This series is featured in our quarterly e-newsletter, “The Mercy Minute“.  If you would like to see your diaconate featured, please contact Sarah Klazinga.
 

Meet Your Fellow Deacons: New Hope OPC, Green Bay, WI

Some of the New Hope OPC Deacons: Mike Spronk, Jim Wilke, Rick Cohler Todd Kirsteater and David Schoeneweiss. Not pictured: Josh Agen and Bill Knoespel
 
There are currently seven active deacons at New Hope OPC. Representing the New Hope OPC, Green Bay, Wisconsin deacons:

Deacon Josh Agen
 grew up attending New Hope OPC after his parents discovered orthodox preaching on Christian radio and left a mainline church. He left the Green Bay area for about 20 years for college and career but moved back in 2017. He is now beginning his fourth year as a deacon at New Hope OPC and sixth year as a deacon in the OPC.
 
He began serving at a very small OP congregation simply because there was an acute need for men to serve. He says, “I didn’t think I had gifts that were particularly suited toward serving as a deacon. However, I have found serving as a deacon to be a great blessing as it gives me an opportunity to be directly involved in one of the ways God extends mercy to those in need, and to share the gospel with individuals seeking help from outside of the church.” New Hope has a food pantry and distributes grocery and gas cards to individuals who request aid from the community. They are also actively involved in assisting and advising people within the church family who have continuing needs. They have a separate Mercy Ministry committee that deals with more outward focused ministry such as a Bible study at a local jail, fundraising to support various local organizations, and nursing home ministry.
 
Josh says that the diaconate sometimes struggles to know how best to help or motivate individuals who seem unwilling to take positive actions to improve their situation. He would like to grow in that area, but he says that one of the greatest strengths of the diaconate is, “the care and servant-heartedness of the other deacons [which has been] a wonderful testimony [to him] of the gracious work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.”
 
Deacon Rick Cohler says, “I have been a deacon at New Hope for more than 30 years and currently serve as head deacon. I was drawn by the ministry of assisting our members and others who are in need. My late wife, Fran, and I have two adult children, a son in Evanston, IL and a daughter in San Diego, each with their own family. Fran went home to the Lord in 2015. After being alone for four years, God brought a lovely woman named Charlene into my life and we’ve been married a year-and-a-half. She has two adult children with families. Between the two of us we have seven grandsons and one granddaughter. 
 
New Hope offers a small food pantry, and gas and grocery cards as an outreach. Our monetary aid is usually for members only, though we have made exceptions. Our greatest strength is our unity in Christ. A frequent challenge is working with someone who just sees us as another source of income. After several times of assistance we ask the person to come speak with us about their needs. That rarely occurs and we tell them we can no longer assist them without a conference. There have been several people, however, who have been brought to Christ through their interaction with the diaconate. We provide a moving ministry to members as a demonstration of Christian brotherhood.
 
We issue a call for additional volunteers and are always blessed with the large crew which shows up. Each deacon takes his turn as “Deacon of the week” and handles any calls which come into the church office.  This keeps the responsibilities spread out so they don’t become burdensome. Occasionally as a term nears its end I consider not running for reelection, but God always puts it on my heart that He wants me there to keep me humble.
 
Deacon Dave Schoeneweiss has been a deacon for six years. He and his wife were active in their previous church, but when the church split, the Lord led them to New Hope OPC.
 
Dave says that he was particularly drawn to diaconal work because of the coupling of witnessing opportunities with serving and giving to physical needs. He says that humility and service have been the greatest lessons the Lord has taught him as a deacon.
 
When he reflects on the diaconate’s strengths he says, “I like when we can debate suggestions on how to help people, with everyone having some input. By opening decisions up to debate, it gets people thinking before they vote. I like that we can all agree to disagree and come together in the Lord’s name in the end….seeing the results of the deacons’ service in people’s lives with the Lord’s blessing [has encouraged me the most as a deacon.]” 
 
Deacon Mike Spronk has been serving as a deacon at New Hope OPC for about 8 years. Prior to being at New Hope he was a deacon in a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Minnesota. He was a pig farmer for many years before moving to the Green Bay area.
 
