Deacon Ordination – Deacons—Servant Leaders

Series: Preacher: Date: March 16, 2014 Scripture Reference: John 13:14-15

Report of the Presbytery – Alvin Grant

Raquel, Pedro, and Rob were questioned by a Presbytery made up of deacons and
ordained staff on March 2nd. Each answered a series of questions such that they were each
unanimously recommended for service as a deacon. Speaking for the presbytery I can say
we are very thankful for these three new deacons and excite(J about all the ways God will
use them.

Deacon Testimonies:

As is our custom, I’ve asked each of our new deacons to share a brief testimony.  I’ve included David Lindsell in this because even though he’s already been ordained as a deacon it has been a while since he served and many of our newer members may not know him. I don’t want them to miss out on that blessing! For the same reason I asked Charlie Brinkman to share.  Charlie is not able to be here today but his testimony will be on the sermon page of our website along with all the others. I encourage you to read it.

We’ll begin now with the rest of our new deacons—and they will share in this order: Pedro, Raquel, Robb, and David.

Pedro Alicea

Good morning. My name is Pedro Alicea, what you seen here today is the first miracle that my family experience when they became Christians. At the age of two God healed me from a chronic asthma. Since then, I never again had to use a therapy machine. As I grew up knowing God as my Heavenly Father, my doctor and my best friend helped me to realize that God was the only One Who can help me to deal with all problems that I was facing in my teenage years.

It was around the age of twelve that I became a Christian in a service in our home. Since that day God has been guiding my life, kind off like a GPS that even dough I don’t see or understand where the road is taking me, but I trust that its program is taking me to a final destination.

Following that guidance I have been serving in the last two years as a translator and a construction worker in our church’s missionary trips to the Dominican Republic.

Today, like every day of my life, I want keep to following the path that God is giving me and serve as a deacon.  God bless you all.

Raquel Torres-Fernandez

I grew up in a Christian church surrounded by people who loved Jesus. As a kid I frequently felt sadness because of my parent’s divorce. I hardly ever saw my dad who was in the Army. One night, my mom took us to a concert at our church. Bin Soto was singing and preaching. He talked about the joy of having Jesus in your heart; that God will be with us through everything and anything. I wanted to experience that joy. That night, as a seven year old, without telling, I got up and ran to the altar. There I made the choice to welcome Jesus into my heart. He has never abandoned me; He has seen me through difficult times. He has given me a loving husband, a miracle son, and love. I am happy; and want to share my joy with others and serve God here in our church. Dios les bendiga (God bless you)!

Rob Burba

Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”  This is the story of a man who took a while to truly understand what that verse really means for each of us.

I was raised in a Christian home by two amazing Christian parents.  I accepted Christ at age 10 during a Vacation Bible School.  That was June 10, 1971.  At age 16 I had what you might call a crises of faith where I did not believe that I was a Christian.  I went forward a second time to accept Christ again just wanting to make sure.  At age 20, while I was in my second year of College, I felt God was calling me to full-time ministry so I transferred from a state college to a private Christian university to follow that path. While I was in college, I was selected for a summer missions assignment. In preparation for that event, some friends and I were doing a Bible study when I discovered Psalm 118:8 for the first time. It became a “life verse” for me to “take refuge in the Lord”; however, I always wanted to do it on my terms.

Obviously, I did not go into full-time ministry and I didn’t fully take refuge in the Lord to allow him to lead my steps. Actually, it took me about 20 years to accept the full meaning of that verse which is that it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man – and I am man. During that time of my life, I was married, had four kids, divorced and reunited.  All of that led us eventually to Conway, NH and ultimately to Redland Baptist. I first met Bill Wehunt during one of Redland’s mission trips to Conway, NH. The next year, we moved to Colorado and the year after that I found myself consulting with a company in Reston, VA.  The first week I was here, I called Bill and said, “Guess where I am?” He said, “Where?” and I told him about the consulting assignment in Reston to which he said, “Great, I’ll come get you for church on Sunday morning.” That was January, 2003 and I’ve been here at Redland ever since. 

I didn’t have a car at first and Bill introduced me to Lloyd and Naomi Linn who came and picked me up at my hotel on Sundays and Wednesdays and brought me to church until it was clear that my assignment was not just a temporary consulting assignment and I got my own transportation.

Eventually, my wife and kids moved out here, but that didn’t last long before we separated and ultimately divorced for a second time. It was during that time that I finally came to understand that I was man and I was never going to be able to take refuge in the Lord while I was still trying to be the one in charge. Redland has become a big part of my life and loved on me and encouraged me through all of the ups and downs. 

