Nicole Childress Ball, Church Relations Officer
Union Presbyterian Seminary and the greater Presbytery of the James have been buzzing with excitement over the welcome of Dr. John Vest, Visiting Professor of Evangelism. Dr. Vest studied at Rice Univeristy, the University of Chicago Divinity School and McCormick Theological Seminary. He most recently served as Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry at Fourth Presbyterian Church. During his time at Fourth, he co-founded the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference, a gathering for “progressive” or “liberal” youth workers to recharge and share new ideas for youth ministry.
I had the pleasure of meeting John and Anna Vest at a Union gathering for students returning for the fall semester. Much of how I interpret John Vest’s message regarding Evangelism, in our modern age, is embodied in an authentic acknowledgement of the Good News of Jesus Christ as lover and savior of the world. I believe this is characterized in our sharing with one another how our lives have, and continue to be, changed by Christ’s love. The evening of the fall gathering of students and staff, I experienced evangelism, in its basic forms, from John and Anna as they talked about their journey up until this point, their decision to leave Chicago and to follow a tough but exciting call to Richmond.
As I’ve become re-acquainted with Union’s campus, students and staff, I have noticed John’s presence around the campus. He’s active in the life of the Seminary even as he’s sharing time with professional responsibilities on the Presbytery level. He and Anna have opened their home to the staff and students, recently hosting a BBQ gathering at their new place in town. Their example of embodying the Good News to others, their evangelism, is real and tangible. I’m encouraged that with the guidance of John Vest and his role here at Union, this community of teachers, preachers, educators, and lay leaders will be emboldened to share how God’s love through the work of Jesus Christ has made a difference in our lives.
At the October Stated Meeting of the Presbytery of the James, John presented his initiatives to the wider community. His helpful handout, titled, “Cultivate a Culture of Evangelism” shared his goals and initiatives, including:
- Working half-time as Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Union Presbyterian Seminary. After his initial four-year appointment, the long-term goal is for this position to be staffed by different seasoned practitioners in the field of evangelism every three or four years. The teaching load is currently half-time in order to allow for work in the presbytery.
- In collaboration with the POJ and UPSem’s Supervised Ministry and Vocational Planning Office, John is developing evangelism internship for students.
- John has developed and is available to offer small-group workshops for regional churches.
- Throught UPSem’s Leadership Institute, plans are underway for an evangelism conference to be held in Richmond in September 2016.