John W. Vest describes himself as a “church hacker” attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. He currently serves as the Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Union Presbyterian Seminary and works with the Presbytery of the James in the areas of evangelism, new church development, and church revitalization. Prior to his appointment at Union he served in congregational ministry for fifteen years in the Chicago metropolitan area. He holds degrees from Rice University (BA), the University of Chicago Divinity School (MDiv), and McCormick Theological Seminary (DMin), and has studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is passionate about faith formation for emerging generations and is the co-founder of the Progressive Youth Ministry conference. An enthusiastic pitmaster, John dreams of one day achieving the mystical union of church and BBQ, a dream he is making a reality with a food truck called Redemption BBQ and a new worshiping community called the Joyful Feast. John lives in Glen Allen, VA with his wife and two young sons.


McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois
DMin, May 2014
Thesis: “Post-Christendom Confirmation”

University of Chicago Divinity School, Chicago, Illinois
PhD coursework in Biblical Studies (Hebrew Bible)
MDiv, March 2003

Rice University, Houston, Texas
BA, May 1999
Majors: Religious Studies and Ancient Mediterranean Civilizations

Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel
Rothberg School for Overseas Students
One Year Program, Academic Year of 1997-98
Summer Program, 1998


Minster of the Word and Sacrament, Presbyterian Church (USA)
October 15, 2006
Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago

Ministry Positions

Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago, IL
July 2006-June 2015

Pastoral Associate, Community Presbyterian Church, Clarendon Hills, IL
September 2001-June 2006
Acting Head of Staff, July 16-September 5, 2005
Adult Education Coordinator and Teacher, Youth Confirmation, Worship

Pastoral Intern, Community Presbyterian Church, Clarendon Hills, IL
September 2000-Auguist 2001

Academic Positions

Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism
Union Presbyterian Seminary, Richmond, VA
June 2015-present

Adjunct Professor
Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois
“Biblical Studies and Contemporary Relevance”, Spring 2006-Fall 2007

Teaching Assistant
University of Chicago Divinity School, Chicago, IL
“Introduction to the Hebrew Bible”, Spring 2006
“Advanced Preaching Seminar: The Word Before the Powers”, Spring 2005

Teaching Assistant
McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois
“Introduction to Biblical Hebrew”, Summer 2001-Winter 2002

Denominational Service

Commissioner to the 221st General Assembly, 2014

  • Vice-Moderator of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee

Overture Advocate to the 220th General Assembly, 2012

General Assembly Mid Councils Commission, 2010-2012

Commissioner to the 219th General Assembly, 2010

Presbytery of the James

  • Convener and Moderator of the Cultivating a Culture of Evangelism Purpose Group

Presbytery of Chicago

  • Moderator, 2014
  • Moderator-Elect, 2013
  • Presbytery Coordinating Commission, 2012-2015
  • Connectional Mission Design Task Force, 2013-2014
  • Vision and Praxis Task Force, 2012-2013
  • Outdoor Ministries Task Force, 2013
  • New Church Development Visioning Team, 2011-2012
  • Co-Moderator of Camping Ministry Concept Development Team, 2011-2012
  • Vice Moderator of Camp Oversight and Development Work Group, 2008-2011
  • Camp Oversight and Development Work Group Programming Sub-Committee, 2007-2011
  • Youth Ministry Team, 2007-2013
  • Communications Work Group, 2010-2012

McCormick Theological Seminary Board of Trustees, 2013-2014