As has been announced, today five brothers (Gan Chin Hwi, Benny Skariah, Norefel Resuma, Lim Ah Sang, John Zhang) and a sister (Diana Chan), who were nominated and appointed by the Board of Elders, will be presented (via Zoom) to the congregation for their affirmation. Dn Lok Kwok Wah, who has been serving for the past 14 years as a deacon, will continue his service in this office. So, there will be a total of seven to labour in the diaconate office of Gethsemane B-P Church.
In Acts 6, which is generally considered as referring to the first group of seven men who were appointed to diaconal duties, we see them being specifically tasked with caring for the physical needs of the widows, especially concerning their need for food (Acts 6:1-2). They were Spirit-filled men with good reputations, chosen to “serve tables” (6:2). Their service was, at the same time, to help the apostles and to relieve them of “this business” (Acts 6:3).
The above biblical record serves as a model for the men appointed as deacons. Their task involves caring for the needy (or the ministry of mercy) and managing the finance (or administrative stewardship). They are also helpful to the pastors and elders in supervising the congregation by attending to their assigned matters. Generally, deacons are called to serve the physical needs of the church, both corporately and individually. They must demonstrate gifts of service, mercy, helps, administration as they care for the needy, handle funds on behalf of the congregation, take care of the church’s property and equipment, help coordinate church meetings, etc.
In the biblical records, women appointed in the diaconate cared for the needy. 1 Timothy 5:9-10 state that women who were “taken into the number” (very likely as deaconesses) were those who were “well reported of for good works;… have brought up children, … have lodged strangers, … have washed the saints’ feet, …. have relieved the afflicted, … have diligently followed every good work”. John Calvin commented, “For there was no public office which women could discharge save that of devoting themselves to the service of the poor” (Institutes, 4.3.9). Calvin did not see those women as overseeing (or leading) the mercy ministry of the church, but serving “to perform a public ministry of the church toward the poor, and to labour with all zeal, assiduity, and diligences, in offices of charity” (Institutes, 4.13.19). Calvin did believe that women could serve the poor and the needy, and did not hesitate from calling them “deaconesses”. Indeed, these deaconesses, being “aged women”, ministered to the younger women in the church (cf. Titus 2:3-5). Deaconesses are not called to oversee or rule the church, but to humbly serve among the brethren.
When the early church became better organised with the help of the appointed men to diaconate ministry, there were astonishing results. The church in Jerusalem not only prevented a split within the congregation, but also (as Acts 6:7 reports) witnessed the blessed fact that “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
With the appointment and affirmation of more deacons in our church, let us pray that the church ministries will be better organised, the brethren and their needs duly cared for, and thus contributing to we becoming a powerful witness as a unified and well-taught church to the lost world.
May our deacons exalt Jesus Christ through their humble, ready and faithful service in the church. May their exercise of God-given gifts resolve any shortcoming that would hinder the proclamation of the Word, and build up the congregation in truth and love for reverential worship and for fruitful work of the ministry.
(Gideon Lee’s testimony was shared with the youths on 18 December 2021, which was to be his last fellowship meeting with the GYF in 2021, before moving to the GYAF in 2022.)
As I approach a reflective time of the year and retrospectively think on the Lord’s guidance upon me in the past six years in Gethsemane B-P Church and in the Youth Fellowship, I would like to appropriately give thanks to God for all His goodness shown to me. In particular, the Lord has helped me to transition from school to work in the past year, and has shown me that He indeed provides for all my needs. I am reminded of what the Lord said to the Israelites, when He commanded His people to “remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deut 8:2).
Moses further recounted to the Israelites concerning how the LORD had “humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. … When thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the LORD thy God for the good land which he hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deut 8:3-6, 10-14).
I understand this passage to be God’s personal interaction with the Israelites. He asked them to appropriately give thanks; not to forget Him or become proud. He reminds them to remember the tough times they went through, which were times of chastening from their heavenly Father, the LORD God of Israel. Likewise, when I look back upon the past year, and the many years in the Youth Fellowship, I am compelled to have the right response to His providential leading in my life, through both the “good” and “bad” times.
Praise be to my heavenly Father who chastens and cheers me! The LORD has taught me many spiritual lessons in my time with the GYF. May I never forget His benefits in my life, but respond appropriately by diligently keeping His commandments, judgments and statutes, lest my heart be lifted up with pride. All glory be to God for His leading in my life. May I continue to follow Him and grow in the knowledge of His Word, as I entrust my future to Him.