Alumni Spotlight: Jake Patton ’96

Jake Patton graduated from Westminster in 1996, when “grunge music was at its pinnacle, the Panera on Ballas was called St. Louis Bread Co., and an asiago cheese bagel cost 65 cents.”

Jake attended Covenant College with plans to major in business but graduated with a degree in biblical studies—a change he credits to a mission trip to Uganda. Called to full-time ministry after college, Jake attended Covenant Theological Seminary and served at Presbyterian churches in Alabama and South Carolina before moving to Celina, Texas with his wife and four children to plant a PCA church, New City Presbyterian.

What led you to plant a church in Celina, Texas?
For one reason alone, the Mexican food and the barbecue.

Joking aside, several factors played a major role in leading us to plant. Personally, the creative and building process is a life-giving activity for me; I think I’ve always been geared this way. Planting a church is as close to starting a business as pastors can get. We’re ministerial entrepreneurs. The idea of crafting a unique outpost, one that is created with the city’s strengths and weaknesses in mind—it’s energizing work.

Philosophically, after my wife and I went through our denomination’s church planter assessment center, we felt a particular burden to serve an area that wasn’t already saturated with multiple church options. Celina has no reformed church presence and is projected to grow rapidly over the next 30 years. It’s a good time to get on the ground in the city.

Lastly, having grown up in Texas, moving to Celina was very much like moving home. We are now living in the same city as my folks and my sister’s family, and I have a brother next door in Fort Worth.

Can you tell me a little about New City Presbyterian and your prayers for it?
This is a good, but hard question. I can’t say much about what New City is right now. I think I’ll have a better handle on that in about 10–15 years. I’m not trying to be coy or elusive, it just takes a while to really establish a consistent identity. Check back with me in 2034.

Regarding our prayers and desires? Together, our core group has prayed for a number of things:

  • that Christ and His work would be clearly spoken and embodied to our neighbors
  • that the Lord would establish the work of our hands
  • that many would come to rest in and receive by faith the work of Christ on their behalf
  • that we’d see a Spirit-driven revival in our city
  • And, long term, that our church would be a faithful outpost until Christ’s return

One of Westminster’s core values is to “lead with our serve”. Can you speak to your heart/passion for servant leadership?
I‘m so thankful this is a core value at WCA—it’s not the call simply to “Lead!” or “Serve!”, as if those activities are mutually exclusive. Servant leadership captures that paradox of Jesus’ teaching and life, “to lead is to serve.” The way up is down, to live is to die, the first shall be last, the humble will be lifted up, etc. This is what makes Jesus so worthy of our love and worship. Though He is the Great I Am, he’s also the lowly foot-washer. Though He’s entitled to five-star service, he prepares meals for the hungry. Though He’s the firstborn of all creation, he is the humble manger inhabiter, the Great Physician who lays hands on everyone who is sick. What other god does this for his people?! We need more leaders like this—confident enough to lead with humility.

Favorite memory from your time at Westminster?
My very first memory of WCA was sitting in Florence Lewis’ office before I began attending the school. We finished the interview and she asided as we walked down the hallways, “You know, Jake, I forgot to mention, we don’t have locks on our lockers here.” Surprised, I asked, “Why not?!” She said, “Because relationships here are built on trust and they endure by grace. We trust YOU not to take what isn’t yours, but if you do mess up, we’ll be there for you.” I was surprised, to say the least, but more than that, I was endeared. I wanted to be a part of this community, especially if the terms were couched in grace.

Favorite Westminster class and teacher?
There were several and for many different reasons. I was fascinated by Mike Parker’s psychology class. Scott Holly made grammar fun again. Tim Hall was a great volleyball coach and person all-around. Ila Klemm’s theatre class was always entertaining. Kathy Eichelberger should get hazard (back) pay for the trouble I caused during Hello, Dolly!. Joni Van der Pol was a great Spanish teacher and sponsor for our class.

Looking back, how did Westminster prepare you for the life you’re leading?
The first thing to come to mind is the effort to integrate faith into all of life, not to compartmentalize it or silo it into another realm altogether. We have a natural inclination to separate what we do on Sunday from the other six days of the week. Learning how to worship God through your studies now helps merge and harmonize faith and work in adulthood. This perspective is priceless.

Any advice for current Westminster students?
As a filter for making major life decisions, consider two things: close relationships and your local church. If you have a local church that preaches the Gospel faithfully and a close group of friends, you’re incredibly blessed. I’d argue, most of your joy and happiness will come from these two places. I think God’s designed it this way. We get most of our joy in Him through the means He’s created. Sadly, I’ve pastored too many people who have left happy and healthy environments for “greener pastures” or “career enhancers.” What most come to realize is they forfeited peace for the lonely pursuit of money and position.

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