Senior pastor Jim Birchfield was born in 1956 in Waukegan, Illinois, and received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1979. After college, Jim moved through increasingly senior positions in advertising and magazine publishing in Detroit and Los Angeles.
In 1989, Jim accepted Jesus Christ as his personal savior and sensed a call to full time Christian service. In 1992, this call became irresistible; Jim resigned his position as senior vice president of an international advertising agency and entered Fuller Seminary. At Fuller, he earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry while working at Los Angeles’ Bel Air Presbyterian Church. Throughout his four years at Bel Air, Jim served as director of high school ministry, director of missions and director of ministry to single adults.
In 1996, Jim accepted a call to St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, where he spent the next thirteen years as associate pastor for young adults, singles, missions, and discipleship and then executive pastor. During this time, Jim led ten short-term mission trips to Malawi, Romania, Poland, Kenya, as well as several longer trips to Egypt where the Birchfield’s continue to maintain close friendships.
Jim is a voracious reader, who tries to stay current on Christian theology and its practical applications to his ministry. For pleasure, Jim reads history, biography and modern fiction. Jim also enjoys playing golf with friends and is a huge fan of college football, basketball and professional golf.
In Jim’s own words, “The most critical issues facing today’s church are remarkably similar to those confronting the early church. On the surface, the symptoms may seem different, but the core problems have remained the same for 2,000 years. We were created to be in a close relationship with God and in healthy association with each other. Instead, we are broken and self-centered, struggling with fear, isolation, and futile striving. Left to ourselves, we are threatened with alienation from God and from each other every day of our lives.”
“The Lord directs the New Testament church to address this brokenness by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, warmly supporting each other in Christian fellowship and service, undergirded by sound Christian doctrine. We must endeavor, as the community of God’s people, to witness about Jesus, by boldly proclaiming the good news, and, even more important, to live as witnesses of Jesus’ healing power in our lives, by encouraging each other to live the way powerfully taught and perfectly modeled by our Lord.”
“Today’s church is also challenged by the illnesses that plague the culture around us, especially materialism and egotism. This has caused a discipleship “deficit” within the church today. We still have lots of “members,” but few of us are truly committed to living obediently as life-long servants of Jesus Christ. To be effective witnesses, we must build on the authority of Scripture and the full deity of Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as our only source of salvation. Our commitment to evangelism and to making, encouraging, equipping and deploying disciples has to be based on that rock-solid foundation.”
The Birchfield Family
Jim and his wife, Marta, both grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan where they fell in love during high school at their senior prom. After high school, Jim and Marta both attended Michigan State University. Throughout their ministry, Jim and Marta have led many covenant and discipleship groups, and intentionally mentored young adults. The Birchfield’s also love to entertain in their home and to travel, including serving together on short term mission trips.
Marta Birchfield, a certified public accountant, spent five years with Deloitte & Touche in Detroit and four years with Arthur Andersen in Los Angeles. Once their two daughters arrived, Marta reduced her work schedule and eventually left public accounting to establish her own consulting practice. A Christian since her youth, Marta has participated in dozens of foreign mission trips and frequently donates her professional gifts and experience to Christian organizations. Marta enjoys taking long walks, swimming, yoga and tennis.
The Birchfield’s oldest daughter, Lauren, was a Rhodes finalist at UCLA, where she graduated in 2006 with a degree in political science. Lauren also studied at Oxford University in England, and graduated from Harvard Law School in 2009. Lauren is deeply invested in human rights and health care policy, and currently lives in Boston.
Three years younger than Lauren, Emily Birchfield graduated from UCLA in 2009 with a degree in international development studies. Emily also studied in South Africa, served in Bel Air Presbyterian’s high school ministry and participated in mission trips to Mexico, Malawi, and Egypt. Emily recently completed a two year tour with the Peace Corp in South Africa, and is now living in San Francisco.
Family is a top priority for the Birchfield’s. Jim and Marta actively seek opportunities to reunite their family, now living on all three coasts, to nourish and enjoy the intimacy and openness, which are among their greatest joys.