Pastor Portrait: Rev. Jonathan Merica

By God’s good providence, I was blessed to have God-fearing parents who loved the Lord and endeavored to teach our family God’s Word. From infancy my seven brothers and two sisters faithfully attended church with the congregation in Warsaw, Indiana, that was founded by our grandfather, Rev. John Henry Merica. Since there were no station wagons or large vans in those days, my father purchased a used Packard limousine to transport our family of twelve.

Soon after my birth on March 26, 1946, I was afflicted with a severe case of pneumonia that almost took my life. By the grace of God and the prayers of many, I made a strong recovery and was able to continue my life’s pilgrimage.

Before my senior year of high school, we moved to Riverside, CA. After graduation, the Lord graciously saved me. Soon after my conversion, I joined the U.S. Air Force and trained to be a mechanic on B-52 aircraft in support of the Vietnam War. I served at Air Force bases in Texas, Illinois, Montana, Guam, and Okinawa. Shortly after joining the military, I married the love of my life and high school sweetheart, Marsha Martin, on April 30, 1966. To this day, Marsha fulfills her calling as my “help-meet” and is a loving wife, mother, and grandmother.

After being discharged from the Air Force, I attended Bob Jones University from 1969-73, where I received a B.A. Degree in Bible. I began graduate studies at BJU and nearly completed my Masters in Theology. The seminary had a few Bible Presbyterian professors who taught Reformed theology. My class in Systematic Theology was especially beneficial, because the professor taught from Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology. This class was instrumental in opening up to me the Reformed faith, especially when the professor taught the “Ordo Salutis.” He made it very clear from Scripture that “regeneration” precedes “faith.” The doctrines of predestination and election were confirmed in my heart beyond any doubt based upon Ephesians 1. Although these doctrines were taught in the graduate school, the university administration did not want students discussing Reformed Theology. I was told by the administration not to discuss or teach reformed doctrine on campus or in the church where I taught as a Sunday school teacher. My conscience constrained me to conclude that complying with these demands was nothing short of a denial of the doctrines of grace. I felt compelled for the sake of my conscience to submit my resignation. My quest for a Reformed seminary which was faithful to God’s Word led me to move my family to the area of Sacramento, California.

The Lord blessed Marsha and me with three beautiful children. Our oldest child, Sheryl Lorraine, was born in 1969, while at Abilene, Texas. Our second child, Denise Lannette, was born in 1971 and our son, Bryan Matthew, was born in 1974. For several years Marsha was able to remain at home to home-school our children.

The Lord providentially brought me to Lodi, CA, where I preached in a small church plant in Stockton, CA. I was introduced to Rev. Jefferson Duckett by a friend and after a few years of teaching and preaching at Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Stockton, CA, I made plans to return to seminary. However, in a conversation with him in 1981, Rev. Duckett counseled me to “get in the trenches” by joining the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) and to begin planting a Reformed Church in Lodi, CA. Under the oversight of Sacramento Covenant Reformed Church, I was ordained as an elder in 1983 and began organizing the church plant in Lodi, CA. The first Bible Study began on November 15, 1984, at Lodi, CA. We conducted our first worship service on May 6, 1986, at the community room of the Arbor Senior Apartments. Before becoming a mission work with financial support from the RCUS, my family depended on my outside employment and my wife also needed to work outside the home. My wife, Marsha, has for many years been a co-laborer in missions by being very active in the church. Through her 25 years of employment, she helped to subsidize the family’s finances. I heartily commend her support of my labors in the gospel ministry over the years—especially since she did this while suffering from chronic physical infirmities.

On September 10, 1990, Providence Reformed Chapel became a home mission work of the RCUS. We conducted our first worship service in our new building at 245 E. Vine St., Lodi, CA, on November 25, 1990. It was indeed a day of thanksgiving for us. There were approximately 47 people in attendance and a fellowship dinner followed the service. We conducted a dedication service of our church building on Saturday, January 5, 1991. Providence Reformed Chapel began “The Phone’s for You” outreach in mid-January 1991, and continued through March 10, 1991. I was installed as Pastor of Providence Reformed Church on Friday, November 13, 1992.

The Lord had so blessed Providence Reformed Church that by the 1997 RCUS Synod (after six years and four months of receiving home missions support), the church no longer needed home missions support. Also, the Church’s building debt was paid in full. By the end of 2000, Providence RCUS had grown to 92 baptized members. May God be glorified for His bountiful blessings!

After nearly seventeen years of ministry for the Kingdom of God in Lodi, CA, and simultaneously working about two years in a Bible study in Pleasanton, CA, a core group for a mission work was established. On June 30, 2001, I resigned as pastor of Providence Reformed Church in Lodi and accepted a call to pastor the new home mission work of Grace Reformed Chapel, in the area of Pleasanton/San Ramon, CA. I was installed by the Western Classis as the mission pastor of Grace Reformed Chapel. After nearly seven years of laboring in the Bay area the work began to wane, due to certain providential circumstances. The Western Classis encouraged our relocating the Pleasanton/San Ramon mission work to Stockton.

Along with my work in RCUS home missions, it has been my honor and privilege to serve God’s Kingdom with Westminster Biblical Missions (WBM). Since 2007, I’ve labored with Rev. Dennis Roe as Assistant Field Chairman in missions to Pakistan. It has been a great spiritual experience to visit the mission field in Pakistan in 2009 and 2011 for the Presbyterian Convention of the Bible Believing Lahore Church Council, Lahore. The Lord is doing marvelous things in evangelism and outreach through the laborers on the field and by the prayers and support of many faithful co-laborers in missions.

Since December 2001, I have resided in Stockton and desire to evangelize this city with the Gospel. I began the first Wednesday Evening Bible Study in Stockton, teaching from the Gospel of Mark. We continued this mission outreach under Covenant Reformed Church at Grass Valley, CA. By March 26, 2006, a core group was established, and the first Lord’s Day worship service began at Calvary Reformed Chapel in Stockton. There were 18 in attendance at the first worship service. Our web site is a useful tool to make contacts with interested individuals. At Calvary Reformed Chapel the Word of God is faithfully taught and preached each Lord’s Day. The congregation is taught from the RCUS confessions and the importance of knowing the RCUS standards. We recently had the joy of adding a family of five and baptizing four covenant children. As of the writing of this history, there are 27 baptized members at Calvary Reformed Chapel at Stockton. Trusting the Lord to build His church we believe the Lord will add to the church according to His sovereign will. Our Lord’s promise is, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18b)

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