The Reformed Deacon

Presbytery Diaconal Summit V: Assisting Churches and Mission Works without Deacons

February 22, 2024 a Podcast from the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries Season 3 Episode 6
Presbytery Diaconal Summit V: Assisting Churches and Mission Works without Deacons
The Reformed Deacon
More Info
The Reformed Deacon
Presbytery Diaconal Summit V: Assisting Churches and Mission Works without Deacons
Feb 22, 2024 Season 3 Episode 6
a Podcast from the OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries

What did you think? Text us!

In this episode, Rev. John Shaw, pastor and former OPC general secretary for Home Missions and Church Extension (CHMCE) addresses the OPC Presbytery Diaconal Committee (PDC) members at the recent OPC Presbytery Diaconal Summit (PDS) to share some of the challenges he experienced in planting churches when there are no deacons. John points out the  overwhelming mercy ministry needs of a new, young church that often fall on new pastors and the need for the unique gifts of deacons in these fledgling congregations. What's the answer? John has some suggestions.

Although the content of this PDS session is primarily focused toward those serving on Presbytery Diaconal Committees, we trust you'll find that many aspects of the talk will benefit local deacons with food for thought, even with inspiration that comes from thinking outside the box. We urge you to avail yourself of the resources you'll hear about in this episode and let us know if you want to know more about these topics or Presbytery Diaconal Committees. We plan to release each of the PDS sessions throughout 2024 on The Reformed Deacon podcast, so be sure to look for them.

Referenced in this episode:
The OPC Committee on Ministerial Care
The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension
Contact the OPC Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension:
The Reformed Deacon podcast
The OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries

You can find all of our episodes at Make sure to follow us on your favorite podcast player, so you don't miss an episode. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for giveaways and more information. Find other resources on Make sure to send us some feedback on your podcast player or ask a diaconal question by going to

Show Notes Transcript

What did you think? Text us!

In this episode, Rev. John Shaw, pastor and former OPC general secretary for Home Missions and Church Extension (CHMCE) addresses the OPC Presbytery Diaconal Committee (PDC) members at the recent OPC Presbytery Diaconal Summit (PDS) to share some of the challenges he experienced in planting churches when there are no deacons. John points out the  overwhelming mercy ministry needs of a new, young church that often fall on new pastors and the need for the unique gifts of deacons in these fledgling congregations. What's the answer? John has some suggestions.

Although the content of this PDS session is primarily focused toward those serving on Presbytery Diaconal Committees, we trust you'll find that many aspects of the talk will benefit local deacons with food for thought, even with inspiration that comes from thinking outside the box. We urge you to avail yourself of the resources you'll hear about in this episode and let us know if you want to know more about these topics or Presbytery Diaconal Committees. We plan to release each of the PDS sessions throughout 2024 on The Reformed Deacon podcast, so be sure to look for them.

Referenced in this episode:
The OPC Committee on Ministerial Care
The Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension
Contact the OPC Committee on Home Missions and Church Extension:
The Reformed Deacon podcast
The OPC Committee on Diaconal Ministries

You can find all of our episodes at Make sure to follow us on your favorite podcast player, so you don't miss an episode. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for giveaways and more information. Find other resources on Make sure to send us some feedback on your podcast player or ask a diaconal question by going to

Rev. John ShawOther 00:00

It's not that uncommon for our church plants to have those kind of challenges dropped in their lap. In fact, I think there's something about new churches and church plants and the evangelistic vibrancy that should be in our church plants that attract people with significant needs. And yet our church plants don't have the structure and capacity yet to know exactly how to meet those needs. And the church planner is probably in his first call and he's overwhelmed before the Mercy Ministry piles up and he's not sure what to do. 

David NakhlaHost 00:34

This is David Nakhla, administrator for the Committee on Diaconal Ministries. We're thankful for the opportunity to have you listen in on this session from the 5th OPC Presbyterian Diaconal Summit, co-hosted by the OPC's Committee on Diaconal Ministries as well as the Committee on Ministerial Care, held in Chicago just this past November. Although the content is primarily focused toward those serving on Presbyterian Diaconal Committees, I trust you'll find that many aspects of the talk will benefit local deacons with food for thought, even with inspiration that comes from thinking outside the box. We urge you to value yourself for the resources you'll hear about in this episode. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback and we hope that your work is blessed by the content that you hear. Now let's get into this next episode. 

Rev. John ShawOther01:20

I wanted to give thanks first of all at the beginning for a few folks. First of all, John Fikkert and David Nakhla, who invited me to come come do this, are good friends. They're colleagues, so we work together. But they become dear friends to me and I'm so thankful for each of them. And I just want to put a plug in for a couple ways I've seen John Fikkert serve with unique skill and effectiveness. First of all, I have two pastors who called me in significant distress. They had traumatic events in their family and they were struggling deeply and I didn't have a lot to give them except this I said I really would encourage you to call John Fikkert and I think I'll have some ideas of how to move forward. And John loved them and pastored them and in both cases found them counselors near them and they both told me it's saved their ministry and saved their family, and that's a unique service that I think we don't think of as much with CMC. I just want to encourage you in that way. You have pastors in your Presbytery who are struggling deeply and are at points where, if they don't get help, everything could fall apart in a sense, and John's a great resource. He's really good at helping them find the help they need locally. And I especially want to thank the deacons and tell you this any pastor who's who served for a while and pays attention is extremely thankful for their deacons for a variety of reasons that we'll talk about during the next hour, but you're so valuable to the ministry of the church, you're valuable to the pastors and elders at your church and we're so thankful for you. I just want you to know that we hold you in high esteem and recognize how much of the ministry that we do in our local churches is built on your good work. So thank you for serving in that way. We really appreciate it. I served as a deacon for about a year and a half before I went to seminary. I served with Chris Linhart, and he either wakes up at night with nightmares thinking about serving with me or has so blocked it out of his memory that he forgot that we served together. It's hard work and I'm really thankful for all of you. 


