Mike Carlisle recalled feeling like a “businessman wearing a ministry hat” in his first church staff position.
Perhaps it was his early career in the cable television business that 50 years later continues to encapsulate the entrepreneurial way Carlisle leads the San Diego Southern Baptist Association.
“The high point here [as director of missions of SDSBA] would be a vision to bring the church together,” Carlisle told The Baptist Paper. “All my ministry I’ve asked, ‘God, what’s Your purpose for my church?’ As I’ve grown, I’ve realized from God’s point of view that it’s the wrong question. Better to ask, ‘God, what’s Your purpose for this region?’
“From God’s point of view,” Carlisle continued, “why can’t we work together to accomplish the same goal? Why can’t we work together for the greatest good? We see the church as the congregation. God sees the church as His body. If I could do it again, I’d try to be more unified with my peers across denominational lines.”
Carlisle’s drive for continual improvement is as apparent in his 59-year marriage to Judy Allen Carlisle as in ministry.
“Women’s needs are different from men’s,” Carlisle said. “I had to learn that and am still learning. Peter … said, ‘Live with your wife in an understanding way’ (1 Pet. 3:7). Life situations change over time. We both had to learn how to be spouses and parents and reconnect when the children leave home.
“I’m learning a woman has three T needs: time, touch and talk,” he noted, pointing out that Judy also had some lessons to share.
His wife interjected. “Men need RAS,” she said. “The acronym stands for respect (Eph. 5:33), admiration and submission (Col. 3:18). When Mike and I lead marriage retreats, we humorously say men must learn to Ts their wife. She must RAS her husband — makes it easy to recall.”
The couple’s long-standing marriage includes a close partnership in ministry.
Even before Mike became minister of evangelism at Capistrano (California) Baptist Church in 1972, Judy honed her hospitality aptitude, inviting guest speakers and leaders to their homes.
The family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, three years after Carlisle’s first vocational ministry position. In 1978, he earned a master of divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary while serving at Southcliff Baptist Church as associate pastor in evangelism and education.
Carlisle’s first postgraduate degree, in 1971, was an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University. By 2012 he had earned a doctor of ministry, with studies in church growth and transformational leadership.
Carlisle served as pastor at Capistrano Valley for more than seven years, and at SeaRidge Community (California) Church for 10 years, followed by nine years as a vice president at the North American Mission Board.
‘The whole world is present’
The Carlisles returned to California in 2006, when he became executive director of the NAMB-funded Vision San Diego. Carlisle was named executive director of Vision San Diego, a nonprofit that seeks to unify San Diego around servant leadership. Its name today is All San Diego. He was named the associational DOM in 2012.
“The goal [of All San Diego] is to connect public, private and social sector partners to bring social and spiritual transformation,” Carlisle explained. “I love California — its diversity, its ethnicities, its beauty and its challenge to build strong families and lasting friendships. Southern California is a place where all the languages and cultures of the world are present.
“The San Diego Southern Baptist Association is a ministry organized to serve San Diego and Tijuana Southern Baptist churches and help them to be more effective at sharing the good news of God’s redeeming love with their communities,” Carlisle continued. “Our purpose is to enlist, equip and encourage churches for the spiritual and societal transformation of San Diego County.”
‘Good works create goodwill’
“We noticed that good works create goodwill, and goodwill opens the door to sharing the good news,” Carlisle said. “The association also provides a budget for monthly fellowship luncheons and assistance for service projects.”
Judy Carlisle’s education parallels her husband’s. She has a master’s in religious education from SWBTS and postgraduate studies in transformational leadership. She began her teaching years in elementary education, then branched out to include various facets of women’s ministry, personal discipleship, leadership and more.
Today she enlists, trains and engages people in community betterment projects for All San Diego. For SDSBA, she is a ministry support specialist and chief of staff, responsible for discipling, mentoring and women’s ministries.
“My background is teaching,” Judy Carlisle explained. “I use what happens as an opportunity to minister … for God to bring people into my life and that I am present for the person I’m with, to listen to them rather than just waiting for my turn to talk.
“This year, God has shown me to focus more on loving God.”
‘Love your neighbor’
Mike Carlisle said he first noticed the woman who was to become his wife at college. She was the prettiest girl on campus, he recalled. As he got to know her, he realized she had the best personality on campus. They laughed together.
They had similar “working class” backgrounds and values. They both were Christians. They prayed together, read the Bible together, and enjoyed life together.
“This is why this generation suffers,” he said. “The glue that holds people together is not just love. Many people fall in love but end up getting divorced. Shared values are what hold people together. Especially a shared faith in Jesus! Scripture teaches we are not to be unequally yoked.”
SDSBA recently invited churches in San Diego County to come together for the Love Your Neighbor summit, which was held at Shadow Mountain Community Church in the El Cajon area.
“We’re the primary sponsor,” Carlisle said. “We’re opening it to all evangelical churches. It’s an evangelistic strategy that starts with prayer, an organized attempt to bring the church together, provide training and tools, and then send them out to meet their neighbors.
“We are praying that the Love Your Neighbor summit will lead to a movement in San Diego,” he said. “After all, loving your neighbor and loving God is what Jesus said we are to be about.”