7 years ago, I met my amazing wife, Cheryl. We were married here in this sanctuary 5 ½ years ago and together we have cherished the relationships that we have with our family here at this church. Between us, we have raised 5 children who all walk with the Lord. We have both been involved in the music ministries and three years ago, Cheryl was ordained as a deacon and served a two-year term. 4 years ago, God called again and now I am enrolled in Southern Seminary preparing for a second career in full-time ministry.

And, that pretty much brings us up to today and why I am standing here before you now to be ordained as a deacon myself.  When the nominations came around this year, Jim Mitchum asked me if he could nominate me and I said, “I don’t have time.  But, I’ll pray about it.” Doug Dean reached out to Cheryl to see if she would return as a deacon and her answer was pretty much the same.  Well, the nomination period elapsed and both of us were convinced that we just did not have the time for this commitment.  However, in my prayer time I felt God drawing me to this ministry and began talking with Cheryl about it asking if God was talking to her about it as well. 

Ultimately, I felt like God was telling me, “I didn’t ask if you had time.  I called you to serve.”  So, in obedience to my Father who I know will provide the time that I need to do His will, I am here today to serve.

David Lindsell

I formally accepted Jesus Christ publicly at age 12 in a Christian Missionary Alliance Church my family attended. My family was always very church involved when I was growing up – my Dad was a church officer, lay preacher and Sunday School Teacher at different times. My uncle was also a well-known religious professor, author and Christian magazine editor in the Southern Baptist community. My Mother’s side of the family was responsible for the New American Standard Bible translation. I grew up steeped in God’s word, love and had parents and family who set the example I wished to emulate as I matured in my Christian walk. For me it was a steady growth of being nurtured by God’s presence and guidance with church grounded friends and family before I made my public profession of faith. My present walk was and is formed by a steady progression of accepting God’s love and grace in my life. I am so thankful for a wife and family who have set a servant example of unconditional love and our experiencing the joy of being a part of God’s family of believers here and in other prior churches. We have been members since 1990.  Our daughter Amanda was raised here and accepted Christ when she was 6 years old.  We have much to be thankful for. In reflection, my life has not been without some real issues that caused spiritual growing moments such as divorce, child custody of my two boys from my first marriage and being a single parent, major loss of hearing (legally deaf) and cancer bouts amongst others. I have learned to keep looking up and receive God’s healing and blessings.  He is truly an awesome God. My life verse is Psalm 23:1 – (NAS) “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”  This says it all for me.  On a daily basis I trust Him to lead me as my Shepard.  I am a sheep in His pasture.  This is why I must follow what Redland asks of me.  I do this after prayerful consideration and in discussion with my wife.  Dee plans to support me in this deacon ministry as she has done in the past.  It is a teamed effort. I am looking forward to serving Redland.    

Charlie Brinkman

I was raised in a loving and very supportive home.  However, my father was not a Christian and my mother was not close to the Lord though she was a believer. Consequently, we hardly ever went to church when I was a boy.  Even so, my maternal grandfather was a believer and an active member of his church. 

On Sunday afternoons on their way home from church they would often drop in for a short visit.  He would frequently talk about the Lord, which usually made me uncomfortable about my own lack of interest in church. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that he didn’t just talk to me, he also prayed for me and my sister and no doubt for his daughter, my mother. 

When I was 14 years old, my mother began to listen to a Christian program called “Back to the Bible Broadcast.”  I listened also with great interest and over a few months’ time of being taught through the Scriptures, I realized that God loves me and wants me to trust in Him. 

At age 15, I asked Jesus to be my Savior and my Lord. I was already an obedient son and student, so the miracle that occurred in my life was not necessarily evident to my friends and schoolmates; but it was very real to me. I began attending a small Baptist Church in the rural area of Western New York State where I was raised. Then I got baptized and started tithing my wages from working on a neighboring farm. 

There weren’t a lot of other teen-age Christians at my church, but when I went to college at the University of Rochester I joined the school’s chapter of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and met some incredible Christians and really began to grow in the Lord through Bible studies and fellowship with these committed Christians.  Two years later I met my future wife Louise at an Inter-Varsity event.  When I graduated I was commissioned in the Navy and Louise and I got married shortly thereafter.  During my 8 years on active duty, I began to slide away from my Christian commitment and so did Louise.  However, when I departed on one of the last of many three-month deployments on a submarine, I recommitted my life to the Lord.  When I returned home, I was amazed and blessed to discover that Louise had independently also recommitted herself to Christ.

After leaving the Navy, we moved to Hartford, CT for about 5 years where we were very active in a non-denominational church and where I first became a deacon.  Then my company transferred me to work in Bethesda interfacing with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  About two years after moving here, we joined Redland Baptist Church where I became a deacon in 1980 and I have been active in church activities and leadership here for over 35 years.  Louise and I have 4 children, 4 children-in law, 8 grandchildren and one grandchild-in-law and one great grandchild.  God has richly blessed us and a major part of that blessing is this church.  I am very much looking forward to serving it again as an active deacon.