So why this particular talk? Assisting churches and mission works without deacons in part, this is a talk that's been years in the making because David and I have talked about this a lot. How can we do a better job of helping our church plants with mercy ministry and why don't we talk about this more than we do? And I'm going to work through a little bit the the manual for church planning in the OPC to show you both the challenge for a church planner but also the necessity of Mercy ministry in a church plant. And yet it's like two and a half pages of this manual that's on Mercy ministry. That's it, and there's some reasons for that and I want to think about that with you. So part of this talk is just conversations with David over multiple years to say what are the challenges, how do we try to meet them, how can we connect our press trade deacons committees with our press trade home missions committees? And I want us to think about that. 


In fact, for those of you who pay attention and listen to the deacons podcast, which is such a good tool, this was actually a topic on August 1st. It's what? Season 2, episode 16, I think. I looked it up and checked. I re-listened to it this week to make sure that I didn't say anything today that's in contradiction with what we talked about in that podcast, but it's useful and you hear from other folks as well besides me, so I'd encourage you to take a look at it. Here's how I want to start. 


So, in thinking about the challenge of Mercy ministry in a church plant, I want to tell you my own story as a church planter called in 2006, so here's a profile of who I was. When I took that call, I was 33 years old, fresh out of seminary, my first call I had. You know we sometimes pastors, talk about going into a call with a barrel of sermons. That helps them kind of transition. I had maybe 20 sermons in my barrel, that was it. And within eight months we started to have an evening worship service as well. So I was preaching twice on a Sunday and, foolishly, had already used up my whole barrel when I only had one sermon to preach on a Sunday. So that was the profile and if I just build the profile a little bit more, because there are certain ways in which that's pretty normal most of our church planters are in their first ministerial call, so they're overwhelmed with responsibility and even just the simple task, which isn't simple, of preparing a sermon that feeds people well is an overwhelming task as you begin that call. Nonetheless, all the other things that are added to it, including mercy ministry. But most of our guys who are in their first call are 26, something in that range, not 33. 


I grew up in the OPC. My parents were part of eight mission works throughout their their church life in the OPC. So I grew up in church plants. I'd been, I'd served as a deacon and as an elder before I went to seminary, and so I actually had a lot more experience than the typical church planter. And here's what happened in my first four years of ministry at Mission OPC that I'm just giving you the highlights of kind of Mercy ministry things that the Lord brought to us. 


My first month a member of our church, now an elder, introduced me to a young man who was struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, living in a halfway house that was two blocks from the church building and he was willing to meet with me every week. So there's Mercy Ministry components to that right, which, by the way, I totally missed. I didn't even think about the mercy ministry components. I was just trying to minister to his soul and forgot that there were other significant needs. My second month a young couple soon to be engaged, not yet married, anything like that, but a young couple shows up at church one week. I spend some time with him and get to know them a little bit. The next week he shows up and the young woman who's with him, I think is a completely different woman and I'm starting to wonder. As I'm standing in the pulpit leading worship, I'm like who is that with him this week? And then after the service he says can you come meet with us? It's the same woman. She's bipolar, she went off her meds and looks like a completely different person, speaks like a completely different person than the week before when I met her 14 months into my ministry at mission. 


One of the men who's in training to be an officer, who's teaching adults in a school. His wife calls me and says I need to come to your house right now because I need to talk to you about something. And she shows up and says I'm convinced that my husband's having an affair and I'm convinced that he's having an affair with this particular woman. It turns out he wasn't having an affair with that woman. He was having an affair with multiple other women. Totally wrecked their finances, had three mortgages out on their condo. This is 2007, so we all know that story. Their condo is mortgaged to 125% of its value. He's opened credit cards in his name and in his wife's name that she doesn't know about and has totally wrecked their finances and then leaves her. She's 50 years old. She's never prepared a budget in her life. Her husband, as we all know this story too has shielded her from the finances because he doesn't want her to know what's going on and she has to start over, file for bankruptcy, learn how to prepare a budget, loses her condo. The list is really long of the ways that we have to help this dear Christian woman. And I went to the session and said guys, I could spend all of my time just on this. We don't have elders or deacons here. You guys are a great session an hour and a half away, but I don't know how to handle this and also do everything else that I'm called to do. 


Year four story doesn't end. Year four, actually sorry. Years one through three we have five retired single women who've never been married, who've never been married, who come to the church and there's some responsibilities there as far as mercy ministry. Year four we have a widow and a widower in our church. There's two people, two members of our church pass away and in that same year a family comes to our church plant Three generation family. 


