Honoring Bob McFarland on the 60th Anniversary of his Ordination to the Gospel Ministry
In Bob’s own words:
“It was a Sabbath morning the last day of the Covenant Heights Conference in the Summer of 1951, and the pastor preaching was Cloyd Caskey, RPC pastor and missionary. I realized the Spirit was working as I listened to his simple Biblical call to publically give my life to serve Christ. At the conclusion of the preaching, he challenged us to respond to the Lord to give our lives, not just our hearts, to serve our Christ. All who were so led were asked to go down to the front of the chapel instead of going with the rest to dinner. It was at the front of that RP conference meeting place that I publically gave my life to serve Christ as a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church.”
On November 27, 1959, Robert H. McFarland was ordained to the Gospel ministry in the RPCNA. He is pictured below with his family on the day of his ordination.
Bob was installed by the then Pittsburgh Presbytery as Pastor of the Rose Point (PA) congregation. Since that time, Bob also served in the following ways:
- 4 years as Pastor in the Rose Point, PA RPC
- 2 years as Stated Supply in the Park City, KS RPC
- 17 years as Pastor in the Quinter, KS RPC
- 12 years as Pastor in the Topeka, KS RPC
- 5 years as Director of Educational Services and Youth Ministries for the RP Synod
- 13 years as Regional Home Missionary of the Midwest Presbytery
- Interim Pastor in nine different appointments from Northern Ireland to Australia to the United States.
Those statistics are significant but I’d like to reflect more personally on the blessing he has been to me and my ministry. All throughout his ministry Bob gave of himself to disciple young men who were preparing for the ministry. In total, Bob had 13 men serve pastoral internships with him while he was in Quinter and Topeka. Many went on to serve as pastors, of which I am one. He truly took to heart Paul’s instruction to Timothy:
“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also”2 Tim. 2:2
As an intern in Topeka I spent time shadowing Bob. That’s a modern expression of what I think of as Jesus’ “with-him” principle. Jesus would teach and train His disciples along the way as they were “with Him.” In much the same way, I learned about the pastoral ministry by going with Bob to visit the sick, to engage with the community, to care for the elderly, to teach the children, to correct the straying, to plan with the elders, and so on. Among many lasting memories, I had the moving privilege of being with Bob and the other elders as they restored a man to membership after he had been excommunicated for many years. I came to understand in Bob’s terms, that the church is not a museum of perfect saints, but a hospital that ministers to those who stumble and fall and who, by grace, are looking to Jesus as the one who came to heal the sick.
I also learned the power of story. For anyone who has sat under Bob’s preaching you’ll know his ability to use story and humor to apply biblical truths to our lives, even when those truths are difficult to communicate or unpopular to hold. Of course, that humor affected many areas of his life. He has the uncanny ability to break the ice or lighten the mood at Presbytery or Synod, often using humor at his own expense.
His love for Northern Ireland can also be read across the pages of his ministry, including interns from the RP Church in Northern Ireland, pulpit exchanges, and interim pastorates there. I think some of his love has been attached to family he has there, and also coming out of the heat of western Kansas it surely was nice to escape to the beauty and cooler temperatures of the Emerald Isle. He would remind me of this last fact in emails. While summers in Oklahoma had temperatures well over 100 degrees F (38 C), he would reflect on how it was brisk enough that morning that he needed to put on a jacket! Thanks, Bob!
Bob’s love for his wife, Georgia, is also written across the pages of his ministry. Georgia has added much to Bob’s ministry in her support and professional administrative skills. But I especially appreciate her warmth and friendship. Like Bob, Georgia has built and maintained many lasting relationships on her own, adding much depth to their service for the church.
The last lesson that I’ll relate is the commitment to church planting that I learned from Bob. Once more, throughout his ministry and continuing to this day, Bob has given of himself to build up of the church through the establishment of new congregations. You’ll find evidence of this in his work as representative on the Synod level Home Missions Board and the Midwest Presbytery Regional Home Missionary, roles given to the encouragement of church planting and helping new congregations form. Just during my tenure in the Presbytery since 1990 Bob was on the HMB as they lead the denomination to be more deliberate in church planting. You might have heard of the “Seven more by ’94” goal. In the Presbytery he has served on at least four different church planting commissions. He was the chair of the Stillwater Commission that provided the oversight to establish the congregation I’ve served in Stillwater, OK. The Presbytery has then grown further south into Texas (Dallas and Bryan Commissions) and east into Missouri (Columbia Commission on which he still serves). It has been my pleasure to serve along with him in some of these areas, and to continue to learn from him.
Mr. Parnell rose to a point of personal privilege. It was moved, seconded, and by a rising vote, carried, “In honor of the 60th anniversary of Bob McFarland’s ordination to the gospel ministry (November 27, 1959) the MIDWEST PRESBYTERY gives thanks to God for his faithful service. He has been a shepherd, a mentor, a father & brother, a leader, a friend, & above all a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ.From the minutes of the Midwest Presbytery
Bruce Parnell, Pastor of the Stillwater Congregation in Oklahoma