By RENEE FITE
Growing up in a preacher’s home was such a good experience it encouraged David Deffenbaugh to follow in his dad’s footsteps. And now, his own son is taking steps in that direction.
Deffenbaugh, who’s been at South College Church of Christ for more than 14 years, remembers the day he decided he would to become a preacher. He was sitting in a class his freshman year at Oklahoma Christian College (now University), and pioneer preachers on America’s western frontier were under discussion.
“Their dedication and sacrifice and commitment were quite inspiring,” Deffenbaugh said. “There were many other influences, but that was the tipping point.”
His own father, who has preached more than 55 years in Missouri, made the strongest impression on him and his ministry. And for David’s son Dalton, growing up in a preacher’s home has also been inspiring.
“Our son, an ‘09 Tahlequah High School graduate, is planning to enter the ministry as well,” Deffenbaugh said of Dalton, a sophomore at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tenn., majoring in Bible.
The Deffenbaughs did their best to impress on their children that living a life committed to Christ is the priority, no matter what they do to earn a living.
“We are just as proud of our daughter Alissa and her family, who live in Edmond and are actively involved with the Memorial Road Church of Christ there,” said Deffenbaugh.
Deffenbaugh and his wife, Tanya, both grew up just over the Oklahoma border in Neosho, Mo., and he graduated from Neosho High School in 1980. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Preaching from Oklahoma Christian University. While preaching at Wewoka, he returned to OCU and earned a Master of Arts in Ministry. He has also done additional graduate work toward an Master of Divinity degree from Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tenn.
For Deffenbaugh himself, it’s been an enjoyable life and career choice.
“I very much love the opportunity to know and share God’s word,” he said. “The ‘words of eternal life’ are powerful, living and active, and still able change lives to this day. It’s through that revelation that we are able to come to know, and know how to serve, Jesus Christ.”
That love for sharing God’s word has taken him to different parts of the world – as far away as Russia, and just across the street to help neighbors at the elementary school his children attended, through a church outreach ministry.
The church has a history of supporting mission work. In the past, it has fully funded missionaries in Africa and Brazil. Presently it provides partial support for ministries in China and Africa. An area of work that has grown significantly through the years is the participation of individual members in short-term mission efforts.
“We have a group of six who have just returned from a medical mission work in Guatemala,” Deffenbaugh said. “There are several who participate in this work every year. Other have worked on numerous occasions in Ghana and Mexico, as well as other locales.”
Deffenbaugh has been involved extensively in work in Ukraine since 1994, just prior to coming to Tahlequah.
“I have made over 25 trips there,” he said. “I spent several years directing a translation and printing ministry headquartered in the city of Donetsk.”
Many at South College have participated in these trips to the Ukraine.
One of the church’s most important outreach programs is directed at the Hispanic community. A Hispanic congregation has been meeting concurrently in the facility for more than a decade.
“Edgar Lucero has been serving as the Hispanic minister for the majority of that time and has been very effective,” Deffenbaugh said.
The church has also played a crucial community role with its food pantry, which is open Tuesdays and Thursdays each week, providing non-perishable groceries. A coat giveaway was recently held.
“That has been very well-received by the community and a partnership with Sequoyah Elementary School, across the street from our church facility,” he said. “In this partnership, we have attempted to help provide for some of the needs of the teachers and staff, as well as provide support and encouragement to them.”
This effort began when church members considered a practical way to implement the Bible’s teaching to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
At South College Church of Christ, the approach to faith is basic: Members believe their best hope of serving God is through their relationship with Jesus Christ, as detailed in scripture.
“Our intent is to simply be New Testament Christians and the New Testament church, nothing more and nothing less,” Deffenbaugh said. “That approach has led to several distinctive beliefs and practices from much of Christendom, including the vital role of baptism in the process of salvation through Christ’s blood; the organization of the local congregation, with non-denominational and congregational autonomy; the careful use of religious titles, especially in regard to leaders – for instance, I do not wear the title ‘pastor’; and the practice of a capella music in worship.”
As a pastor’s wife, he said, Tanya has a gift for comfort and encouragement.
“People have tended to seek her out as someone with whom they can talk,” he said. “Tanya’s role has never been upfront. Instead, hers has been a very supportive and encouraging role.”
He’s tried not to put pressure on her simply because she is the preacher’s wife.
“I encouraged her to do what she needed to be concerned primarily for her role as a Christian wife and mother,” he said.
They found Tahlequah to be a great environment for raising their children.
Over the years, Deffenbaugh has collected several favorite scriptures, depending on the occasion or circumstance. A current favorite is Ephesians 5:10: “... and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord” (ESV).
“It is an attitude and approach that says, ‘I am going to learn what pleases God and do that, as opposed to asking God to just accept what I’m already doing, and that can be quite challenging,” he said.
Another meaningful passage is Psalms 34:6: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him. And saved him out of all his troubles.” He also likes Matthew 11:25: “At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.’”