A rough childhood turned Baptist preacher to Christ

Sandia Baptist Church’s new pastor Jason Schwope wants to reach out to Clovis residents who may not have a church home. CNJ photo by Eric Kluth.

By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ staff writer

Some Southern Baptists expect their ministers to be lifelong Baptists whose fathers and grandfathers were deacons or even pastors.

That doesn’t describe Sandia Baptist Church’s new pastor, who openly describes his background being raised by alcoholics and drug addicts who exposed him to sexual abuse.

“There is nobody in any of my history I know of, grandparents and beyond, who ever knew the Lord,” said Pastor Jason Schwope.

Schwope said he was saved at the age of 16 just as he was about to commit suicide.

“A friend who attended First Baptist Church of Killeen called police and then called his youth minister,” Schwope said. “I went to a youth camp, and I don’t know what he was preaching about, but I remember he said someone loved me and that someone was Jesus.”

Over the next few years, Schwope said he made a radical commitment to Christ and wants to preach that message for his parishioners at Sandia Baptist and also for Clovis residents who aren’t attending any church.

“Their greatest need, as far as I’m concerned, is a reconciliation between them and the Father through Jesus,” Schwope said. “We’ve got to show them the love of Christ before they’ll listen to the words you say.”

Schwope spent seven years as a youth minister at First Baptist Church of Texico before deciding to pursue a solo pastorate in 2002, and said he understands that leading a church in the pastorate is not easy.

“I take the role of a pastor very seriously,” Schwope said. “It has the overtones of being a shepherd. My calling is not to be the CEO of a church but to minister to the people and do life with them. I want to equip them to do the work of the ministry but also not be turned inward.”

Schwope said he became convinced he was called into some form of full-time Christian service shortly after his conversion.

“My heart was consumed with studying his word and leading and teaching his people,” Schwope said. “I believe I was one of those who God had called to specifically use that as a vocation. I knew God had called me to pastor and I wouldn’t be able to rest until I was in the pastorate.”

Schwope spent several years at Richland Hills Baptist Church, a small church in Muleshoe with about 35 to 40 people attending, before accepting a call in June to pastor Sandia Baptist with about 200 in attendance. Schwope said he understands that his background poses both opportunities and challenges for his ministry, and tries to be open about his past with his church members.

“I think God gave me a heart to minister to people who are going through the same thing I did,” Schwope said.

As an Eastern New Mexico University graduate who completed his theological training by correspondence courses, Schwope said he’s familiar with the Clovis and Portales areas and is glad to have the opportunity to return.

Schwope said he’s just as comfortable with the Southern Baptist Convention and is glad to be in a theologically conservative fellowship of churches.

“I believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God and our only standard of faith and practice,” Schwope said.