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Honoring Dr. Jerry F. O’Neill

Dr. Jerry F. O’Neill retires this year as president of The Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary after 23 years of service. He has tirelessly recruited young men to explore God’s call to labor in pastoral service. He has prayed for faithfulness over fruitfulness, and the Lord has granted him both.

Before he was president of RPTS, he served in our presbytery (Great Lakes-Gulf, RPCNA) and was a member of our Candidates and Credentials Committee. Being the visionary that he is, Jerry led the committee by writing to me and to a number of my friends when we were still in high school. On that now-yellowed paper, he invited us to consider theological training and God’s call. In that endeavor, he certainly walked by faith more than by sight! The Lord used his letter, copied below, as part of the process to draw several of us into pastoral ministry.

His quarter-century-old words still challenge me, especially now that I now serve on the same committee. Do we have the same vision to reach out and call young men to service? Whether we do or not, one thing is certain: Jerry will keep setting Jesus’ call before young men for as long as he has breath. I pray that we keep following his example.

Jerry is a great recruiter. None of us could hope to equal him. But, let me take this opportunity to recruit you to celebrate the ministry that the Lord has given him at RPTS. You can find information regarding the April 20, 2018 dinner in his honor here. The Lord has given us a great reason to celebrate; you would be blessed to join us in honoring this faithful servant.

Here is Jerry’s letter:

December 24, 1993

Dear James,

As chairman of the Presbytery’s Candidates and Credential’s Committee, I am writing this letter to you and several other young men in the presbytery who have come to the attention of our committee.

One of the responsibilities in our committee is, “Identifying and encouraging young men interested in the pastorate and theological education.” In the wonderful grace of God, several young men have expressed at least some interest in pastoral ministry; and we want to do what we can as a committee to help assess gifts and, when appropriate, encourage theological training.

As suggested above, your name has been mentioned as one who may be open to pursuing theological training and/or pastoral ministry sometime in the future. (I want to stress “sometime in the future” because most of our men now being ordained are in their late 20’s or older, and we think this is generally a healthy trend.) If, indeed, you feel led to express to our committee at this time your openness to this possibility, we would like to have you mark and return the enclosed form so that we will have official record of your interest. We can then keep in touch with you in future years; and where appropriate, give counsel concerning that which God may be calling you to do. Or perhaps you would like to talk to the committee immediately about implications of this letter, or merely, to seek more information about the needs in our denomination. We would certainly be happy to arrange a meeting with you if that is desired.

Thank you in advance for your prayerful consideration of this request. We continue to pray for God to raise up laborers for His harvest.

In Christ,

Jerry O’Neill

James Faris

James Faris

Child of God. Husband to Elizabeth. Father of six. Pastor of Second Reformed Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ordained as a pastor in 2003.

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