Tim Stevenson isn't your most orthodox kind of pastor. The colorful Galt pastor thinks that people won't understand the word of God by simply whipping out a few Bible passages and telling his congregation what God says they should or shouldn't do.
He delves into real life, problems that people have in the real world. On Sunday, he will devote his three services to pornography, some of it in language you wouldn't expect to hear in church.
During his services, he talks in the same language that one will hear outside the hallowed halls of Galt's Horizon Community Church.
"I don't call myself a preacher," Stevenson said. "I'd much rather have a conversation with you."
Stevenson often wears shorts and his beloved Harley shirts during services.
"I'm comfortable," he said. "I've been in shorts all my life."
But he doesn't care much for shoes. He often stands barefoot at the pulpit, or he might wear some sandals.
Stevenson said he talks the same way while delivering a sermon as he does at the gym, riding his motorcycle, sipping some wine or enjoying a cigar at Stogies, a sit-down cigar lounge in Lodi.
"He wants to engage people where they live, like Jesus did," said Lodi Realtor Larry Underhill, an elder at Horizon. "Tim tries to remove as much of the religiosity as he can."
Despite his unorthodox methods and colorful sermons, Stevenson is true to the Bible, Underhill said.
"The delivery may be unorthodox, but the method is not," Underhill said. "Tim preaches the Bible as the inerrant word of God. He does not compromise on the word of Scripture."
The difference between Stevenson and some pastors is that he takes problems outlined in the Bible and tackles them out in the open.
"Tim's pretty transparent about his foibles and shortcomings," Underhill said.
Stevenson spends time outside the halls of Horizon, working out in the gym, talking to people at the store, playing poker and smoking his beloved cigars at Stogies.
"The danger of being a pastor is being locked in your office and losing touch with the real world," Stevenson said.
Stogies co-owner Racquel Daniels said that Stevenson is low-profile when he's at the cigar establishment on Lodi's Pine Street.
"He threw me off at first," Daniels said. "You ride a Harley, smoke a cigar and you're a pastor?"
Stevenson said he has a different persona at Stogies, although God sometimes comes up in conversation.
"I'm not Pastor Tim," he said. "I'm just Tim."
Born and raised in Stockton, Stevenson graduated from Tokay High School in 1977, and was raised by parents who took him to church only on Christmas and Easter. He preferred drinking, playing water polo and competing on the swim team in high school and at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton rather than going to church.
But during his sophomore year at Delta, he found the Lord.
"On Nov. 16, 1978, I said to God, 'I'm following you,'" Stevenson said. "Now on every Nov. 16, I have a cigar and think about my life, that decision and how it's affected others."
Stevenson was caught by surprise about his calling because he wanted to be an architect since he was 8. He continued to study architecture at California State University, Fresno, but by the time he graduated, he decided to be a minister.
After attending seminary, Stevenson ran the campus ministry at Fresno State for nine years before returning to Stockton to head Youth for Christ at Delta College and University of the Pacific. He talked about the Lord with athletes at Delta, Pacific and the Stockton Ports minor league baseball team.
While Stevenson served as a part-time college pastor and Sunday night pastor at Stockton's Quail Lakes Baptist Church in 1995, the newly formed Horizon Community Church called, saying the church needed someone to temporarily preach there.
"I had to find out where Galt was," Stevenson said. "I walked into that place and I felt it. I thought it was pretty neat."
He was then asked to apply for the senior pastor position at Horizon, which he did in January 1996. A short time later, he was offered the position.
He still uses the architectural skills he learned in college, designing the interior of his church on Fairway Drive and building a church in Nicaragua.
Stevenson also sports something you don't see on many pastors' bodies — a tattoo on his right forearm, which he got a year ago. It reads, "Live a life that demands an explanation."
"I heard it on a podcast, and it hit me hard," he said. "I put it on my forearm so I can't hide it. When people read it, it allows me to tell a story."
Stevenson is also working on a clay sculpture of Jesus Christ with the help of Clements artist Rowland Cheney. Every sin will be imprinted on Jesus' skin, and then it will be bronzed.
As an elder, Underhill participates in staff meetings at Horizon and helps make policy decisions at the church.
"He's not a benevolent dictator where the elders are bobbleheads," Underhill said. "He leads without being heavy-handed about it."
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.