Our Founding PastorJack Yonts was born on March 28, 1928. He spent his early life in Herrin, a small mining town in southern Illinois. He was the youngest son of five children (three boys and two girls). When he was 10 years old, he moved with his parents, Raymond and Della Yonts, to Glendale, Illinois. In 1938, Glendale was a remote farming community without electricity or running water. His father, Raymond, pastored a small church in this town.
The next move came four years later, when the family relocated to Indiana. At this time, Jack went to live with his uncle and aunt, T.J. and Loraine Miller. The Millers pastored a thriving church in Muncie, Indiana. This move was extremely significant in Jacks young life. It was here, at the age of 14, that he gave his heart to the Lord and made an eternal commitment to Jesus Christ. His first hand experience of New Testament salvation changed him forever. The prayerful and disciplined life of his aunt and uncle shaped Jack’s walk with God. It was in their home that he learned the value and habit of daily, fervent prayer. Discipleship and prayerfulness continued to characterize Jack Yonts’s leadership and devotion to the Lord throughout his life.
In 1945, Jack moved again. Now 17 years old, he accompanied his aunt and uncle who were moving to Toledo, Ohio, in order to pastor a small church there. In Toledo, God dealt powerfully with the young Jack. At this moment, he consecrated his life and made the firm decision to willingly carry out whatever the Lord would ask of him. His commitment remained unshaken.
In the fall of 1947,
Jack enrolled as a student at Apostolic Bible Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota. He had an intense desire to know the word of God. While attending ABI, God called Jack into the ministry. He was just 19.
Jack’s head was buzzing with the exciting truths he had learned from the word of God. As the spring of 1948 began to blossom, a different kind of light entered his life: her name was Jo Ann Whitaker. She was his dream girl. Jo Ann became the love of his life and his life partner in ministry. They were married in July of the same year. He was 20 and she was 19. Jack and Jo Ann Yonts went on to raise a beautiful family of four children (three girls and one boy).
The young couple began to travel, conducting revivals for two years. He preached and she played the accordion and sang. She also worked with the children at each revival service. By 1953, the couple were ready to settle in one place. They began a Home Missions church in Connersville, Indiana. They labored here for two years with minimal results, and then moved to Muncie to serve as Assistant Pastor.
In 1955, Jack became the pastor of the Pentecostal church in Hartford City. He served the congregation for seven years until the fall of 1962. These years perhaps laid the foundation for Jack’s leadership abilities. He served as District Youth Secretary from 1955-1960 and as District Home Missions Director from 1960-1962.
The family moved again in the fall of 1962. This move took them from Indiana to Madison, Wisconsin, where they were to pastor for nine and a half years. It was during this period of time that Jack’s strong leadership potential began to develop. He served as District Home Missions Director for one year and as District Secretary for eight years. Significantly, it was here where his passion for reaching the lost and clear understanding of the needs of home missionaries birthed Christmas for Christ in the December of 1963.
In the fall of 1965, disaster seemingly struck the heart of this ministerial family. Jack suddenly and without warning fell victim to rheumatoid arthritis. He was confined to bed for weeks on end, and it seemed as though his ministry was over. His wife, Jo Ann, tended to his needs tirelessly while simultaneously leading the church. Her faith was unwavering. During these days of overwhelming physical weakness, however, Jack experienced first hand God’s personal promise. And in time, God, in His miraculous way, brought healing and restored Jack’s health.
The spring of 1971
took the Yonts family to Appleton, Wisconsin. Impassioned with the ministry of Jesus Christ, they began a Home Missions church in their home. Beginning with just their family members, the work grew to become a revival church with a congregation of up to 200 during the six and a half years they labored there. Here in Appleton, Jack served as Regional Home Missions Director for two years and as District Superintendent for four years. His visionary leadership was becoming evident.
At the 1977 General Conference of the United Pentecostal Church International, Jack was elected as General Home Missions Director. During his 16 years in that role, Jack Yonts’s intrepid leadership pioneered the birth of the New York Metro District (he served as its Superintendent for six years during its development) and the Central Canadian District (he served as its Superintendent for three years). Blazing a trail of anointed innovation, Jack Yonts oversaw the first Multicultural Ministries Conference in Houston and the first Spanish Conference in New York, both held in 1978.
Metro evangelism was clearly the heart beat of his burden and administration. Numerous metro-missionaries were selected and supported, and the home Bible study, a simple and effective soul-winning tool, was promoted across America and Canada. He was also a significant participant in the development of the home Bible study, Exploring God’s Word. Consequently, this soul-winning tool has brought the life-changing Word of God into the homes of North Americans across the continent. Indeed, its impact now spans the globe.
as Jack approached the age of 65, the life of Jack and Jo Ann Yonts took perhaps the most exciting turn yet. At a time when others may have considered retirement, God in His infinite wisdom called Jack and Jo Ann to the great mission field that is Chicago. This life-long church planter drove into the Chicagoland area without knowing a soul. Armed with prayer, dedication and the simple Word of God, Jack and Jo Ann once again started a church in their home. It all started with the home Bible study, Exploring God’s Word. The church, now in Bartlett, has a congregation of approximately 300, who excitedly praise God in every service. A beautiful building is paid for and land is currently being sought to build a new sanctuary for the continually growing congregation. It was Jack Yonts’s vision to plant ten daughter churches throughout the metropolitan area.
Jack Edwards Yonts served the fellowship of the UPCI for a lifetime. He was a part of the Executive Board for 16 years and the General Board for 33 years (13 of those years as an honorary member). His visionary leadership always extended beyond himself. The training of others for leadership was an integral part of his ministry and legacy. To this end, he authored a multi-media teaching series, Passing the Mantle Volumes 1 & 2. This invaluable teaching series, written for the purpose of leadership and ministry training, represents his life’s work. His heart for global evangelism continues to beat strongly throughout the material. Always pouring into the next generation, his pastoral ministry produced 20 licensed preachers.
On December 26, 2014,
Jack Edward Yonts went Home to meet his Savior and receive his reward. A Christian above all else, this man’s journey spanned from a humble house in Glendale, Illinois to the headquarters of the United Pentecostal Church International to his final mission in the Chicagoland mission field.
Rev. J.E. Yonts goes on to be reunited with the love of his life Jo Ann Yonts. He made her promise to keep “the mansion next door open for me.”
The influence of this “boy from Glendale” reaches across the globe. His contributions to the Kingdom of God through North American Missions and the training of young ministers are incalculable.