The grandparents are financially broken. Their house burned down. They didn't have enough insurance. They have a couple hundred thousand dollars in debt because of what they lost. Their daughter and son-in-law have three children. He can't hold down a job. All three of their children have significant health and mental health issues. Their three-year-old son. When I meet them for the first time is when their three-year-old son is in the hospital having his third open-heart surgery at three years old. They have a daughter who has autism and is non-communicative significant autism. Those are all dumped on a church plant with 60 people, with a session that's an hour and a half away and with no deacons, and I didn't know what to do because I knew that we had to meet these needs but I didn't have the capacity to do it. 


And when we get to the end, I'm going to talk about some of the things that we did and how that session helped us. And in telling that story I want you to hear this it's not that uncommon for our church plants to have those kind of challenges dropped in their lap. In fact, I think there's something about new churches and church plants and the evangelistic vibrancy that should be in our church plants, that attracts people with significant needs. And yet our church plants don't have the structure and capacity yet to know exactly how to meet those needs. And the church planner is probably in his first call and he's overwhelmed before the Mercy Ministry piles up and he's not sure what to do. That's why we're having this talk today just to think a little bit about how we can help our church plants. 


So first of all I want to talk about, as we kind of work through the outline now, what we know and are committed to be non-negotiable about omission work, and that's simply this that there is no OPC mission work that doesn't have a session. It's actually in our Book of Church Order and it's all over the church planting manual. I'm not going to go through all of it, but from the very beginning we focus on this. So pages 3 through 5 of the church planting manual is an introduction that makes three points. First of all, that Presbyterian churches work differently and the point that they're making is that if you're going to have a Presbyterian church plant, and if Presbyterian means ruled by elders, your church plant must have a session. It's non-negotiable. When your Presbyterian receives omission work. They should always be appointing a session because the Book of Church Order requires it. It's simply what we do because of who we are as Presbyterians Elders. 


Overseeing omission work is a non-negotiable issue in the OPC. The second thing it says in the intro is that Reformed churches think differently. So we care about doctrine and omission work. So we're not just gathering people, we're teaching Reformed doctrine, confessional standards. And then the third point it makes is that what you emphasize at the beginning determines how a church will believe and function later. And then it returns to rule by elders and says if we're going to plant Presbyterian churches, then they have to understand from the beginning what it means to submit to and be ruled by elders. And we all agree with this, I think. I don't think this should surprise us. We should embrace it. It's part of the character of what it means to plant Presbyterian churches is non-negotiable Presbyterian church plan is ruled by elders. What's interesting then is, if you work through the church planting manual, this comes up over and over again. 


Chapter two, beginning omission work. It talks about the procedures that you have to carry out at the beginning, and one of them is to find qualified elders who serve the mission work and oversee it. And interestingly and this comes up over and over again in the church planting manual that usually happens before you call a church planter, in other words elders in place to oversee the work, is actually in some sense more significant and takes priority over finding the church planter who will serve the mission work. And I'm telling you in the church planting manual it says that multiple times. It even says we need to recognize this, because almost every church planting book that's ever been written, at least written in the last 100 years, starts with a church planter and we're saying no, it starts with elders. It's a big deal. And then in that same chapter, when it starts to talk about forming a mission work, it talks about appointing borrowed elders and the qualities that they should have. 


You moved to chapter three of the church planting manual about overseeing a mission work. Almost the whole chapter is about the work of the session that oversees the mission work, and I just want to read all the things that this overseeing session does, just to have it in our minds as we think about this. So it has in this section the overseeing session of a mission work. It talks about selecting overseeing session members, structuring an overseeing session. And then it talks about the work of an overseeing session, and here's the list Receiving members, providing spiritual care and nurture, filling the pulpit, developing sound and acceptable worship practices, administering the sacraments, exercising church discipline which, yes, happens in mission works, like it did when we found out that this man was having affairs. Our first two years involved a discipline case and making congregational decisions. That's like 10 pages of the manual just in that particular section, talking about the work of an overseeing session. And again, what's interesting is the next chapter. Chapter four is about the work of the church planter. So we've spent all this time on the session before we even talk about the church planter, and I think this is biblical. 


By the way, if you think about the book of Acts, I'm just going to read one verse. This is Paul's first missionary journey, chapter 14 of Acts, verse 23. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. It's just where we start and it's where the Bible tells us to start. By the way, if you look at Acts 18, when Paul goes to Corinth, it's the only time, I think, in the book of Acts where Paul goes alone to a new city. Everywhere else he has an elder with him or more than one elder with him, but in that place he goes alone. And it's also the place where we read about the fact that he works, he has another job and that he just goes to the synagogue on the Lord's Day to tell them and to preach to them about the gospel. And it's only when elders come with him at that point where it says now he's occupied with the Word. I think what happens when the elders come is now he can give himself fully to the ministry and he's not bivocational anymore. I might be reading too much into the text, but I think that's part of the point. He's always going with elders and when he's there by himself he can't enter into the fullness of the work until he has elders with him. It's significant, and so we need to understand that and think about what that means. That's non-negotiable for an OP mission work. So the next thing I want to talk about is what I call the negotiable, but I put a question mark Is it really negotiable? And here's where I want to talk. 


