians and Pakistanis, African-Americans, and Oriental cultures enriches my life.
Q. What do you like to do for fun?
A. I relish spending time with my beautiful wife, Karin. I love mentoring and coaching young men in football. For some odd reason, over the last 13 years I have coached on the football staffs of Turlock High School, Turlock Christian High School, and now Pitman High School. I am a huge NASCAR fan and attend at least one big NASCAR race every year. I enjoy playing golf, and at age 57, still try to keep up with the young bucks in basketball.
Q. What was the last thing you read?
A. I read a great book by Pastor James MacDonald entitled, "The Vertical Church." It challenged my thinking about maintaining a significant and lasting ministry in the local church.
Q. What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
A. While I take my faith in Jesus Christ and my calling very seriously, I am NOT a perfect Christian. I have needed God’s grace for the failures of my own life. Because God has been faithful to me throughout all the years of my life – the good, the bad, the ugly – I’m in a unique position to give people who have failed incredible hope. I’m not an angry, self-righteous pastor, that’s for sure!