JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Three generations of Stonebrakers -- Pastor William "Bill" Stonebraker Jr. of Calvary Chapel of Honolulu; his son, Pastor William "Bud" Stonebraker III of South Shore Christian Fellowship, and William "The Dude" Stonebraker IV -- are shown in their Hawaii Kai home.
Family with faith
When Bill Stonebraker and his son, Bud, spend time together, it's likely to involve talking shop.
Bill Stonebraker, 62, is the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Honolulu, a nondenominational Christian church. The congregation he organized 35 years ago has divided and expanded into 24 Hawaii congregations, all affiliated with the California-based Calvary Chapel movement.
Bud Stonebraker, 36, started South Shore Christian Fellowship in 2005 after three terms in the state House of Representatives and several years as an assistant pastor with his father's congregation.
Ministry is their shared calling, but they don't describe it as a family business.
Bud Stonebraker pursued different career paths for several years. "I studied linguistics and filmmaking. I moved to L.A. to pursue an acting career." He won wresting matches in college and considered an athletic career. "But every time I began down those directions, it didn't resonate for me.
"It was a tug-of-war for a long time between mind and heart," he said. "Around the age of 26, I realized I wanted to serve God. That was what I had been called to do."
Bud Stonebraker attended Bible College in Twin Peaks, Calif., and the school of ministry at Costa Mesa where the Calvary Chapel evangelical movement was founded by pastor Chuck Smith.
After he and his wife Karen, a teacher whom he met in college, were married 10 years ago, they decided to settle down in Hawaii and in the church. Since then, the Stonebraker clan has grown by four girls and a boy.
His foray into politics wasn't a career move, said Stonebraker, who decided not to run in 2006 after representing Hawaii Kai-Kalama Valley for three terms. "I just wanted to show that a Christian should be involved in civil service and all aspects of life. We should never divide our faith from daily living."
"Bud was always his own man," his father said. "He's a real thinker, not the kind of guy who follows along in blind faith. He has to understand and come to his own conclusions. He has a brilliant mind. I had the mind of a surfer, not very responsible."
Bill Stonebraker was a surfboard maker in the 1970s. He said church was not part of his lifestyle and he and wife Danita were headed for divorce. "I was down in Waikiki and a guy with a guitar told me about Jesus. He said, 'Invite Jesus into your life and he will change you from the inside out.'"
It was advice that he took to heart. Without any ministry training, the Stonebrakers began inviting surfers and other friends to their house for Bible study. "A surfer gave me a tape by Chuck Smith. I listened to it while shaping surfboards. I got his Bible study series tape-by-tape, teaching his way through the Bible book-by-book. They were my Bible college."
"The North Shore was known for surfing and drugs," said the elder Stonebraker. "Then it became known for surfing, drugs and Christians." He invited Smith to visit his North Shore Christian Fellowship, where the California evangelist did a Bible lesson for a house and yard full of surfers. It was the beginning of a long association and friendship between the two ministers.
In 1982, the Stonebrakers moved to Honolulu and changed the name to Calvary Chapel Honolulu. Only after 10 years was there enough income as a pastor to give up the surfboard work. The growing church met in different schools and theaters and finally settled in the former Empress Theater at Beretania Street and Nuuanu Avenue.
They achieved a longtime goal in 2004, completing a $10.5 million complex on Komo Mai Drive in Aiea Heights with a sanctuary that seats 1,000 people, and a new Christian Academy, now K-7th grade. There are no membership rolls, but they estimate more than 5,000 people attend Calvary Chapel services at the 13 Oahu congregations.
Bill and Danita Stonebraker, married 41 years, drew on their experiences for their guidebook, "Spiritual Warfare and Marriage," which has sold more than 10,000 copies. They also have two daughters, both living on the mainland.
When the two pastors talk business these days, they are focusing on trips. Both couples returned recently from a conference in Japan, meeting with pastors and members of a dozen Calvary Chapel affiliates in that country. Bud will be leaving soon on a training mission with Far Reaching Ministries. He and other American pastors will help train Christian chaplains in Sudan.
"Dad and I are the best of friends. I couldn't be happier about that," Bud Stonebraker said.
"I bounce things off him all the time. We talk shop a lot. I'm always happy to hear him explain what he has done in the past."
He added: "We have a saying that God has no grandchildren, meaning that nobody gets in by being the son or daughter of a Christian man or woman. I don't get in God's good graces because my Dad knows him. I have to know the Lord myself."