Begin to talk about mercy ministry. So the emphasis of the church planting manual and the emphasis of our book of church order and our form of government puts a lot of weight on the work of the elders, and that's good. And in fact in our book of church order when it describes the work of the elders there's already been reference last night they're responsible for mercy ministry. Now we all know I hope that it doesn't mean that they're necessarily the ones doing it, but they're responsible to make sure that it's happening and it's being done effectively. And then when you get to the work of the church planter in our manual it's two chapters and about 60 pages of the work that he's called to do, and I want to just read the sections of the table of contents on that work. 


Doing the work of an organizing pastor Begins with a verse from Titus 1. You know he's called to set in order. What remains, that's his call as a church planter in particular, is to come to an underdeveloped, young, if we want to say it in this way a kind of baby or toddler church plant and set things in order so that it can grow to maturity. And then it lists the qualities of an organizing pastor. Just hear these and put yourself in the place of a brand new church planter who's just been ordained and hear this list Care deeply about people, be concerned for what is believed, reach out to the unsaved, be concerned for how things are done, encourage the church to grow and then maybe the weightiest manage yourself and your family. That's a good 25 pages right there of his particular work, and then it continues in the next chapter developing a mission work into an organized congregation. It starts with governing commitments for what it means to develop a mature congregation and then it gives this to the church planter Develop means to promote the spiritual growth of the people. 


Develop ministries of outreach and evangelism. Develop ministries of mercy and concern. Develop sound administrative practices and procedures, developing intellectual writings and龔 ERT. By the way, they tell you every sermon you should take 20 hours to prepare it. So I'm doing the math I'm like 40 hours of sermon prep and probably five to 10 hours of Bible study prep. Well there's, you know, 45 to 50 hours, and then that list that we just read. On top of all that, develop administrative practices and, by the way, maybe this isn't a surprise to you, but most pastors are not very good administrators Reach the unsaved and develop ministries of evangelism and outreach and all the other things I listed and oh, by the way, I had four kids, eight and younger, when I took that call. 


It's overwhelming. And so you can imagine, as a church planner, that even though there's this section on mercy ministry and it's really good, I'll read you a section from it and it talks about the necessity of mercy ministry if it's going to be a healthy church that those three pages might get lost in the other 52. And that, as you're starting to budget your time, you're like well, that list sounds like about 100 hours a week before I get to my family, and you can understand why mercy ministry pretty quickly takes a back seat, if it takes a seat at all, because he's overwhelmed. And, by the way, he should be overwhelmed. He's a finite human being with finite gifts and the task in front of him is big and he'll learn eventually that the task isn't just his. But it's easier we all know this right at the front end to do all the work than to train other people to do it, and so the tendency is to say, if I can't do it, it's not going to happen. So I just want us to recognize that reality. 


I think all of your press territories have mission works in it. And I want you to know, most of those guys are overwhelmed with the responsibility and mercy ministry for most of them is pretty far down the list, not because they don't love people and they don't understand the significance of mercy ministry, but because they have limits and they've far surpassed their limits and they're not quite sure what to do next. So that's the reality. That's why we might think it's negotiable to do mercy ministry. So let me just read to you one paragraph, just because I want you you know it might sound like I'm taking shots at the church planting manual to say that it only gets three pages, but I want you to hear this paragraph because it's clear. By the way, in the whole section it gives you the passages you'd expect Matthew 25, acts 6, galatians 2, 10. And then this is what it says Such genuine concern for people and their needs has always been a characteristic of God's people. 


Paul summed it up in Galatians 6, 10. Do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. But when new churches are planted, there is often so much emphasis placed on reaching people and organizing the work that ministries of mercy are overlooked or placed on hold until later, then hear this it's a serious mistake for a mission work that is maturing into an organized congregation. So it puts it in front of us as an imperative and yet the church planners overwhelmed, and, by the way, his family is probably overwhelmed. So a little more about my context. 


We moved from Pittsburgh, pennsylvania, where I was in seminary, to St Paul, minnesota, which we had visited exactly once before he moved there when we candidated. So we're in a brand new place. We know nobody and we have kids eight to six weeks old, my wife's homeschooling, and I'm really busy and distracted and probably was not probably I wasn't the father and husband I should be, because I was still trying to figure out how do I balance all this. So it's not just him that's overwhelmed, it's his wife and it might be his kids. So just have that as context and be patient with these young men. They're probably not thinking about mercy ministry as much as they should be, unless it's forced upon them because of the people that the Lord brings to the church. And, by the way, when those people come he's still overwhelmed, but now he knows he has to do it and he's not quite sure what to do. 


One more thing before we get to some ways to address this. I do want us to acknowledge and this is as much for me as it is for you, in fact you guys can probably teach me this the danger of ignoring mercy ministry in a mission work. And here I'm not going to read it, because every summit that you ever have, probably somebody reads Acts 6. And I kind of assume if you're on a press tree diaconal committee, you're familiar with Acts 6. But I want to talk about it a little bit because and this is something to think about that chapter is in the context of church planting. The church is brand new Now. It's not church planting like the OPC knows it, because it's thousands of people flooding into the church, but it's church planting. That's where they are and they're trying to do all these things set administrative practices in place and think about oversight and what does this look like? 


