In his three decades of service at Grace Fellowship Church in Johnson City, Tennessee, DTS alumnus Tom Oyler (ThM 79) has participated in literally thousands of Sunday morning services.
But last weekend's service broke the mold. To Pastor Tom's surprise, Director of Alumni Greg Hatteberg took the stage to present him with the Seminary's first-ever Alumni Distinguished Service Award. The award recognizes select graduates who have distinguished themselves through Christian character, commitment to Scripture, and faithful service to the body of Christ.
"In honor of your dedication to the ministry here at Grace Fellowship Church for 33 years, your unquestionable loyalty to the Word of God, and your passion for precision in understanding, applying, and living the truths of Scripture, it is my privilege to present the very first Alumni Distinguished Service Award," Hatteberg said.
"We just really appreciate all you have done for the Lord and for Grace Fellowship Church."
After graduating with his ThM in 1979, Tom joined the newly founded Grace Fellowship in 1980 as its lead pastor, the position he still holds today. At that time, the GFC family included three lay-elders, one part-time youth pastor, and less than 50 congregants. Today, Tom shepherds a 20-person ministry team, an eight-man elder board, and hundreds of followers of Christ.
Tom's wife and partner in ministry, Leslie, applauded alongside several family members: daughter Amanda, son Rich, and daughter-in-law Ruth, who all flew in from Dallas, as well as Tom's sister Patty and her husband Kelsie. Amanda, Patty, and Kelsie made the trip in secret in order to be able to surprise Pastor Tom on stage Sunday morning.
To honor the Oylers' commitment to family, the alumni award included round-trip tickets to visit their children in Dallas.
"The experience I had at Dallas Seminary was just extraordinary," Tom commented. "The background that it gave me to lead and to teach was just a gift. I still have a great love for the Seminary."
Watch the full award presentation:
All nominations for the Alumni Distinguished Service Award come solely from fellow DTS graduates. Nominees are prayerfully considered in light of 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9; Ephesians 5:1-33; Galatians 5:22-23 and Romans 12:1-21.
For more information or to nominate a fellow alum, visit the Alumni Service Award page.
Photos of the ceremony and a slideshow of Tom's years of ministry are available on the GFC website.