Quick Links

Live Your Purpose



2015 Distinguished Service in Christian Ministries Award - Randy McWhorter


A pioneer for healthy change in California

As both a native Californian and the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, Randy McWhorter was clearly being prepared for his unique purpose from day one. And that journey began when Randy felt called to be a pastor at the age of 19. “When you are called to ministry, it’s a call to prepare yourself,” Randy said, “and the only thought that went through my mind was, I’ve got to go to CBU.”

“The entire student body was just over 800 students, and even then, there wasn’t enough room for everybody,” Randy recalled. “We didn’t have electricity or hot water that first semester. We even had to spend a semester on the girls’ floor of the dorm because there wasn’t enough room for the guys.” But for Randy, these were fond memories. “It was an adventure for us because we knew the university was growing, and we were there for a purpose, so we were willing to do whatever it took.”

While attending CBU was an important part of his preparation, Randy didn’t wait to begin his life of service in the ministry. Randy joined a team of CBU students that served local churches on the weekends. “We had a worship leader, a preacher, and a fellowship leader, and sometimes we’d get called to be part of weekend revivals at local churches,” Randy said.

It was also during this time that Randy met his wife, Leigh, while attending his father’s church in Santa Paula. Randy graduated from CBU in May 1978, got married in July, and then moved to Fort Worth, Texas to attend Southwestern Theological Seminary that fall.

Again, Randy wasted no time finding an opportunity to actively serve in church while attending seminary. “I was called to be the associate pastor of a small church in Patillo, Texas, which is about 60 miles west of Fort Worth,” Randy recalled. “My wife and I would drive out and spend the weekend in a trailer we had by the church, and then we’d drive back to Fort Worth for classes on Monday.”

After graduating with a master of divinity degree from Southwestern, Randy felt called to return to California, where he became senior pastor of Calwa Baptist Church in Fresno. “It was a church that had been in decline for a long time,” Randy said. “That first Sunday, we had 32 in attendance - 30 of those were 65 or older, and the 2 that weren’t were my wife and me. But during the 3 years we were there, we saw lots of people get saved, we added a worship service, and the Lord just really blessed us.”

With Calwa Baptist in a healthy place, Randy then felt called to pastor First Baptist Church of Fountain Valley (now Shoreline Baptist Church) in Southern California. “When we joined Shoreline, the attendance was smaller than what Calwa had become, but the potential was really great there.” Randy said.

After 15 years as pastor of Shoreline Baptist, he returned to Fresno in 1999 to become Evangelism Director for the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC). And now, with 18 years of experience nurturing and leading these two previously struggling churches, Randy’s bigger purpose was becoming clear.

In 2004, Randy pioneered the Healthy Church Group within the CSBC. This group is focused on helping churches develop a ministry approach that meets the unique cultural needs of indigenous Californians. The goal is for congregations to thrive and grow as the direct result of this customized approach.

“One of the issues is how Southern Baptists got started in California,” Randy explained. “People who moved here from Texas, Oklahoma, and other places in the South, didn’t find any churches like they had back home. So they started a lot of our Southern Baptist churches, but they wanted church to be the way it was back home. And although a lot of people were getting saved and a lot of growth occurred in those churches, that was largely the result of more people moving here from the South.”

“We help churches identify the main issues, and we tell them ‘tweak, don’t tear.’” Randy said. “We don’t want to destroy their ministries, we want to help them sharpen the ministry. With just a few changes they can become effective and begin reaching the people they want to reach.” This “healthy church” focus is catching on with other states as well, as Randy and his group have been called on to provide training to several other state convention healthy church teams.

Randy also serves as an adjunct professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his doctorate of ministry. “This has been one of the real blessings of my career,” Randy said. Golden Gate Seminary has worked closely with Randy and the Healthy Church Group to develop a Healthy Church Doctorate of Ministry. “It’s a real joy to take the passion you have for the ministry you’re doing, and then train next-generation leaders.”

Randy and his wife have also been busy raising the next generation of CBU students. “We’re extremely fortunate that all 3 of our children have been able to experience CBU and graduate from there, and even met their spouses there,” Randy said.
“I think CBU was everything I wanted it to be, and more, in terms of developing the call that God had on my life. And I think CBU continues to equip Christians to live their purpose in whatever God has called them to do.”

Date:08/18/2015Written By:Alumni RelationsCategory:Alumni Stories