Meet Your Fellow Deacons
This series is featured in our quarterly e-newsletter, “The Mercy Minute“.  
If you would like to see your diaconate featured, please contact Allison Groot.

Meet Your Fellow Deacon: Greg Torres

by Allison Groot, Administrative Assistant for the Committee on Diaconal Ministries

For the two months of his son’s short yet precious life, Greg says the members and deacons of Christ OPC of Janesville, WI, where he now serves as a deacon, showered his family with the love of Jesus through thoughtful words, gifts, assistance, acts of service, and prayers.

Across the church, saints understand their service to one another as a reflection of the love, humility, and care our Savior displayed to us in our time of rebellion and desperation. The Committee on Diaconal Ministries expresses this in “Principles for the Ministry of Mercy”: 

Following the example of our Savior, who though He was rich, yet for our sake He became poor, so that we by His poverty might become rich, it is the duty of all saints to be hospitable and to come to the aid of one another in material things, according to their various abilities and necessities.

Greg Torres is particularly aware of this pattern and considers himself privileged to take part in it. He was the husband and father of a family painfully affected by the loss of a child. He was ministered to in the name of Christ. He was comforted by God’s people in a time of inconsolable grief and hardship. And in that time of mourning and desperation, the church’s service to him and his family kindled in him a new desire to devote himself to the ministry of mercy.

Greg writes, “It was through this experience that I not only grew in my faith and matured as a Christian, but I truly realized the importance of the work of deacons in being able to share the love of Christ by providing comfort and providing for other needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ as they face challenging or difficult times.”

With that realization still fresh on his mind and heart, he was ordained and installed as a deacon of Christ OPC in May 2019—less than a year after the loss of his newborn son.  

Now, Greg serves alongside four other deacons to minister to those in trying circumstances both in and outside the church community. He admits that though the Lord has sovereignly placed him in many roles that developed his abilities to lead and serve others, such as holding a local elected office, it was his experience enduring difficult circumstances and receiving care from the church that prepared him most to care for others as a deacon.

Though, Greg confesses that having the desire to serve is, in some ways, only half the battle. He shares that sometimes the hardest aspect of diaconal ministry is discerning the needs of those within your own congregation. On the other hand, he shares that ministry to those outside the church seems to scarcely bear observable fruit. He writes, “So much of what we do can feel fruitless. We help people financially or in other ways, we share the gospel, and so often it seems the folks appreciate the financial help but fail to appreciate the gospel.”

Yet, in both circumstances, whether it’s ministry to those inside or outside the church, Greg knows that the ministry of mercy is always worthwhile. This conviction is encouraged and strengthened when the Lord is pleased to build his church through such ministry. Greg recalls, “One individual who had attended services off and on for some time, having found themselves in the midst of multiple bad situations. The deacons helped with life skills, set expectations, and provided financial help. Most importantly we shared the gospel and showed them Christ’s love and our willingness to help and care for them. Today this person and their family are doing much better and are members of our church.” 

Though many acts of diaconal service are done with very little tangible fruit, the Lord is faithful to his people and assures them that service in the name of Christ is never in vain. Indeed, this is one of the many ways God blesses his people. Greg reflects, “Seeing the faces of those at church, for whom we have had the privilege of helping and caring, is all the encouragement I could ever ask for. I do my best to remember this when I have doubts about the work we do.”


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.


Meet Your Fellow Deacon: John West

by Allison Hill, CDM Administrative Assistant

What is the role of a deacon? What is his primary responsibility in the church? Most likely, the answers many deacons and church members may generate in response to these questions will contain, if not solely focus on, the notion of “service”—service in the church, for the church. John West, deacon at Mid Cities OPC in Bedford, Texas, would agree. However, he would take it one step further. Calling his fellow deacons to a higher order of service than merely performing the tasks required in the local congregation, West claims that it is the deacon’s duty to “cultivate an environment in the church that is conducive to the entire body serving one another and the outside world.” Deacons are to set the standard of service within the Church.

John West has served as a deacon in the OPC since 2019, but previously served a longer stint in a non-OPC congregation. Resultingly, he has spent many years of his life caring for the needs of the local church, as well as thinking about how he can best serve the church in his role. Over the years, his perspective has certainly evolved and been strengthened. Speaking on the significance of the diaconal office, John asserts, “The deacon is the cornerstone of service in the church. It is what I would hope all men would aspire to be. If you want to serve the Lord in the body, then really think hard and long about why you aren’t a deacon. The ability to serve is the gift the Lord has given us.”

Notably, John’s transition to the OPC also impacted his view of diaconal work, as he previously served in a church where mercy ministry largely emphasized long-distance, short-term work. “In the OPC, diaconal work is focused on serving the body. It is ongoing and sometimes it is messy, but it is encouraging to get to see the fruits of your local, long-term efforts,” John says. He continues by saying, “The people who need help aren’t always outside your building—they are frequently inside your building. I feel drawn and compelled to minister to them first.” 

Though with a renewed vision of who to serve, his outlook on how to serve has also changed. John frankly admits, “I’m not climbing up on roofs anymore. Other people are much better suited for that kind of work.” Yet, one thing has remained the same: “I enjoy working with people; I truly love getting to know the people of the church.” 

Luckily for John, people’s needs generally aren’t limited to roofing projects. In fact, he shared that his work as an Information Technology professional has shaped his service as a deacon. John says, “My work helps me do diaconal work better. I am thankful for my vocation, and I can see how the Lord has used it to enable me to bless the local church.” From broadcasting services for the church to working on people’s computers, and even coordinating the efforts of others in the church to fulfill various areas of need, John’s service to the church is closely connected to his vocational employment. 

Another area of service John has come to love is hospitality. This has only been enhanced by his wife, Suzanne, and her gift for welcoming and caring for others. He says they simply have a desire to love and serve people more than things. Hospitality ministry is a sphere of service John has greatly enjoyed observing and participating in with his local congregation. In recounting the encouragement drawn from specific opportunities he has seen hospitality demonstrated, John shares that of a particularly difficult situation: a dear couple’s loss of a child. However, as John recalls, “it was a very rewarding time for the life and strength of the church as we all had the opportunity to pray for them, serve them, and draw closer to them in deep, meaningful ways. It was a blessing to see that family served and provided for.” That, he recalls, was one of the best times in the life of the church right in the middle of one of the worst. “To see the Lord provide for his people through his people is encouraging because it embodies and constitutes the ordinary means God has ordained for the care of his people,” John says. 

These reflections reinforce John’s professed affinity for “helping people help other people.” John again comments on the responsibility of the diaconate by saying, “We build up the body by serving them, but service doesn’t stop with deacons. We build up the body by encouraging them to serve one another.” Thus, to the deacon, he says: “You can’t do it all, but you can ask for help and usually get assistance from others to do anything. People are eager to serve, they just need a leader. You have the privilege to lead by serving.” To the church member, John provides this simple, yet motivating reminder: “You don’t have to be a deacon to serve your church.”