Jon McNary is the lead pastor of Heartland Community Church in Sun Prairie, a congregation he started with his wife, Ashley after they came to Sun Prairie in 2007 from a Heartland Church in Rockford, Ill. They have three children – Beckam, Easton and Braylin- and are a licensed foster home.
What does Jesus mean for you?
Starting with the easy question, huh?
Jesus is everything for me. I’ve tried to do my best to create a life that revolves around Him and His teaching. I believe that He is the Son of God who came to pay the cost of my sin – and the sin of the whole world. Because of his death and resurrection, I can live free – filled with the Spirit of God, and all of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness that come with it.
Name your favorite 3 Christian music artists
Anything that is passionate. I don’t love Christian music that goes through the motions. I want some energy and feeling behind the words of adoration that we bring to our great God.
What is the church body doing well and what could we improve on?
I think the church is starting to do a good job of cutting the BS out of our ministries. We have started to recognize that people don’t want a pretty, all-put-together ministry that you discover to be fake when you look behind the curtain. Let’s be honest about things, and all come together to understand accurately what Jesus called us to, and how that gets lived out in the 21st century.
There are a lot of things I think we could improve on. For starters, the Church will always be tempted to become an inward-focused group, an “us-vs-the world” mentality where we see society as trying to encroach more and more on our faith. But I don’t think that’s the right mentality. In the end, we win. Christ has already won the battle. Evil has been defeated, and He brought the Kingdom of God to this planet. So now, let’s spread that Kingdom. Let’s advance the Kingdom. Jesus promised us that He would build His Church and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. So let’s get to work building, with confidence and love.
I also think we have to do a better job of engaging in the ministry of racial-reconciliation. It won’t happen fast, and it won’t be easy. But Christ has called his followers to love one another as ourselves. And, especially in America right now, there is not a lot of that happening. We need to change that.
What scripture really defines where you are today in life and why?
Ephesians chapter 5. In this chapter, the Apostle Paul calls us to follow the example of Christ, who laid down his life for us. We are called to mutual submission and to care for each other as members of one body. This is where God is growing me the most, and where I think many men need to be challenged and inspired.
Our society is being forced to face the pain of sexual abuse that has been happening for a long time. It’s a good thing that people are coming forward and that the conversation is starting to happen. But we obviously have a long way to go – especially as men.
I am very passionate about calling men to the Godly manhood that they have been created for. As fathers and husbands we have a vital role to play. I want to remind men to be the type of men that our boys want to be like when they grow up and become men. I want to inspire men to be the type of men who make our daughters grow up confident in themselves and clear about how they deserve to be treated. And I believe our wives should feel like they have received a blessing from God by being married to us.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying women don’t have just as vital of a role to play as men, but as a man, I am in a position to particularly call the best out of them.
You grew up heavily involved in your church. How did that impact your childhood?
My parents were very involved at the l church I grew up in, in rural Ohio. It wasn’t big, flashy, cutting-edge or even growing to be honest; but it was healthy. That healthiness allowed me to learn about the goodness of God, without the issues that come from seeing the people-of-God not be good.
We went to church every Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. I heard all the sermons, learned all the Bible stories and by high-school was helping lead our Youth Group. But it wasn’t fake…I didn’t feel any pressure to act a certain way. I genuinely loved God and wanted to base my life on Him and His direction.
That’s not to say I didn’t have a season of exploring other ways to live. When I left home for a big state-school college, I dove into the college experience all the way and indulged in all the stuff a normal 18-year-old boy is tempted by when living away from home. It took about six months to realize I didn’t like the consequences of that lifestyle, and so I turned back to my faith and a God who is quick to forgive.
How do you balance being a father and husband with being a pastor?
My wife and I co-lead Heartland; so we’ve basically woven the church into our family-life in every way. They are not two different arenas that we try to keep separated. At the same time, we recognize that a lot of pastor’s kids grow up to hate the local church, so we are very diligent in monitoring that. While our kids were really young, they wanted to be at all four weekend services because they loved hanging out with their friends. Now, our oldest would prefer to stay home sometimes and just come to one service. We are fine with that, and want to make sure he doesn’t feel pressure to project a certain image just because his parents lead the church.
It’s sort of the same thing in our marriage. My wife and I work together every single day and we are both completely sold out to the mission of Heartland. We are passionate about leading a diverse community of people to the joy of knowing Jesus. Because of that, we tend to discuss the church non-stop. That may not work for some couples, but because it’s so core to what we love, it works for us. That said, there are times we go out on dates, or on vacation, and we agree, “OK, let’s try not to discuss Heartland for the next 24 hours.” Inevitably, we fail.
Last book you read outside of the Bible?
I just finished two books on the same topic: PEAK: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson and, Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, by Geoff Colvin.
Both books explore the research being done on becoming great at something. What is most encouraging is that science is proving you really can be great at anything you want to be, if you’re willing to put in the time, energy, money and can get the right coaching in the right way.
For me as a pastor, I’m always trying to get better at my leadership and speaking ability. I believe the Good News of Jesus is the greatest message on earth and I want to communicate it in the most compelling way possible.