District Superintendent Steve Highfill Leaves EFCA West as Tim Jacobs Steps into the Key District Role

The position of district superintendent in EFCA West has changed in December of 2019. After nearly thirty years Steve Highfill has retried. Tim Jacobs of Compass Church in Arizona has become the new EFCA West District Superintendent. This post looks at the change of leadership in EFCA West and lays the foundation for a coming open letter to Tim Jacobs.  

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Colin Powell

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:23 NIV

The new EFCA West District Superintendent Tim Jacobs 

Tim Jacobs at Compass Church in Arizona. 

EFCA West is a large district in the Evangelical Free Church of America. It includes most of California from Southern to Central California and goes to the San Francisco Bay Area, but does not go into Northern California. Northern California is what Neal Brower of the Western District is responsible for overseeing. EFCA West spreads out to Southern Idaho, Nevada as well as Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. It also includes El Paso, Texas. In December of 2019 the EFCA West District Superintendent retired from the EFCA and a new leader is now calling the shots. 


Steve Highfill Retires From the EFCA 

When Steve Highfill became the District Superintendent of EFCA West it was a very different world. Mikhail Gorbachev led the Soviet Union and Desert Shield was underway which was trying to evict Iraq out of Kuwait. The Warsaw Pact would be dissolved that same year. In California George Deukmejian was stepping down as governor while Pete Wilson was preparing to step into the role. In the United States Senate Alan Cranston and John Seymour represented California. Nirvana was popular and Dances With Wolves which was directed by Kevin Kostner won the Academy Aware for Best Picture.  Steve Highfill became the District Superintendent on January 1, 1991. His predecessor challenged him to lead the district for 25 years. In the end he lead it for 29. I did a biography of Steve Highfill back in 2016 which you can read in, “Analysis of EFCA West of the Evangelical Free Church of America” and an open letter in, “An Open Letter to Steve Highfill (EFCA West Director).” 

In his resignation letter of December of 2019 Steve Highfill explained why he decided to leave the district superintendent position.  By leaving early he could have an orderly transition and it was also better to leave too early than not leave too late. He reflected on thirty years of ministry and left with some final guidance. 

  1. Regardless of the church being large or small, rural or urban, healthy or unhealthy the local church is still the tool that God uses according to Highfill. 
  2. God anoints every leader of the local church to be his mouth piece. The bar of qualification for early church leaders was much lower than it is today. 
  3. Churches which are comprised of imperfect humans will have periods of difficulty. There are times that are challenging but stick with it and don’t give up and ask for help. 
  4. Ministry was not meant to be a solo undertaking. 
  5. The church should be targeting young individuals and coaching and investing in them so that they can lead tomorrow. Even in professional sports teams there is a lot of effort to discipline and mentor people so that they can grow. The church should be the same way. 
  6. Health and ministry can not be linked to adequate resources. Some of the most successful “ministries” in the world are spiritually bankrupt. 
  7. No one is indispensable. Life is short and be loyal to the Lord and don’t expect fanfare. 

He then closed out his resignation letter with the following paragraph. 

I could go on, but hopefully you detect the deep-seated sense of well-being and optimism I share as the baton of leadership is passed. For our part, Deedee and I are enjoying life with undeserved good health, family connections, and friendships. We plan to stay rooted in Southern California with frequent visits to Texas to see our kids and grandkids. God has blessed us with a local church family we love. And the options of continued ministry seem at times to be daunting: mentoring young leaders, outreach to Camp Pendleton Marines, church consulting, community and neighborhood involvement, to name a few. Dallas Seminary professor and Pine Cove Camp director Dr. Phillip Hook once warned me: “The suffocating list of options to serve Christ will only increase with age…. get accustomed to making hard choices.” That advice has proven to be prophetic. Please know that our life investment in the ministries of EFCA West guarantee our continued prayer support and interest for the duration. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in this role.”

If you are interested I would encourage you to read the entire letter for context. You can do so in Highfill_farewell


Tim Jacobs is Now the EFCA West District Superintendent 

Tim Jacobs is now in charge of EFCA West. This was announced by the national EFCA in October of 2019 which you can read here. Jacobs is originally from Chatsworth, California. Tim earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Pepperdine University in 1996.  He also obtained a Master of Divinity from Talbot School of Theology in 2002. And then a Doctor of Ministry from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2011. Tim has also served as a Chaplin in the United States Air Force Reserves. In ministry he was worked at the Church at Rocky Peak at Chatsworth, California. He moved to Arizona and became the Lead Pastor of Mountain Vista Church from January 2002 until July of 2007. Then he lead Compass Church from 2007 until the end of 2019 it appears. Previously in EFCA West Tim worked as the Director for Church Multiplication. Tim who has served as an Air Force Reserve Chaplain wrote in his letter to EFCA West how he views ministry which comes from Air Force culture. You can read that section below. 

“So, with a million thoughts in my head about the opportunities and challenges that lie
before us, let me just share two. First, over the past six years, I’ve had the chance to serve as a Chaplain in the US Air Force Reserve. The Air Force has a creed, and in the last stanza it reads, “I will never leave an Airman behind.” An accompanying explanation of this reads, “As Airmen, no matter the situation, we all come home together.” In that same spirit, if I would have one wish, it would be this: No Pastor Left Behind. It is no secret that your work is rough. As a shepherd you fight a spiritual war every single day, often times alone and with multiple layers of resistance. Leadership is a wonderful but wearing business. It is my hope that we, as EFCA West pastors and leaders, no matter the situation, all come home together.

The second thought is that I am overwhelmed by the limitless potential each of us has to move the kingdom of God forward wherever he has placed us. Let us never forget who we are: First, we are Evangelical, which means we believe in the power of the gospel to actually transform even the most lost and hopeless lives! We also believe that Scripture is God’s breath, the lethal sword that separates joints and marrow, and as we preach it boldly and wisely, the trajectories of entire families and communities can and will change. Let us also never forget that we are Free. We rejoice in the liberty that is found in the Spirit of the God as he leads and guides us as shepherds of the Bride of Christ. We move forward with great courage with the blood of Jesus flowing in our veins and the wind of the Spirit blowing at our backs!”

Tim also has a blog which you can read here. I will add this to The Wondering Eagle’s blog roll as this blog documents and writes about the EFCA. Finally Tim is married and has three children. 


A Coming Open Letter to Tim Jacobs 

In the next few days I am going to compose an open letter to Tim Jacobs similar to what I do with other EFCA District Superintendents. The last one I wrote is to one of the co-leaders of the EFCA’s Eastern District, which you can read in, “An Open Letter to Cedrick Brown (EFCA Eastern District Co-Superintendent on Sharing Some Thoughts).There are a number of thoughts to communicate about the EFCA and Tim’s new position. I will say when I read what Steve Highfill wrote in his resignation letter parts of it bothered me deeply.  When you take the concept that the local church is the tool used by God, and then you layer congregationalism on top of that; well is that why I have written a number of abuse stories that I have? Is that why questionable church discipline, domestic abuse, and more have occurred? The EFCA assumes that congregationalism will always function best, but what about those not committed to congregationalism? In toxic churches the rules can be used to undermine the system. That is one of the ways a local church can become autocratic. As a former history grad student that is what happened in Germany. The German government used democracy to destroy it. It recently happened in Hungary last week with Victor Orban. He used democracy to destroy it. But I have a lot on my mind that I need to state to Tim Jacobs.