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 Hill.
 

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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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.”


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Meet Your Fellow Deacon Pete Hybert

By Allison Hill, Administrative Assistant for the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries

Pete Hybert has been a deacon at Bethel OPC, Wheaton, IL since 1993, and privileged to have a front-row seat to watch the Lord work in many people’s lives. His take-away from it all? Amazement. He says, “You get to see the Lord work. Sometimes it’s not what you expected, but it’s still amazing.”

Pete’s stint as a deacon includes a period when he was the sole deacon. He’s helped walk-ins with various short-term needs, church members with long-term needs and those seeking assistance with a tragedy or disaster. Each situation poses a unique opportunity to see the Lord’s hand of mercy work through the local church. For Pete, this is even true in situations in which it seems there is little headway and temporary discouragement.

Pete knows that it is a privilege to be a small part of demonstrating mercy in tangible ways. That is what he says drew him to mercy ministry. “What I like about diaconal work is the practical side of it.” Pete currently works as a full-time consultant but describes himself as a “jack-of-all trades”. From fast food to working in construction, Pete has found that his wide background and the diverse experiences of his fellow deacons helps them all minister and relate to many.

Mindful of the power of sacrificial giving Pete says with humble confidence, “It’s not that we are genius deacons, and it’s not about trying to do it all. It’s about doing what you can.” “[If] you are able to share time with people, do something that matters to them in the immediate term, and you can talk to them while you do it. That’s what I like about it.” While the goal is to foster independence, “Getting to know people and have them understand their God-given value as an image-bearer [is] something only speaking with them can do [and] it gives you a heart to pray for their salvation.”

Though there have been memorable times of fellowship in helping people move or pumping out flooded basements, Pete has a heart for serving those with disabilities. He and his wife, Faith, a former special needs educator assistant, both have considerable experience caring for and working with people who have long-term needs and disabilities. Serving those individuals and helping them succeed in their own capacities is one of the most enjoyable types of mercy ministry for him. “I try to encourage them and end up being encouraged by them. It’s been rewarding to do what is in our reach to come alongside them.” There is one member of the congregation with long-term needs Pete gratefully says, fuels his work.

“Of course we are willing to help others that we may never see again, but it’s nice to serve people you see and can continue to minister to, physically and spiritually, even when there is little hope of their situation changing.” The ultimate goal is building biblically-founded relationships with people over time.

“It’s always great to see results: growth or even change,” Pete says. As deacons, there is great joy in observing the hand of the Lord in the lives of those you serve.


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