And then this crisis arises in Acts 6. And I want us to notice three things about that crisis. First of all, the fact that they're not doing mercy ministry well toward this group of folks is a scandal in the church. I think we need to see it as that significant. It's a scandal. People are offended, it's causing disruption and disunity and it could tear apart the church, that they're not caring for folks that are part of the household of faith. And we need to understand that If we're not doing mercy ministry we're opening up the possibility of scandal and deep offense in the life of a church or a church plant. We have to understand that. 


Secondly, notice what the danger is. It's not just the scandal of not doing mercy ministry, but it's the potential of saying we have to do mercy ministry and we forget word and prayer means of grace. So there's a scandal and a concern that needs to be addressed, but it can't be addressed in such a way that the ministry of the word and prayer is neglected. That's all obvious. But think about that in the life of a church plant, when mercy ministry comes, the temptation is for the church planner to take away from his time with the word and prayer because there's a need that has to be met and has to be met today. So when this woman comes to us with her finances completely broken, her husband gone, her children are old enough now that they've moved out of the house, she's completely alone and we'll talk more about how we address that. But it took a team eight to 10 people to minister to her over 18 months to get her to a place where she felt like she was standing on solid ground. 


The church planner can't do that on his own, and if he does, everything else will be neglected, and he knows that instinctually. And that's the struggle that he's facing. It has to be addressed. But I have all this other work that's just as important. And how am I going to address that? That's part of the struggle, and so we have to keep those things in mind, even as we consider mercy ministry in the life of the church. And yet we have to know that mercy ministry is not optional, it's not negotiable. James helps us with that right James 1.27, james chapter 2, verses 14 through 17. It discredits the gospel if the people of God don't care for those who are in need, especially those in the household of faith but beyond that as well. And so if we're planting a church where we want the gospel to be known, and we want it to be known clearly so that people come to saving faith through the ministry of the word and prayer, we can't neglect mercy ministry, because it deflects, it detracts from the message of the gospel if we don't do that ministry and so we have to give it attention. And then I just want to look at one other passage, because I think it's significant for us to get this picture, and this is the end of Acts 2. 


This is one of my favorite passages as a pastor, to think about how my work is directed by the word of God. I am going to read these Acts 2, verses 42 through 47. And they devoted themselves this is right after Pentecost. Basically, they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, and awe came upon every soul and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles, and all who believed were together and had all things in common and they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to awe as any had need, and day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to their number, day by day, those who were being saved. 


Now we understand, hopefully, that Acts is more descriptive than prescriptive. So we don't read those verses and say everything they did is what we're required to do. But notice the picture and I want you to think about what we maybe sometimes miss. We get those four devoted right. This should define the church. We're devoted to teaching, to the Bible, teaching to fellowship, to the sacraments and to prayer. Sometimes I think we read that passage and we end there. That's what should define the church. 


But notice what goes on. There's hospitality, there's mercy ministry and there's evangelism, and the Lord blesses all seven of those things in such a way that souls are saved and added to the church. That's what a healthy church looks like. I really believe that it's all of those things, including mercy ministry and hospitality. And if we're going to plant healthy Presbyterian and Reformed churches, they're ruled by elders, they have clear doctrine and they minister to those in need, and souls are saved, as the gospels proclaimed, and it all goes together as a package. If you're missing part of the puzzle, you're missing part of God's design for his church. All right, so there's the picture, both the problem and the other part of the puzzle, and also the need for mercy ministry. 


So how do we do it in a church plant that most of them don't have deacons in place? I just want to give some tips and I'll share a little bit of how we use some of these things in St Paul. First of all, we're seeing more and more mother-daughter church plants and I hope that, as an established church is sending out people to plant a new church, that we're not just doing it with elder oversight, but now there's a natural deaconal connection because the mother church has deacons as well. If it's a strong enough church to send out you know, 40 or 50, or we have one right now that sent out 80 people there's enough strength in that established church to say we already have deacons and they're serving not just the mother church but the daughter church. So that should be happening already. 


But let me tell you, one of the challenges in church planting for a mother-daughter church and I'll start with the session Is that the session's already busy with the mother church and so they have their two or four hour or five hour session meeting each month and then they're exhausted and they say oh, we haven't talked about the mission work yet. Just take 10 to 15 minutes to talk about the mission work and it's just not good enough, right? You can't care for souls if you talk about them for 10 to 15 minutes a month, especially knowing that the elders, for the most part, aren't attending the mission work. They're attending the mother church. So what we encourage sessions to do is to switch every month. One month you start with the mother church and then you move to the daughter church in your agenda. Next month you start with the daughter church and you move to the mother, because we know that the one that's first will get the most attention. So let's make six months of the year where the daughter church is getting the most attention so that we make sure we're not missing. And the same principle applies to the deaconate Whatever goes last gets the least attention. So if you have a daughter church, plant in your press tree, encourage the deacons first of all to be engaged and encourage them to think about how to make the mission work a significant part of their agenda whenever they meet. And this is important because, let's be honest, most of the church planners know that the deacons are there, but with Mercy Ministry so low on the list, unless they're prompted by the deacons, they're going to forget to come to you. So you have to engage them and think about how you're going to do that. 


