If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you’ve likely heard about deacons but might not understand fully who they are and what they do. Deacons who act like servants reflect the very nature of Christ. The deacon of the New Testament church holds the title not for prominence, not prestige, but in service to the church for God’s glory.
Why is it relevant to us? Because as a church, it is our responsibility to appoint these deacons to serve the church. We must know the nature of the servant-leadership position and how they play their part in Christ’s plan.“Deacons are problem solvers, not problem starters.” – Dr. Todd Gray Click To Tweet
Two Officers of the Church
There are two officers in the church. We have the pastor and the deacon. The pastor serves the church by leading and teaching but the deacon leads in the church by serving.
In Acts 6:1, Luke describes the scene of disciples increasing in number, a really beautiful way of saying the church was growing. Sometimes growing has growing pains. While they were growing in number, a complaint arose because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.
What did they do about it? We read it in Acts.
“… So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, ‘We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility’…they laid their hands on them (Acts 6:1-6) [NLT].”
The Word of God kept on spreading when it was being hindered.
In Acts, we get a picture of the type of servants God wants of deacons as we read on. Deacons are problem solvers, not problem starters.
These disciples were dealing with an important issue: how to care for widows. That might not be a specific problem today but there are still moments of dissension. It distracts us from the church’s ministry to make disciples. However big or small of an issue it is it must be addressed. Who needs to address it? The problem solvers: deacons, by serving the church and squashing dissension.
A Picture of Deacons Today
Our deacons do a wonderful job at what they do. The very first thing we talk about after we pray is how we can serve.
During the pandemic, you could have seen some of our deacons ministering to their widows; in a similar way to Chapter six of bringing them food when they were locked in their homes. Every deacon has at least one or two widows assigned to them and they love ministering to them. That’s at the core of who they are. They are servants to the church.
This servant’s heart is what we look for.
Equipping the Church
The apostles were better able to do their ministry because of the deacons.
It says in Acts 6:2 that it’s not desirable for us to neglect the Word of God to serve food. The apostles are not saying they’re above serving tables. They were saying it’s distracting us from our primary responsibility."Because we have deacons, more people can be delivered from the emptiness of life through a deeper relationship with Christ and a connection to this family that cares for them." – Dr. Todd Gray Click To Tweet
The apostles were able to continue praying and preaching the Word. Because of the office of the deacons and God’s hand, the church continued to grow.
Choosing the Right Deacons
What kind of people should be deacons? They should have a good reputation full of the spirit to be wise and responsible. People see them as worthy of respect and speak well of them, not just in their church family for the hour that they’re here, but out in the community.
When you’re looking at the lives of these men, it’s not only how they act here that matters, but more importantly how they are acting out there. It matters if their reputation is good among believers and unbelievers.
They’re about holiness rather than earthly success. Do they know the Lord? Do they follow the Lord? Are they men that pray? Not just at church, but do they pray at home, over their families, over their business decisions? These are the kind of men we look for.
They should be responsible. They can be put in charge of a task. When deacons are given the task to take care for widows, it will get done.
What is Expected from a Deacon
In First Timothy Chapter 3:8-13, the Bible gives us some qualifications of a deacon. This isn’t exactly a resume, it is focused on character.
Deacons should be:
This is the kind of man that when he goes to bed at night and is looking in the mirror, he can look at all the things that he did that day and still go to bed and get a full night’s sleep. He’s not perfect but relies on the grace of God and to do the best they can every day for His glory.
Respect and Integrity
If we can’t pick perfect, then what’s an example we can look to? I recently read a biography of George Washington. He was far from perfect but one thing he did have was dignity. Crowds of people would give him respect.
Washington was constantly feeling underqualified. He was thrust into these positions, not feeling ready caused him to rely on others and to rely on God. Everywhere Washington went, people gave him respect.
We don’t need a deacon that’s hungry for the title of Deacon. We are looking for men who have strong character and have lived with dignity for a while now.
Deacons must be sincere. They don’t say one thing at church on Sunday and then say another at work on Monday. Their character needs to be consistent and so do their words.
Drink and Money
Does alcohol control him? If so, he’s not ready because Christ should control him. Another question you should ask when he drinks, if he does, does he drink to get drunk? If so, that’s a sign of immaturity and he’s not ready.
These are questions of the heart. Is he willing to not drink in front of others if it causes them to stumble or it offends them? Or is he so prideful to say, well, I’m going to drink whenever I want in front of whoever I want to drink? That’s pride. He may be a follower of Christ, but he’s not ready to be a servant because he’s putting himself above other people.
It’s the same with money. Is he greedy? If he is, he’s not ready to serve. Does he make his money in a shady way? Does he make his money by cheating others? If so, that’s a problem. It reflects poorly on Christ.
In verse 12, it talks about deacons concerning their families. I believe deacons are to be men of incomparable family values. How does he treat his wife? How does he treat his children?
We disqualify some people off the top that I don’t think Paul is talking about here. It’s not just do’s and don’ts, we are talking about character.
For example, deacons should only have one wife. What about the widower? If a potential deacon remarries a follower of Christ, is he disqualified? No. What about the single man? Paul doesn’t disqualify him here, but we will if we take it to mean a wife and only one wife his whole life. But the one we’re really getting down to is divorce.
All sin is redeemable. A one-woman kind of man is the kind of man that’s married to his wife right now for the rest of his life. You see it in how he treats her; he’s not chasing other women and he’s committed to her for a lifetime. Do we need to go back and see the context of the divorce? Yes, but we don’t disqualify a man because he’s been divorced in his past. We consider the situation and the heart.
Deacons must love their family. He must be committed to his wife. Because how he loves his wife and his children will show you how he loves Jesus in his church. I want men to serve this church like they’re serving Jesus himself like they’re serving the bride of Christ.
Deacons and Jesus
What does all this have to do with Jesus? Everything. Deacons are servants and servants are humble, who’s the best example? Christ. Deacons simply point people to Christ.
Jesus is the greatest servant to the church of all time. He died in our place when he was innocent on that cross 2,000 years ago. He died for my sin and your sin and he paid for it completely. The greatest example of a deacon, the greatest example of a servant that’s ever lived is Jesus.