Getting to Know the Elders: Jonny Rector
Here at First Free we believe God has given the church elders, men who have been chosen by God to know, lead, feed, and protect his flock. Over the next year, we’d like to help you get to know our elders better through an in-depth interview with one of our elders each month. This month we’re talking to Jonny Rector.
Tell us a little bit about your family and what you do for a living.
Since we moved to Wichita, God gave us four daughters (Noa, 11; Naomi, 8; Abigail and Eleanor, 4). I am a product manager for a tax software company (Wolters Kluwer) where I lead several teams of developers to make desktop and mobile apps for tax and accounting professionals. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, listening to music, geeking out about fountain pens, and getting beaten by friends and family at various board games.
How did you end up in Wichita?
I met my wife, Michal, at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO. We were married in 2007 and moved to Wichita so she could attend graduate school at WSU. We didn’t have plans to stick around after she graduated, but because we liked the church and community so much, we just never left!
How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ?
I was raised the son of a Southern Baptist minister, so from an early age I learned about Jesus both at home and at church. I came to faith in elementary school, but didn’t see tremendous growth in my walk with God until later in life. God placed several individuals in my path in high school and college that encouraged my faith to grow deeper as I began to understand that God had a desire to transform my morals, my actions, and my thinking as well. This all coincided with an intellectual awakening that I had where God impressed on me the importance of the life of the mind in Christian discipleship.
What role has First Free played in your life?
This church has been hugely instrumental in my walk with the Lord. The intellectual awakening that I experienced in college has been fanned into flame through classes like Mike Andrus’ “How to Study Your Bible” that Michal and I attended early on, as well as Josh Black’s sharing the Simeon Trust materials as well. Being encouraged to teach adult Sunday school classes, I quickly found my ministry niche and would actually count teaching among the hobbies I mentioned earlier! First Free definitely provides many opportunities for learning and discipleship, which are intimately connected.
How long have you served as an elder? What’s that been like?
I’ve been an elder at First Free for almost a two years. It’s been a joy to serve alongside other men who care deeply for the body and desire to encourage the mission of our church. I have learned a lot about what it practically means to be a shepherd of God’s flock as well as the organizational/strategic thinking that goes into leading a larger church such as ours. I’m looking forward to learning much more!
As an elder, how would you like to encourage and exhort First Free?
One of the important aspects of being an elder is simply knowing the people in the body. Although we have quite a few elders and ministry staff at First Free, sometimes it is difficult to know what is happening at a ground level. I think this is a challenge for most people, not just elders, so I would encourage everyone to get outside their comfort zone and reach out to people around them on Sunday mornings and get to know new people. As the feeling of belonging and community increases corporately, this would actually make it easier for elders in their call to know the flow. Though we may not know everyone at First Free, we may know “someone who knows someone.”
How can we as a church be praying for you personally? For the Elder Board?
Following up with the encouragement to the church at large, my desire and prayer request would be to lead by example in this regard. I’m not a natural extrovert, and so it’s easy to strike up conversations only with the people I know on Sunday mornings. If I and the other elders took greater initiative to extend the hand of fellowship to more strangers, it might go a long way in encouraging the sense of belonging and community.