Three years after the Kellers founded Redeemer, women and men were mobilized to serve on our very first Diaconate, the mercy arm of Redeemer. In the first three years primarily the pastors and staff members handled mercy needs as they were brought to the attention of the church. Tim had written his doctoral dissertation on the ministries of mercy and was eager that we would live out the Gospel in both word and deed ministries.
Many Presbyterian churches around the world give their diaconate the care of the church’s assets — its property and funds. While this function is very important, Tim wanted our diaconate to concentrate on the practical needs of people, and that is what Redeemer’s Diaconate was founded to do. In this he especially followed the model of diaconates in the Dutch Reformed churches. Though the Redeemer Diaconate went through various phases of refinement from 1991 to the present, it never deviated from its original vision to be a ministry that focused on serving the needy.
Over the past 23 years, there are various high points that testify to how God has cared for his people through the Diaconate. Within the Redeemer family, direct financial support from the Diaconate has gone to over 1500 congregants. Over $4.3 million has been disbursed to help people maintain a roof over their heads, to clothe, feed and transport them. In addition to these 1500 individuals and families, many more received spiritual, emotional and practical care through prayers up front after each worship service and various care groups such as divorce care and OWLS (ministry for older adults). Other aspects of the ministry such as Free Indeed Community Cupboard and Closet, the Meals Ministry and the Job Search Ministry have provided concrete help through food and clothing distribution and skills training.
How is this ministry able to provide such holistic care? Since its inception, 244 women and men have accepted the call to be trained and to serve on the Diaconate. Most completed their initial three-year term and many have served far longer. How they are able to carve out time from their full-time jobs and other responsibilities to serve on the Diaconate shows their obedience to God. Somehow he has a way of expanding their calendars. We’re so grateful to God for the faithful services and the enormous contribution of these 244 deeks.
In addition to human resources, financial resources come from generous supporters such as you. In December of 1995, the Redeemer Session allowed a special offering to be taken up during a worship service to benefit the mercy fund of the Diaconate. The tradition continues and it is out of this mercy fund that we are able to participate in God’s restoration and to bring his Shalom to this world by providing stability for members of the body of Christ.
It’s been exciting to see scripture leaping out of the Bible and becoming real in our daily lives. Acts 6 depicts how the early church leaders were appointed to the task of caring for the physical needs of the congregation. Inside Redeemer, the deeks rally around our congregants to care for our church family.
Another passage that comes alive is Matthew 22:39. We hear Tim use this sermon illustration often — that while others fled cities, Christians stayed behind in urban areas during the plague, ministering and caring for the sick. Living out God’s second greatest commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, we have witnessed a modern day version of Christians staying in the city after disasters such as 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy to minister to our neighbors in the city. The scope of the Diaconate greatly expanded during these challenging and difficult times faced by the city.
9/11, the Great Recession of 2008 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012 caused tremendous growth for the Diaconate as a result of answering not only the needs of those in our own congregation who were affected but also many individuals and families who suddenly found themselves in crisis after losing their footing. The Diaconate was equipped to answer their needs because of the direction that God gave the Diaconate as well as an outpouring of funds from
We know that God’s mercy moves him to relieve suffering and misery, and our hearts are made generous and gracious by encountering and understanding his mercy. When overwhelmed by great vulnerability and fragility around us, the generosity from others and compassion on display is truly supernatural. We see in Acts 6 that God’s kingdom expanded as a result of mercy ministry and we long to see this scripture coming alive here in the city through mercy ministry. It’s been a remarkable ride and there is more to come!