Charge to the Candidates: Mark Adams

Thank you Pedro, Raquel, Rob, and David!

The MAIN JOB any pastor has to do is of course preach—and for me the hardest PART of that main job are those times when a pastor has to say basically the same thing over and over again. The longer you serve as a pastor the harder this gets—especially if you’re serving the same church. I’m thinking of wedding homilies and funeral meditations.  At these important events pastors must convey essentially the same message. The challenge—which can be very difficult—is to find a different way to SAY that same thing.

Another example of this particular pastoral challenge is my task this morning—delivering my annual charge to new deacons—words that are to remind them what they are tasked to do and also inspire them to do those tasks. I console myself in these difficult speaking challenges by remembering that some messages NEED to be repeated over and over again. I mean, at weddings, brides and grooms—and all who come to witness their vows—need to hear again that marriage works best when spouses submit themselves to God and each other. People who come to funerals grieving the loss of a loved one need to hear again that Jesus defeated death—that Heaven is a real place where all Christians go when they die—and that one day we’ll all be there again so their separation as painful as it is—is temporary.

And—deacons, like Raquel, Pedro, and Rob—and this church family—we all need to hear over and over again the importance of SERVANTHOOD.

Now there are several tasks deacons are called to do throughout the year.

  • They help preserve the harmony of the church by squelching gossip and complaining.
  • They administer benevolence funds.
  • They help serve communion and assist with hospital visitation.
  • They team up to perform small home repair jobs that people in our church can’t afford to have done on their own.
  • They stop what they are doing and pray when a crisis hits someone in our church family.
  • They are given a small group of families to minister to in a way that makes sure no one falls through the cracks.
  • They minister to our widows.
  • They also set an EXAMPLE for the rest of our church family to follow.

In fact, the very first deacons were chosen precisely because they were known to be good ROLE MODELS. Acts 6:3 tells us that deacons were individuals who were,“…known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” 1st Timothy 3:8 says they were, “…worthy of respect, sincere individuals…”  —people who were known NOT to “…pursue dishonest gain.”

So from the beginning deacons have always been expected to set a good example when it comes to spiritual maturity and personal integrity—things like that—but this morning the thing I want to REMIND us all of—ONCE AGAIN—is that the main characteristic that should be clearly seen in any deacon is a SERVANT attitude. As most of you know, this is how the office of deacon came about. There was gossip and complaining about the distribution of food in the first church—the church in Jerusalem and to make it possible for the apostles to continue to do their MAIN JOB of preaching and teaching, the office of deacon was invented to serve the needs of the people. In fact, that’s what the word “deacon” literally means—“servant.”

Deacons were never intended to be an AUTHORITATIVE body—they are to be a SERVANT body. Raquel, Pedro, and Rob, you are called to serve. In fact, all Christians have this calling. In John 13:14-15 Jesus said, “Now that I, your Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

As deacons you are to follow Jesus’ example—and in so doing set the example for the rest of the church. Rob and Pedro and Raquel, as you begin your duties, I will look to you to humble yourselves and minister to the needs of this body in a Christ-like manner—day in and day out. As I said last week, this is part of the requirement of being a disciple—to die daily to self as you put the needs of others above your own.

Several years ago I came across the story of a British woman named Elizabeth Frye, who lived two centuries ago and while only a teen made this commitment—a commitment to a servant lifestyle. Her father was very wealthy and one day to help her see that everyone in the world was not as fortunate as she took her past a notorious women’s prison—a horrible place where inmates desperately reached out through the bars and begged and clamored for help. This prompted Elizabeth to read the Bible and see what God had to say about all the suffering in the world. As a result she became inspired by Jesus love for the hurting people of His day…the prostitutes, the lepers, the social outcasts, the poor. She was especially touched by Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25 where He said that “…whatever we do for the least among us, we do for Him.” This text led to her becoming a Christian and later at the age of 17 she left her comfortable palatial home and began a work among the poor. She concluded that if Christ was really alive in her life, then she was His hands and feet.

In 1813 Elizabeth heard about Newgate Prison for Women which was even worse that the prison she had seen as a teenager. Hundreds of woman and their children were crowded into a stark facility that had been built to house far fewer. The place was filthy and foul-smelling.  Disease was rampant. On average five women died each month.  There was no clothing except for the rags on their backs. There were no beds—only the floor. There was no heat—no baths. One person said going inside was like entering a pen of wild beasts. Elizabeth began a ministry there—and organized other Christians to come and help around the clock. They provided practical assistance and supplies, taught the Bible, trained the woman and built friendships. But most of all they treated the prisoners as people who mattered to God.