While in the CRC he was involved in Volunteers in Ministry, which is an organization associated with the CRC that provides furniture to families in need. He says he enjoys being a deacon: “It’s fun learning about other people and having lunch with them.” He would like to see the diaconate grow in their work of sharing Christ, but is thankful for the congregation’s generosity in recent years which has enabled them to serve and give much more freely to those in need.

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Meet Your Fellow Deacons: Redeemer OPC, Charlotte, NC

Matt Browning says, “I’ve lived in Charlotte for fourteen years now, and am a practicing “Mad Scientist”. Cassie and I met at Redeemer about ten years ago, and we’ve had two kids there, Jack and Lucie. Well, we didn’t actually have them at the church. They were born in a hospital, much like normal children. Lately, we’ve been pretty involved with the homeschool community among the reformed churches in the area. We enjoy gardening together, cultural warfare, and driving incredible distances to visit family during the holidays. 

I love getting to serve our church families in simple things like moving house or helping with home repairs. Building a Christian community and culture is so important, and getting down to some physical work together is a great way to build community, especially for dudes who need something to do. The quality time of physical service is its own reward! I also really love teaching kids’ Sunday school and generally organizing our Sunday school program. It has given many adults a chance to get involved where otherwise they’d be somewhat on the sidelines. 

A kind or encouraging word to a brother or sister can do much more than one might think. So can little things like dropping off a meal just to give a mom a break, or grabbing lunch with a brother. Time is usually more valuable than money. If there’s not a fire that needs putting-out right now, look for the little opportunities to encourage. Also, get your wife involved in your service. She’s a better cook than you.

Matt Posvar has been a deacon at Redeemer OPC since the summer of 2005. He grew up in the RPCNA and the OPC was always close by with school friends being at the OPC church in his town. He says he has always enjoyed helping others, sometimes to the detriment of his own family and duties at home. Being a deacon for over 15 years now has helped him to learn to balance those things and also to learn to allow others to serve in areas that he no longer can.
 
Matt was drawn to the local diaconate because he desired to serve the body in any way he could. This started out at first with more physically-oriented service that was easily visible as sure and obvious needs. He tells us, “It has been a joy to continue to do those things and to ‘wait tables’ so that the session can do their work, but I do greatly enjoy the more spiritual side of it, too.” He looks forward to broadening the focus to those outside of the church as the deacons grow in their outreach to those in need in their community.

Matt is grateful for the work of their diversely skilled diaconate and the love they have for their congregation. He has learned to be more compassionate in general, and especially when it comes to others’ needs. It is easy to go about your own work and to not see others in need or suffering around you. Matt explains, “Forcing myself out of my comfort zone to reach out to others has been wonderful and has been a true blessing to be on the receiving end, as well. It’s wonderful to be able to be an extension of Christ to the Body despite the weakness and imperfect nature of this feeble extension.”

David Vogel has been a deacon at Redeemer since 2015, and tells us, “My wife grew up in the OPC, but I have a varied church background. I met Leah at Redeemer and married her a couple of years before I became a deacon. We have two little girls and I’m a third-year student at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s M.Div. program. I hope to become a pastor upon graduation. Serving as a deacon played an important part in my feeling a call to ministry.”

David believes the greatest strength of the men he serves with is their godliness and humility, “They truly exhibit the requirements of 1 Tim. 3 in their lives, and it is a joy to work together with them to serve the church. When we have a difficult case, I am confident it will be handled with prayer, patience, and diligence.” 

“Our community is largely upper-middle class, so we don’t have much natural exposure to many types of need which can provide a field for fruitful diaconal service. We are also all relatively young men with families, which helps in some ways but also means we’re consistently busy and our biggest limitation is usually our own time.”

David believes the biggest lesson is to be proactive about the big picture and to go slow on details—not to wait for trouble to develop. He hopes deacons will be aware, and have conversations before the crisis comes, if possible. However, once you’re having the conversation, take time to listen and don’t make assumptions. He admits, “Not saying I do this well yet, but I hope I’m learning!” 

The biggest encouragement to David has been a sense of caring for Christ’s bride during times of real need and feeling His help and blessing as he does so. He adds, “Being a deacon has given me a greater sense of connection to the church, as well as a greater love for her.”


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