California church mourns loss of pastor

California church mourns loss of pastor

by | 05 Aug 2016
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Ron Salsbury, senior pastor of New Life Community Church of the Nazarene in Pismo Beach, California, died peacefully July 31 surrounded by family after a long battle with cancer. He was 66.

Pismo Beach New Life Community Church is one of the largest Nazarene churches on the USA/Canada Region. 

As a communicator, "Pastor Ron" inspired thousands of believers on California's Central Coast and around the world with his positive and inspiring messages. This came out of his own experience with cancer. Diagnosed in 2004 with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, he survived several years only to be diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma in 2013. He believed God was using his personal trial to help others see God as the giver of life.

“One of the blessings for me was seeing how God changed our church family," he said in a 2014 interview. "When I first announced, people were freaked out. The first reaction was fear and loss. That’s when God gave me the battle cry ‘Faith not Fear.’”

Salsbury started his ministry as part of the “Jesus Movement” of the 1970s. He was a pioneer in Christian rock music and the leader of the band “Ron Salsbury and the J. C. Power Outlet.” As a singles pastor at Los Angeles First Church of the Nazarene he felt the call to preach and later moved to Lancaster, California, where he served as pastor of the Lancaster Church of the Nazarene. In 1993 he came to the Central Coast as pastor of New Life Community Church. His ability to make complex theology simple and to make Christ’s message of love and hope relevant was part of what enabled him to take a church of a few hundred and grow it to a megachurch with well over 2,500 people in weekend services.

His ministry roots also gave him a heart for the needy, so he used his influence and the resources of New Life to support many ministries, including Captive Hearts, the Association of Amputee Surfers, Teen Challenge, and Brighten a Corner, among many others.

“Because Pastor Ron continually promoted South County People’s Kitchen, New Life is one of its most involved churches,” said Betsy Ehrler, president of its board.

One year when the Salvation Army bell-ringers were not allowed in front of a major area store, he shared with the congregation that the majority of the money Salvation Army receives to support local families came from bell-ringers and he challenged the church to “make up the difference.” On one weekend they gave more than $60,000.

Pastor Ron’s heart for those in need extended “across the street and around the world.” In 2006 he was challenged to meet the needs of children from the lowest castes and poorest families of India.

“I’ll never forget the moment Pastor Ron saw the opportunity, turned to me and said, ‘Should we buy this land?’” said Mike Sparrow, a longtime supporter of the project.

As a result of Salsbury's efforts, New Life provided the funds to purchase land and build the buildings for the Prince of Peace School. It now educates more than 1,000 students daily, providing clothing and food for many. Salsbury was also instrumental in launching a child development center and micro-business program for women in Bangladesh, as well as bringing clean water to villages in Africa.

Because Salsbury's vision for the church extended beyond New Life, he was catalytic in bringing pastors on the Central Coast together.

“He had a great love and respect for the larger Body of Christ and wanted every church to be successful," said Sparrow, who pastors Agape Church. "So he was constantly encouraging other pastors with calls, resources, and prayer.”

A memorial service to celebrate Pastor Ron's life and ministry will be held at 11 a.m. August 20 at New Life Church.

Please continue to pray for Cathi, Jeff, Sara, and the other family members during this time.

--New Life Community Church of the Nazarene

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