As a result, inmate after inmate—seeing Jesus Christ serve them in the flesh and blood of Elizabeth and her assistants—decided to commit their lives to Him. Over time the impossible happened. Newgate was transformed. Prisoners went from spitting profanities to singing worship songs. They went from violence to turning the other cheek. They went from an “every person for herself” attitude to becoming a community. So incredible was the transformation that one prisoner later wrote, I bless the day that brought me inside Newgate’s walls; for it was there that the rays of Divine Truth shone into my dark heart.”

Ultimately Elizabeth founded the Protestant Sisters of Charity to help spread hope to the outcasts of society. All of Britain—and soon much of Europe took notice. For the first time, governments began passing laws to treat prisoners humanely.

Now—what can we learn from Elizabeth?

FIRST, we can learn from her HEART.

She served others out of a heart that had first been revolutionized by Jesus.  Even her own sister noticed how Elizabeth began to behave differently toward others after she became a Christian. Her sister writes, “There was a most marked change in Elizabeth. The Bible became her study, visiting the poor, her great object. To us, she was now always amiable and patient, forbearing and humble. She was really and truly awakening to a new life in Christ.” Elizabeth’s loving ministry flowed from a HEART changed by Jesus Christ.

SECOND—consider the EYES of Elizabeth Frye.

She allowed God to OPEN her eyes to SEE needs that others ignored. What would happen if you and I learned to see our everyday world with fresh eyes—with the eyes of Jesus that peer into the nooks and crannies and see needs that we can meet in His power?

Finally, consider what we can learn from the FEET of Elizabeth Fry.

She didn’t just remain in her own comfortable sphere. Instead, she intentionally walked into new places—among the poor and marginalized—people she would not ordinarily encounter—just as Jesus did.

And then, I want you to note two things that RESULTED from Elizabeth’s commitment to a servant lifestyle. First of all her world was changed. It became a better place because of her being God’s salt and light. Our church will be a better place as you as deacons follow her example and serve in the nature of Christ. But also note that Elizabeth benefited as well. When Elizabeth died in 1845 she had a heart that was full to the brim. The more she brought Jesus to others the closer she got to Jesus herself. The more she poured her soul out, the more God refilled it to overflowing.

I’m reminded of something Bill Hybels once said, “God promises, ‘LOSE YOUR SELFISH AMBITION; I will honor you for serving others. LOSE YOUR ADDICTION TO THINGS; I will provide for you if you seek Me wholeheartedly. LOSE YOUR OBSESSION TO BE IN CONTROL; I will give you power as you follow Me. LOSE YOUR APPETITE FOR THRILLS; I will startle you with pleasures you could never have found on your own. LOSE YOUR LIFE; I will give you eternity.’”

So, Raquel, Pedro, and Rob, in your ministry to the people of Redland as a deacon I charge you to be an example of servanthood.  And I would remind you that to do that you must constantly work to deepen your relationship with Jesus through Bible Study and prayer and corporate worship. You see, the better you know Jesus, the more you will understand how much He loves you—and the more secure you will feel in your service to others.

Responsive Reading

Declaration of Induction

Raquel, Pedro, and Rob, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by the authority committed to me as Pastor of this congregation, I now declare you to be set apart and commissioned for the work of a Deacon, and duly called and installed to that ministry in this church. You may be seated.

Ordination Prayer: David Cash

Lord, Thank You for placing the desire to serve in Your servants: Pedro, Racquel, and Rob. As You are the provider of all things, I pray that You grant them strength to carry the burdens of being a deacon, wisdom and grace when working with their deacon families, and that You give them time; time to spend with both their own families and their deacon families, time to spend with You, time to fulfill all their duties. I pray for their deacon families, that You will open their hearts, and the doors to their lives that they might be open to their deacons—so that the deacons may serve them, and thereby serve You. I pray that as in the song we just sang, the deacons will see their families as God sees them, that their hearts will break for their brothers, so they can serve You by loving them.
In Your Son’s name we pray, amen.

We close now with a song of commitment…to encourage us all to follow Jesus’ example and commit to a life of servanthood. Let this be a time when each of us pledges to do all we can to mature spiritually and preserve the unity of our wonderful congregation. But if you have a public commitment to make, we invite you to make it public at this time. Perhaps you need to respond by giving your life to Jesus, professing that you have asked Him to forgive you and take control of your heart and life.  Or, you may feel led to commit to become a part of this church, moving your membership here to this place. Whatever decision you have to make I invite you to walk this aisle and share it with me now as we stand and sing.

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