Here are a couple of things that we did in St Paul, in part because of that huge situation that came to our attention 14 months in Our overseeing session, which was about an hour and a half away. Like I said before, I went to them and said I don't know what to do with this. It's so big and I need to be involved because there's spiritual needs. She has significant spiritual needs, but there's so many Mercy Ministry needs and financial training and help that she needs. I can do all that but I won't be able to do my other work, so I need help. And here's what they did for us. They had, I think, four deacons and they asked for one of the deacons to volunteer and then they told me he's your deacon for the next 12 months. He's not doing any ministry at our church. All of his deaconal ministry is with you. And then he helped set up teams and recruit volunteers from our church who could help serve this lady, and it really was a team of 8 to 10 people. 


She in part because she lost control of all of her life over the multiple years, had become a pack rat who bought all sorts of things on cable television. Her garage was literally full, wall to wall and floor to ceiling with boxes. She'd never even opened that we had to sort through and she had a completely full storage container offsite that was full wall to wall and floor to ceiling, and so we had three ladies that worked with her to sort through her stuff, because we couldn't even move her yet because all the stuff was there. We had a couple men, including that deacon, who said hey, I've done a lot of work with budgeting, I can help her build a budget. We had to help her file for bankruptcy there was no way that she could do it any other way and then help her think about how to rebuild credit. She needed a new car and one of the guys from the church said I actually love shopping for used cars. I'll help her find a car Team of 8 to 10 that for 18 months, gave themselves in lots of their free time to serve this lady so that I could simply meet her spiritual needs, which we know are connected to the mercy needs. 


But I could focus there, knowing that they were focusing on that. I don't know how we would have done it really without that deacon that gave himself to us for 12 months. I don't think we could have. That was a big deal for us and I think it's a tool that we should think about more often than we do. We have borrowed elders all the time. Right, I bet there's at least one church in every single Presbytery that doesn't have elders and there are borrowed elders from the Presbytery serving that church, because we know that the spiritual needs can't be met without a session. Can't we say the same thing about Mercy Ministry? And isn't there a place for borrowed deacons who can give their time, who are serving in two places? Because that's what borrowed elders are doing they're serving in two places. We can have deacons do the same thing, and, by the way, it's not just workload. Most pastors don't have enough experience in Mercy Ministry to do it well, so even if they gave their time, it wouldn't be very effective and it might be counterproductive, and so I think we really need to consider borrowed deacons as one solution. 


This is the other thing we did. So I gave you that list. I even left a few things out by year five. Our Mercy needs were. It was a long list, and I think it was in year five where we finally ordained and installed two deacons, but for five years we were flying through all these things without deacons, and I was talking to a friend who pastors a PCA church and just saying I don't know what to do, and I wasn't even asking him for solutions. But he said here's what we did when we were a church plant. We had a Mercy committee. 


The session didn't ask for volunteers. They recruited volunteers. So they wanted to find people who had the gifts and the wisdom to do it. They recruited men and women to serve on a Mercy committee. We were really clear they're not deacons, they're not serving in that role. They serve under the oversight of the session but they can do a lot of the legwork and the handwork and a lot of the visiting, and then they do that under the oversight of the session and then they can engage the congregation to help as the Mercy needs came up. And so we did that and we were clear both that they weren't deacons but secondly, they weren't. Even the men who were on this committee weren't deacons in training. 


We weren't using this as kind of a backdoor way to find deacons. We were just simply saying we have a lot of needs and we have some people with gifts and passions in this area and we're finding ways to engage their gifts. And we, by the way, after we ordained and installed deacons, we kept the Mercy Committee and now we put it under the oversight of the deacons, because one of the things we're training our deacons in, I hope, is that they don't do all the work, they lead the congregation in the work. And so now we had ready volunteers on the Mercy Committee who were at the disposal of the deacons to say how can we use them? And here was one more benefit. 


By the way, we uniquely, I think, in a church plant we had those five single retired ladies who've never been married, so they're not widowed and they're not divorced, they're single. We also had a lady I didn't mention her yet who had cerebral palsy, who I think her family moved her to Minnesota because they were tired of taking care of her and she got connected to our church and so we were her family and she needed a lot of help. She would need help showering and dressing. We're not sending men to do that, but we had women on the Mercy Committee who were happy to help her in that way, and so it also gave us women who could serve in a particular way to meet particular needs, that it was better for women to meet than for men to meet and it allowed us to expand our Mercy Ministry even before we had deacons, and I think it's something for us to consider as well as just an additional tool fit within our structure in all the ways that protect what we need to protect, but it encourages people to use their gifts and it was uniquely helpful to our mission work. 


Here's the last thing I want to encourage you with, and then I'll stop and see if there are any questions. Chris told me since I started 10 minutes late, I can go 10 minutes late, so I have a little bit of time to do that. I want to encourage Presbytery Deaconal Committees to have regular interface and communication, not just with church planters but with your Presbytery Home Missions Committee. I think if you have a lot of mission works, there's probably value in having a joint meeting at least once a year To just ask the Home Missions Committee where can we help. Because, again, I think because church planners tend to be overwhelmed and young, they don't know to go to the Presbytery Deaconal Committee to ask for help, but their Home Missions Committee should know if they need help, and so I think just creating a communication back and forth with your Home Missions Committee, especially like in a place like the Southeast. I forget how many mission works you have. It's a lot. Yeah, I was going to say eight, ten mission works. 


