Interview with Phil Sanchez

11/28/2017 .
Saddleback Church

Last month we celebrated the one-year anniversary of Saddleback San Diego and reflected on all the ways that God has blessed this campus. Less than a month after that big event, Campus Pastor Jeff Gonzalez announced that he’ll be leaving the San Diego team to help Fill God’s House in Coachella Valley.

“God opened an opportunity for us to launch a Saddleback Church in the Palm Springs area,” says Pastor Jeff. “Although we know that transitions can be an emotional time, we also know that God is good as he prepares the way for the next pastor and his family to take the helm of our Saddleback San Diego family.”

Filling that role as San Diego’s new Campus Pastor is Phil Sanchez who previously served as Worship Leader for Saddleback Newport Mesa. Following his official start date on Sunday, December 3, he jumped right into the position during his favorite time of the year.

“I’m excited to start this journey during Christmas,” says Pastor Phil. “I hope to be a part of continuing to build a local church community in San Diego that appeals to people and helps them experience a relatable church family.”

While the transition may have been swift, God had been preparing Pastor Phil for this leadership role for years. At his Christian high school, he served as worship leader, and went on to work as Worship and College Pastor at Calvary Chapel in Diamond Bar. It was there that he met his wife Connie, and gained training to lead teams and build ministries from the ground up. 

In 2011, Pastor Phil was invited to lead worship at Saddleback’s Huntington Beach campus—now the Newport Mesa location. Little did he know that moment would mark the beginning of his four-year hiring journey.

By 2015, he became the official Worship Pastor for Saddleback Newport Mesa, all while working as a dispatcher for a small trucking company. With a background as an EMT, his decision to leave the emergency service for ministry was an act of obedience. Monday through Friday he would dispatch trucks and oversee compliance, and Saturday and Sunday he would faithfully lead worship at Saddleback.

“God was working in my heart and increasing my vision,” says Pastor Phil, “not just with worship, but in all five purposes.”

During the next two years, Pastor Phil helped raise up a thriving worship community at Saddleback Newport Mesa. He also had the opportunity to teach CLASS, lead deeper discipleship training with Foundations, and work alongside Campus Pastor, Randy Craft. Other mentors started pouring into his life, including Pastor Ron Keck and Pastor Ken Baugh. They asked Phil challenging questions and helped him identify leadership traits, tools, and podcasts that would help him grow as a leader.

As Pastor Phil explains, his position at Newport Mesa was a chance to create a celebratory worship experience tailored to reach people from all walks of life. “From the moment you walk onto the campus, you feel invited, loved, and cared for in a unique way.”     

A personal highlight during his Newport Mesa training was taking part in Saddleback’s leadership class for future campus pastors. It didn’t take long before the young pastor recognized that he fit many of the characteristics typical of campus pastors—including Purpose Driven, innovative, compassionate, and pioneering. Not only did the course help him grow as a leader, but it made him more aware of God’s future calling.  

When God called, he called clearly and quickly. This summer, Pastor Phil and his wife Connie felt a stirring in their hearts that God was calling them to something more. Without knowing the destination, the couple leaned on the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10.

“We prayed that God would enlarge our territory and that he would keep us in his protection,” explains Pastor Phil. “When this rather unique opportunity presented itself, we knew that it was God answering a prayer that we had been praying over our lives. We knew that God was going to expand our borders beyond Orange County and into San Diego County.”

The pieces started falling into place, and the location seemed like the perfect fit. Pastor Phil and Connie were no strangers to San Diego. They had joined in Saddleback San Diego’s campus launch events and had built relationships within the community. Throughout his life, Phil’s family had been vacationing in North County every spring and winter, so the area felt like a second home.

Despite this clear direction and open opportunity, the position was not without steps of faith. The couple has grown to love the church community they’ve built in Newport Mesa, and have served alongside some of the finest volunteers at Saddleback Church.

“We really feel like they are our family,” says Pastor Phil. “They’ve been with us during the highs and lows these last few seasons. They’ve mourned with us during our time of infertility and they’ve been there to rejoice with us when we received the amazing news that we were pregnant. So it’s a step of faith to trust that God has a new community of friends for us.”

The relocation means the couple will be farther from their families and support system. They are also stepping out in faith that God will provide the perfect San Diego house to call home. For now, Pastor Phil is placing his focus on his new pastoral position and trusting that God will take care of the rest.

He’s excited to partner with campus volunteers to help minister to the community. “I’ve seen first hand how the volunteers in San Diego are of the highest caliber,” he says. “They love on people like I’ve never seen and are so willing to do anything to reach the non-believer and bring them the love of God.”

With support from the church family, Pastor Phil’s goals are to “reach the one” and bring hope to the hurting and create a place where people feel loved. He will strive to be a pastor who guides, loves, and supports people in a way that they can experience God’s unfailing love for them. Pastor Phil also hopes to continue living out Saddleback’s vision since 1980—to know Christ and make him known through: “A Great Commitment to the Great Commandant and the Great Commission will grow a great church.” 

“Everything we do will come out of these great texts and the five eternal purposes of the church,” says Pastor Phil. “We have a lot to offer San Diego with its different cultures and proximity to Camp Pendelton and the Mexican border. We are a multiethnic church that places a strong value on diversity. One of our 10 values is that we are an all nation congregation. We want to have a church that looks like what heaven will look like.”

To learn more about Saddleback San Diego, and Pastor Phil Sanchez, visit saddleback.com/sandiego.