Pastor Shawn Thornton

Mishawaka, Indiana. Named after an Indian princess with a legendary history (you can look it up), and once known as the peppermint capital of the world, this mid-western town cradled the childhood and teen years of future pastor and radio teacher, Shawn Thornton. Though his childhood was not always ideal, his Christian home and Bible-teaching church provided the foundation for developing a life-long goal to “live and love like Jesus.”

He received Christ in middle school and in his early teen years stood before the congregation to announce his availability for Christian ministry.

From conducting children’s bible classes, to anchoring his high school debate team, to working summers at Christian camps, God was preparing him for future pastoral and teaching roles.

At Bible College in West Virginia and Seminary in Washington DC, people around Shawn saw something special and believed God was going to use him in meaningful ways to advance the Kingdom.
His first full-time ministry was as an associate pastor in a church near Philadelphia, PA. He then was offered an opportunity to serve as a member of the faculty and administration of Appalachian Bible College, his undergraduate alma mater.

At the age of 30 he was invited to become the Senior Pastor of Bible Center Church in Charleston, WV—a high profile congregation in the state capital. Since 2008 he has served as Senior Pastor of Calvary Community Church in Westlake Village, CA—which now sees an attendance of about 4,000 people each Sunday and minsters effectively to the community, the state, and beyond.

God has brought together in Shawn, as in all of us, a unique combination of childhood foundations, formative transitions, educational experiences, and adult opportunities. We now see this preparation in full bloom as Shawn continues to serve and work daily to “live and love like Jesus.”


Shawn and his wife, Lesli, met in the early part of their first year at Bible College in West Virginia. Lesli grew up in the Baltimore/Washington DC area in a solid Christian family. The two dated for almost five years before Shawn proposed by placing an engagement ring on a “precious moments” figurine (Lesli’s favorite) and offering it to her in a surprise package. They were married in Lesli’s home church on June 30, 1990.

Lesli has been an elementary school teacher, a stay-at-home Mom, and currently works in the Academic Support Services Department of Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, CA near the church where Shawn pastors.

Shawn and Lesli have three children. Their oldest, Jon, is a graduate of Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. Katie, their middlest” child (an affectionate term invented by Mom), is a junior at Wheaton. And the youngest, Megan, is a senior at Oaks Christian.

Shawn’s first experience as a Senior Pastor was filled with blessing, challenge, development and cherished memories. He accepted the call to Bible Center Church in Charleston, WV in 1997 when he was just 30 years old. He immediately fell in love with the people, the work, and the calling… and from all reports, the feeling was mutual.

Together, for nearly eleven years, the church—and Shawn—grew! He made it a priority to gather an outstanding staff of talented, committed, and godly pastors and ministry directors. The church building had to be expanded and, ultimately the congregation relocated to a new campus of nearly 100 acres. The new building proved to be a wonderful tool for ministry incorporating a unique West Virginia flair, an attractiveness for men, and an entire floor given over to a outdoors-themed children’s ministry area.

With God’s blessing, under Shawn’s leadership, the church grew from an attendance of about 750 to about 2,300. Bible Center Church continues as a vibrant congregation and serves its community and beyond. Since 2011, Eric Mounts, from Springfield, Ohio has served as Senior Pastor. Interestingly, Shawn’s only sibling, a brother named Troy, joined the pastoral staff at Bible Center in 2013 as the Pastor of Outreach and Small Groups.

Shawn currently serves as the Senior Pastor of Calvary Community Church, Westlake Village, CA. Calvary was birthed in 1976 from a remnant of families of a church that had been in Thousand Oaks, CA for several decades. Shawn serves as the third lead pastor of this congregation whose influence over the years has reached far beyond its campus and community. In the “Purpose Driven Church,” author and pastor Rick Warren mentioned Calvary and its founding Pastor, Larry DeWitt, as a source for best practices in the early years of his leadership of Saddleback Community Church.

Calvary’s weekly attendance is nearly 4,000 people with as many as 25,000 people in the area identifying Calvary as their church. Several different factors over the last decade and a-half affected the growth, vitality, vision, and impact of Calvary. With the Elders and Ministry Leaders, Pastor Shawn has sought to replant the heart of the church and establish a new, fresh vision for the future. With the vision, Calvary 20/20,” being introduced in the fall of 2011, the church body has a new sense of God’s direction and passion for what God has ahead. Pastor Shawn loves the Calvary family, the Conejo Valley area, and the opportunity to be a part of the amazing work God is doing in and through Calvary Community Church.

Pastor Shawn firmly believes his role as Senior Pastor at Calvary can be summed up in three specific responsibilities: The Primary Voice of the Pulpit – Shawn loves teaching God’s Word with creativity and relevance so that God’s Spirit changes lives as The Word is proclaimed. Many recognize that he is in his wheelhouse when preaching an expository series through a book of the Bible. While not the only voice, his is the primary voice among those on the teaching team. He seeks the Lord’s leading in laying out the annual preaching calendar and in coaching others on the team as they shepherd the flock through teaching. The Main Vision Caster In his first few years as pastor of Calvary, Shawn sought to understand and hear the heart of the people in the Calvary family. He assessed opportunities and needs in the community. He began to shape the culture of the church in anticipation of God’s specific calling for Calvary in its next season of ministry impact. With the Elders, Pastors, and Ministry Leaders, Shawn sought God’s vision for Calvary and then delineated that for the church. While the entire leadership team is a part of vision casting and carrying, Shawn embraces his role as the main vision caster. The Shepherd of Shepherds – Calvary’s constituency is large enough that one individual cannot pastor it alone. It is shepherded by a team of pastors and ministry leaders. While Shawn cannot officiate every wedding or funeral, be at every hospital bedside, disciple each new believer, counsel every person, pray for each troubled soul, address every ministry or theology question, as Senior Pastor, it is his responsibility to make sure a team of shepherds is doing just that. He takes seriously the role the ministry team plays in nurturing, growing, feeding, correcting, loving, and equipping the sheep.

At the personal level, Shawn seeks to walk with the Lord daily in such a way that every day he is becoming more and more like Jesus as the Spirit of God transforms him from the inside out! It is no wonder that the mantra of his life and the mission of Calvary Community Church is “to live and love like Jesus.”