The lady caught me off guard a bit with a question: “Who are the deacons?”. I thought she wanted me to name all of them and that would have been a challenge indeed because at FBC Tuscaloosa we had numerous ordained deacons both serving on the active body and those who had rotated onto so-called “inactive” status. After listening a bit longer, I discovered that she really wanted to know what deacons do. That was a relief to some extent. I answered the question as well as I could.
That question came back to my mind when I was preparing an ordination presentation for my youngest son-in-law, Jared Linna. He was being set aside for service at Union Avenue Baptist Church in Memphis. My reflections on that occasion were brief, but I hope they were helpful to Jared and his church family. I further pray that they can be of some value to you as you consider them.
I. A deacon is to be a family leader.
In I Timothy 3:8-13, we read the ministry profile of the deacon. This exposition follows that of the pastor cited earlier in the chapter. One of the basic expectations for someone who serves as a servant leader, such as a deacon, is that he exemplifies the very best of living for Christ in and through the home.
Sometime ago, I preached a message entitled, “The toughest place to be a Christian.” I was highlighting how challenging it is to flesh out the teachings of Christ in one’s home life. Deacons are to be good examples of this kind of intentional living. In the ordination service, I repeatedly said to Jared and to his church family, “No one expects you to be perfect in the service of our Lord, but you are expected to be passionate about that service.” That passionate service begins in the home.
II. A deacon is to be a pastoral partner.
Ministry in the local church and beyond is all about partnership. I believe a deacon is to be a partner with his pastor in serving the people of the church and those in the community. The ministry of the deacon began in Acts 6 with this need in mind. The church had growing pains, and the pastoral leaders could not meet all the needs of the people. Therefore, they set aside deacons as partners in ministry in and through the local church. I believe this need is as great or greater today than it was in the times of the early church. Again, no deacon can be perfect in service, but he can be passionate about his service for the Lord.
III. A deacon is called to be a congregational encourager.
I know Barnabas was not one of the deacons in the early church, but I do contend he was the best example of a minister of encouragement. The name Barnabas means “son of encouragement.” He was the consummate encourager to others as they made the journey of service together for the Lord. I would hope that every deacon and other servant leaders would view themselves as ministers of encouragement. Why? Because all of us, at some time in our lives, need the ministry of encouragement.
IV. A deacon is to be a kingdom minister.
Serving the Lord with an eternal perspective is the essence of our calling as Christians and servant leaders. Deacons should personify this kind of worldview in their ministry in and through the local church. This world is temporary, but God’s Kingdom is eternal. In the truest sense, we do not build the Kingdom, but we minister in the context of God’s Kingdom. We are not building our own little empires, but rather we are loyal servants of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. That kind of ministry outlasts the temporal lives we live on this earth.
Remember, no one expects us to be perfect in service to our Lord, but we are expected to be passionate about that service. When we are family leaders, pastoral partners, congregational encouragers and kingdom ministers, we are expressing the kind of passionate service which makes an eternal difference in lives of people for glory of God. These four affirmations of ministry help us to incarnate the essence of I Timothy 3:13: “For those who serve well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”