Re-calling Jerry McFarland

by Terri Taylor June 22, 2014

“How are you doing loving your spouse?” “What’s the Lord been teaching you?” The questions jolt you like a double espresso and your mind races to find answers. You glance up into the eyes of the tall goateed pastor. He smiles gently, utterly sincere; he really wants to know.

Meet Dr. Jerry McFarland, a man passionate that we focus just as intently on how to live out our faith as we do on articulating our doctrinal stances. As he puts it, “I’m concerned about praxis.” He wants to help us let scripture interrogate our hearts. 

His work has always been geared to equipping believers for ministry. He does it through Sunday School classes and retreats and one-on-one meetings. Because of these strong pastoral skills, Tenth’s Session has recommended that the congregation call him as Senior Associate Minister.

This is a new title. We’ve never had a “Senior Associate Minister” before at Tenth. Marion Clark was designated as “Executive Minister” and though the Session envisions Dr. McFarland functioning as head of staff, answering only to Liam and the Session, it wanted to signal that his role will be shaped in a way that allows him to exercise his pastoral gifts. 

Recounting how Session reached its decision, George McFarland (the other Dr. McFarland!) explains that after interviewing the pastoral staff and talking to numerous people, Session “determined that the chief need at this point for Tenth was (1) someone who knew Tenth Church and (2) had gifts to complement Liam’s preaching gifts. We agreed that this person would have strong pastoral gifts that the Lord would use in Liam’s ministry, the pastoral staff, the administrative staff and the congregation at large. Jerry was no stranger to Tenth and had exhibited when he served Tenth the type of gifts that we felt were necessary.”

Jerry’s familiarity with Tenth dates back to 1995 when he and his wife Bev were new in town and started attending. Westminster Seminary had just appointed Jerry Dean of Students, charged with overseeing the spiritual formation of aspiring ministers. Jerry, Bev, and their three kids settled in at Tenth. 

In 2001, Jerry began serving part-time on Tenth’s pastoral staff as assistant minister of pastoral care. He helped elders develop shepherding skills and mentored interns. He also led the college ministry. Laurel Chruma, who was a student at the time, recollects, “He and his wife Bev fostered a close-knit feel in a large church for students away from home at that critical time in life when biblical world views are honed and developed. Jerry’s teaching on the Westminster Confession of Faith sparked a deeper understanding of biblical truths.” 

On a more personal note, Laurel explains that when she and Jason started seriously contemplating marriage, they asked the McFarlands to mentor them because “Jerry was very personable and always willing to talk over life’s questions.” Two years later, Jerry officiated at their wedding! They joined the ranks of Tenth couples mentored and married by Jerry.

Jerry taught Bible school classes on parenting and marriage, and he organized what may have been Tenth’s first men’s retreat. One wife remembers, it was “during a turbulent time in my husband’s career. He came home after that retreat feeling particularly encouraged, supported, and had his priorities re-focused.”

But perhaps Jerry’s ministry is best summed up by Jonathan Olsen, whom Jerry mentored as an intern and who is now the founding pastor of Grace and Peace Community Church: “Jerry is soaked in the gospel—that’s what he makes big in his life and ministry. He has an unusually gracious and wise pastoral heart, and he brings one of the sweetest women in the world to the table of his ministry.”

The McFarlands moved to North Carolina in 2008 when Peace Presbyterian Church in Cary, North Carolina, called Jerry as Associate Minister. 

Tenth now wants him back. You are invited to a “Conversation with Jerry” on Friday night, July 18, a special chance to reconnect or perhaps meet him for the first time. The following Sunday, July 20, Jerry will preach in the morning services and the congregation will vote on calling him as our Senior Associate Minister.

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