Most of us on this campus do not know many people who have come from this college, except maybe Wayne Cordiero; but the reality is that many great people went through Eugene Bible College (EBC) before it was New Hope Christian College (NHCC). One of those men is Dr. AJ Swoboda. Don’t let the doctor in front of his name fool you; he is not old, but rather, looks and dresses like many of us, just A LOT smarter. Although Swoboda is now lead pastor at Theophilus church in Portland, which he planted in the Hawthorne District, and teaches at many schools such as George Fox Seminary, LIFE Pacific College, and Eternity Bible College (started by Francis Chan), he has a story with which many of us can probably relate.
Swoboda was born in Albuquerque, NM in 1981. His parents were not pastors or anything of the sort; in fact, he defines them as “non-denominational agnostics,” but by the age of nine, his parents divorced, an experience that many people on this campus have shared in, including myself. Yet Swoboda does not revel in that; rather, he tells of his first true exposure to Jesus in his high school sophomore year during his geometry class. A week later, he says he had his “conversion moment” in his car and has never been the same since.
What is his heart?
Swoboda says that his heart is “primarily to find Jesus for who He is and make every little atom of my existence about Him if possible.” Through Swoboda’s speaking and teaching, I have noticed another desire of his, though I want to stress, I have never heard him say that this is a desire of his. I have seen him breathe new life into Christianity in a way that I have never seen before. The first time I ever heard him speak was at Beaverton Foursquare. His message was entitled, “Church Picnics: God’s Will For Your Life.” The Bible college student in me cringed; my wife and I both looked at each other in disappointment because of the expectation to hear another twisting of the Scriptures to make it say something that it really doesn’t say, but by the end, both my wife and I were blown away and later attended the Beaverton Church Picnic because of how Swoboda wonderfully taught the truth of what Jesus is all about and how the intentions of a church picnic are all about those truths. Thinking about how he did that still blows my mind!
What did EBC teach him?
Many things have changed about the school that was once called EBC and is now known as NHCC, but Swoboda says that the school taught him three main things. First, it taught him about his now wife, Quinn Swoboda, (I can imagine now all the guys’ faces lighting up as you read that sentence and you think to yourself, “Maybe I have already met my future spouse too.” So funny the dynamics of Bible College!) Secondly, he says it taught him to love reading and studying the Bible. Thirdly, EBC taught him “how to love Christians who are very different than I. Because of EBC, I was given the skills to cope with the world of the Church in a healthy way.”
What Prompted the book “Messy”?
Swoboda published his first book entitled, “Messy, God Likes It That Way.” He says that this book is a “manifesto for those whose faith is messier that they would like to advertise… Christianity is messy. Unanswered prayers. Painful choices. Unresolved regrets. We’re called to have faith, and yet we doubt. We try to be perfect, but we fall short. This is the chaos. It’s all around us. There’s no limit to it. And there’s no quick fix for it. Both annoyingly honest and refreshingly humorous, Messy reassures humans that God can reveal Himself in their clutter. It offers biblical insight and vivid, personal stories to redefine faith from something that must be perfect to something that is imperfect, but can still give beauty, meaning, and purpose to a messy life. As entertaining as it is challenging, this book teaches us what it means to trust in each other, in grace, in hope, and in a Jesus who defied the rules of death. Here’s to finding hope in your chaos.”
Swoboda looks forward to the release of his published thesis paper later this year entitled, “Tongues and Trees,” which is all about the the never-ending ties to the Holy Spirit and ecology, and two other books coming out in 2013, one tentatively entitled, “Hug the Corpse: The Spirit of Power in Mission.” The second book is all about how Swoboda has tried to backslide from a Christianity that was centered on himself; he says he plans on becoming a better dad and husband to his family and searching for what Jesus is doing in Portland. He says, “I am in love with the community of Theophilus.”
This is a man that every student of NHCC can look up to. I recommend that every student get to know the name AJ Swoboda, and read his book entitled, “Messy, God Likes It That Way”; you will find countless truths packed into this less than 100 page book. To purchase this book: click here
By Tyler Ogletree