Meet Your Fellow Deacons: Tim Lee & Jonah Lay

by Allison Hill, CDM Administrative Assistant

It’s been said, “People won’t share their struggles with those who can’t remember their name.” In other words, if you want to serve someone, getting to know them is the best way to do so most effectively. Deacons Tim Lee and Jonah Lay are very sensitive to this fact and make every effort to work it out in their ministry as deacons of Sovereign Grace OPC in Redlands, California. 

From the very start, their method of diaconal ministry is one that embodies relational service. When asked how they, as a diaconate, determine how to minister to families and individuals in their church, Tim’s simple answer was, “We understand the needs of the congregation by spending time touching base with members and visitors before or after worship each Lord’s Day. Jonah is typically one of the last to leave.” To which Jonah added, “When you make a point to talk to people and hear their concerns and discouragements, not only do you pick up on ways you can serve them in ways not explicitly shared, but those individuals know who to come to when they do have an explicit need.”

In fact, Tim shared that his view of the Sabbath impacts how he serves: “As I’ve become more convicted about keeping the Sabbath fully before the Lord and not spending as much time on my own in between services, I’ve spent more time fellowshipping. I think that’s the main way we are made aware of the needs in our church.” This “organic process” transforms the diaconal model from “material actions meeting material needs” into “whole-life relationships meeting whole-life needs”. Service is elevated from providing surface aid to deeper involvement in the life of another.

Interestingly enough, Tim and Jonah are the first deacons to serve Sovereign Grace OPC, both ordained in early 2022. Yet their wisdom and service far outpace their short time holding this office. Jonah himself says, “Serving isn’t a sprint, it’s more of a marathon.” He believes that they will mature and grow over time, and are not disqualified from serving in the present as they learn and grow.

Even though they are somewhat new, Tim and Jonah both have gifts, talents and skills that have been developed over the course of their lives. Their respective careers are also of great benefit to the church. As a psychiatrist, Tim has a propensity for listening, caring, and supporting others with patience and understanding. Additionally, his familiarity with the medical field is a great benefit to the congregation particularly as aging members are faced with navigating hospitals, doctors, and medical procedures. According to Jonah, the most encouraging part of ministry is going with Tim to visit those in hospitals and sing hymns to and with them. He says, “It is very encouraging to minister to people even right before they enter glory—to see how the saint lives out his last hours on earth. You see what you hope will be your story one day.”

For Jonah, mercy ministry is appealing because of his appreciation for leadership by example and God-given abilities, from playing the piano to coordinating individuals for workdays. Of Jonah, Tim says, “Jonah serves out of joyful, sacrificial love for the Lord, not out of obligation.” This must be the very essence and foundation of diaconal service.

Both Tim and Jonah agree that being a deacon is a learning and growing process. Tim expresses it this way, “It has been a part of my own sanctification as I become more aware of my own sinful tendencies, and I try to relinquish those things to the Lord and mortify my flesh. The Lord is always showing me the extent of my sin.” Jonah agreed in saying, “Yet, it is the Spirit who does the work. We can’t change hearts—our own or others’. We must do what we are called to do and trust that the Spirit will work in us to make us willing servants and make those to whom we minister receptive to our message, love, and assistance.” May this be the desire and prayer of every deacon.


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