Like to have that regular interface with the Home Missions Committee if you have even three or four mission works in your Presbytery is probably a helpful tool. 


It doesn't take that much time. It's just saying let's schedule a meeting at the same time and you have your Home Missions meeting while at your Deaconal meeting, but then we'll come together for 30 minutes or whatever it takes to do that. I think it's a helpful way so that you can proactively find out where the needs are and then go offer help, because it's never as helpful to say how can we help you. It's more helpful to come and say here are some ways that we think we can help you, what do you think? And so to be able to go to a church planner with information from the Home Missions Committee, to then be able to go to the church plan and say here are ways we think we can help you, it's a big deal. And so to be proactive in that way, I think is a big help. Alright, I think I'm going to end there because I want to have time for questions. 

Rev. John ShawHost43:33

I'm sad for a male conductor. My only experience as a Reformed Christian is in the context of this situation. Subjects neared my heart and I think, a couple of observations. One is, I think too often we assume that elders are gifted to do the work of the accurate. 


Deacons are uniquely gifted to do this work and I could see in our own session as an elder with a provincial session, failures because we did the best we could but we're not uniquely gifted as a deacon. The second thing I would just point out in thinking about this issue of provision of sessions, we all agree in a sense, without intending to, I think we deemphasize the office of deacon by giving it no pre-vote. So I really encourage your home missions taking this on and rolling this around and thinking about it, because it is extremely, as you well pointed out, extremely important in the life of a mission worker. 

Rev. John ShawOther45:05

Can I echo your, since your mic went in and out the two things he said is sometimes we assume that elders have deaconal gifts. I would add pastures to that list. Yeah, and a few of them do, but a lot of them it's a different gift set and so if we ignore this we're leaving into people who might not have the gifts to handle it. That's important. And then he just mentioned, by the fact that we emphasize and require a provisional session or an overseeing session for a mission work, we might unintentionally deemphasize mercy ministry, and I think that's true. I don't think it necessarily means that we need a provisional deaconate, but I think it at least means it could mean that. But it at least means that we have to be intentional about it so that it's not just the church planter having to figure it out all on his own. 

Speaker 5Host45:59

So John. 

Rev. John ShawHost46:02

So I'm not going to build on your comment regarding omissions committees, especially those that have a lot of mission work. I think we should be willing to be creative. So I think having a deacon on a home missions committee, you know it'd be a change of the bylaws. I don't think it's a bad idea. 

Rev. John ShawOther46:38

I think a press story can wrestle with that. I think in Philadelphia don't you assign people from the deacon's committee to the home missions committee? Don't you assign people from the deaconal committee to a mission work so you have somebody on the deaconal committee that checks in? And to any churches that don't have deacons? I think you guys do that in Philly. I've wondered. 


So the church plant where I was, I didn't really share this piece of it. 


It was an urban church plan so we knew it was going to have unique challenges and I think the number of mercy needs was probably a little bit more significant for us because of where we were and we knew if we reach our community well in the city, you know that's going to bring more mercy needs. 


I've thought about this a lot, that if we're going to do urban church plans, which I hope we do more of, do we need to send a deacon to the church plant? And even and David and I have talked about this staff it Like it's probably not going to be full time, but can this deacon be bivocational and get a job in the community? But we're also going to finance it a little bit as part of our home mission support, because and same thing in a place like neon, like there, the needs are. When we plan a church in a place where we know there are great mercy needs, if we're going to be effective evangelistically, we're also going to be bombarded with mercy needs and we have to meet them. And so I think we have to think creatively about structure and staffing to say how are we going to meet those needs head on. 

Speaker 3Host48:13

It's happening a little bit. 

Rev. John ShawOther48:16

It's happening a little bit in Clarkson like staffing a deacon. Oh, that's awesome, that's great. 

Speaker 6Host48:23

So you kind of just answered part of my question. I was going to ask how did you or did you incorporate Barrow deacons into that mercy committee or PC into that committee? And then I was going to ask is there any OPC churches that are paying a deacon to be a deacon to help pastor? You know whether it be church land or yeah, so is Clark. 

Rev. John ShawOther48:50

I'll do the second one first. I mean, is Clarkson paying to staff a deacon? Yeah, go ahead. 

Speaker 5Host48:55

Yeah, so. 

David NakhlaHost48:56

Clarkson, which was you're familiar with the significant refugee ministry and outreach. 

Speaker 5Host49:01

To Clarkson, which is a refugee ministry, there's an evangelist who is funded by the various commission entities but the community of that ministry has been involved denominationally and with the through the presidential diaconal committee, significantly funding to awards that, that that now work and for the last couple of years that's gone to help pay for a part time administrative role and that was in a Christian Christian. Christian, he's back. There is a Christian will testify as the first evangelist on the ground that he was overwhelmed with the diagonal responsibilities. 


I remember sitting in Chris's living room and probably for an hour he was on a phone with a with a pharmacy trying to help a refugee get their prescription and the next thing he was going to do is go go run over there, and you know, I mean his whole day could have been well, I think you a lot of his whole days were filled with running around doing this and that for that was really purely diagonal that that he really felt the need for a deacon at his site. 

