Tim pastors at the Tailrace Community Church in Launceston, Tasmania with his wife Sharon.
Let’s meet Real Pastor Tim O’Neill:
I’ve just celebrated my 28th year of marriage with my wife Sharon. It was Sharon, a former missionary kid, that resulted in me coming to faith 30 years ago. Sharon is not only my wife, best friend and inseparable soul mate, but my invaluable ministry partner.
We have three wonderful children Jono (25), Michael (24) and Rachael (20) with Erica a precious daughter in law, married to Jono.
Our church is called Tailrace Community. Until recently it was known as New Directions Community Church.
The church is named after the geographical location where we are located (the Tailrace) and the building that we own and have met in for nine years (The Tailrace Centre). We built the Tailrace Centre as a way with connecting with people from the community who wouldn’t normally go to church.
It’s a church that Sharon and I (along with a few others) started in Launceston Tasmania 22 years ago. We had a burden to establish a church that would reach out to people who didn’t have the incredible and eternal blessing of knowing Jesus in a way that made them part of God’s family.
This was brought home to us in the year that we started the church when we knew seven people who took their own lives. We so much wanted them to find the peace and the transformational faith that we had and that I not long before had discovered. This faith had changed my life, and given me hope and purpose and we desperately wanted others to be assisted in going on their own faith journey.
I never intended to become a pastor. I was an ambitious, young Chartered Accountant who was embarking on a successful business career. But God did two things that I didn’t expect.
The first was to call Sharon and I to pioneer a church to reach the unchurched, which we did in April 1994. I was going to be the business person who helped fund it and help with leadership. And so we set Sunday April 17 1994 as the date for the church to be started. We started looking for the pastor God surely had for us, but the the trouble was that we didn’t find one! And so I, along with Sharon, ended up being “it”!
The second thing that God did was to change my heart. A few years before starting the church I had walked away from the opportunity of being a partner in an accounting firm. Then some years later (after we had started the church) I felt the very clear, very precise and very compelling call of God to devote myself fully to the work of the ministry.
I loved my work in the business world.
It stimulated me, it taught me much and it was very good to us, but I had been listening for the call of God, placing my future in His hands even if it meant something other than pursuing further business success. By the time I heard that call, my heart was already there.
What’s your highlight in ministry?
That’s a simple one. It’s seeing someone come to faith, seeing their eternities and their lives being transformed, and seeing them walk into the fullness of the call God has for them. It doesn’t get any better than that! That’s the focal point of everything that I do.
God doesn’t call us to build organisations or ministries, but to see His Kingdom expanded by every person who identifies themselves as being a Christian growing in the way that they follow Jesus, and then seeking to reach others and help them grow as disciples. That’s got to be the WHY behind why we lead and serve churches and ministries.
My focus is not to build the church I lead; it’s to nurture, build, equip and mobilise the people who I meet and who become the church.
I love seeing how a number of people we have discipled have gone on to start churches that then repeat the process. I also love seeing how people of influence, whether politicians, business people or leaders in other realms have gone on to bring a godly influence to their spheres of influence. I want to do all that I can to cheer them on and to help them however I can.
What are your hobbies, favourite food and favourite film?
My favourite hobby is fly fishing. I’m an introvert who loves getting away and surrounding myself with the beauty that nature provides. For me there is nothing better than being on a river somewhere, surrounded by beauty, having time to contemplate and at the same time being focused on finding trout and tricking them into taking my fly.
I also love the beach and am blessed to have a holiday place on the coast where we can retreat to and where I can take long walks with Sharon.
My favourite food would have to be steak that I cooked over a BBQ, but there are also many other foods I enjoy.
As to my favourite film, I’m not sure about that. I generally prefer to read novels than watch a film. I really enjoy historical novels.
What are you currently reading?
I’ve recently finished 2 magnificent books that are both inspiring and equipping. They paint a picture of what church can be like; not what the current forms of church in developed countries look like.
I’m also privileged to have been involved in the leadership of a movement for 14 years (similar to those described in the books), where we have seen approx. 20,000 churches planted mainly amongst 172 previously unreached people groups. Going there is like going back to the book of Acts, and brings me to ask “why can’t this happen in Australia”, and to realise that it can!
What is your vision or hope or dream for 2016?
2016 is a year of transition for me. It’s an exciting time as later in the year I’ll formally take on the leadership of A2A as President.
It’s a time for building on the great foundation that has already been established in A2A by Phillip Mutzelburg the founding leader of A2A, by Trevor Chandler who saw CLCI birthed, by the National Leadership Team and by the leaders of the churches in the movement.
The mission of A2A is to raise enduring leaders to build prevailing churches. That’s my focus. Why? Because our country needs this to happen!
There is a mission field on our doorsteps that is waiting for the love of Christ, His wisdom, His forgiveness and His leadership to be released so that people can be brought into His family, experiencing His grace and transformational power.
The starting point is looking for young people (and not so young!) with the potential for ministry and leadership on their lives; to envision them, to equip them and to stimulate them to seek God not as to whether but what He is calling them to be and do. And then to assist them to walk in His call.
2016 is a year that we will be building fresh foundations upon the foundations already so carefully laid. We will do this, with the hope and desire of seeing leaders raised who will see new churches pioneered as well as existing churches revitalised, so that we become a movement of healthy churches that reflect the church in Acts 2.
The end result that we wish to see is that multitudes throughout our country and beyond will come to discover Jesus and become authentic followers of Him.