Rev. John ShawOther50:18

Yeah, and as far as your first question, so we had the borrow deacon before we created the mercy committee, but it was actually some of what we learned through that is that this was going to take a team of eight to 10. Wouldn't it be great if we already had a team of four to six people who had built up experience and had unique gifts? Because when we built that team of eight to 10, we didn't. We were starting from scratch, like who are the eight to 10. And how do we kind of encourage these folks to use their gifts and who has the gifts? And so it was out of that experience that we're like, okay, we really need this, you know team. 


It was always between four and six folks on that particular committee, so that we already have a team in place. And then, I mean, it really was a question like when we elected deacons, do we still need this? Like, yeah, the deacons need this, they need to have already a volunteer pool and here's some of it already people who've committed themselves to do this. So it was trying to create part of the team from the front end. And then they all kind of learned things that they specialized in in the mercy committee, which was useful as well. 

Speaker 8Host51:22

So we talked a lot about the church planting, site of it. Some church plants go for quite a long time without having deacons. Other churches their deacons end up moving away or die, and they've had deacons but no longer do. How do we actually go and integrate with those churches that aren't accustomed to being augmented anymore? 


Because, there's sessions. They're a pull out writing session they have for maybe a long time. They're not accustomed to getting that outside of hell. Because what's on my mind is, if those people don't have those deacon gifts, even talking to them they may not be realizing the challenges, the mercy ministry challenges they've gotten from them, because they don't know how many times we, as deacons, are the ones go. Something's wrong here. They need to go follow up. Yeah, you need insight on that. 

Rev. John ShawOther52:17

So you know, with that second piece in particular, so churches who had deacons, who don't anymore, but the elders might not recognize the significance of not having deacons I think it's time to put on our best sales pitch. So we're not saying that you're deficient and that you're doing something wrong. We're offering you an opportunity that costs you nothing except to help you, and I would think that most sessions, if you can, you know, build that pitch in such a way to both remind them of the significant mercy need. And Acts 6, let's be honest, like Acts 6, is really clear. This isn't the role of the pastors and elders, if at all possible. It's another office with people with different gifts, so that the minister and elders can focus on word and prayer. So I think there is a biblical kind of imperative to that. But I also think, why would you turn it down? Do you have mercy needs? Would it help you to take something off your plate? We're here to offer to take it off your plate. How can we do that? 


I also think it's important to recognize about church plans. I didn't mention this before, but many times, unfortunately, when our mission works organized as a congregation, they organize with elders but not with deacons, and so I really hope that we pay attention to that. When a church is organizing, let's see do they have deacons or not, because they're no longer a church plant, but they still have that same mercy need and they don't have the officers to fill that need. And that was our case. We organized in three years in St Paul with elders, but it wasn't until year five that we had deacons and a lot of our church plans. For whatever reason, that tends to be the case, and so don't think that when they've organized now they have deacons, they might not, and we should be paying attention to that as well. Three more minutes. If there's any other questions, oh, back here, yeah. 

Speaker 3Host54:24

Tell me, are you you're encouraging churches to organize with deacon? I come from harvest. You know past the day pretty well Our last four church plans that we've done their mother, daughter church plans, basically the deacons that they had organized with the Auto Harvest Act. They were either interns and worked for a year in our deaconate and they were deacons that were in our deaconate and moved to a church plant. 


And if you were to ask me what, how to do it, I would say that's the only way, and I would have done much deacons before even what. 

Rev. John ShawOther55:06

So we encourage them to have to organize with deacons. But to be clear about our structure we have no authority, we're a supporting arm, we're a reactive arm and precipitaries are the ones with authority. And you know, organization is an interesting thing because we are very clear from the front end that a church plant becomes a mature church that's ready to organize when it's self-sustaining, self-governing and self-propagating. A lot of our church church plans organize as churches before you can really say that about them, and I would include self-governing as elders and deacons. So they're organizing with elders but not with deacons. Are they really self-governing If one of the mandated offices isn't filled? But you know, I can say that and you can tell people. I said that but I can't enforce it in your precipitary. Can we do? Let's see, I haven't looked. We have one minute. How quick is your question? 

Speaker 7Host56:13

I guess that, listening to you, know what you've been talking about and really enjoyed the part about challenging the congregation to be involved in the mercy ministry, and I think that as deacons sometimes we forget that part. We want to make sure the needs are met. That's good, but we're also leading the congregation and it comes to clear focus with church plans. But for existing churches it's the same thing and sometimes, you know, we forget that. 


One of the things that I thought about as you were talking in question about churches that don't have deacons anymore as precipitary committees, you know we should already have, they should know us. You know how many times do we say well, the first time to meet somebody in our church should not be the time when they're having a deaconal need. That's hard, you know we need to know them already. And maybe the same thing is true with the churches. You know, with the precipitary members, we need to have met the leaders of the churches and then, if there is them a need for additional help, they know our face. It's not like oh well, here's a big, you know somebody coming in? 


to fix things. It's more like here's a brother coming to help you. 

Rev. John ShawOther57:33

That's good. I love statements that aren't questions, so I don't have to answer. 

David NakhlaHost58:04