Monterey Baptist Church
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Meaningful Membership Matters

CLEAR Path Classroom Notes

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Workshop 2: The Heart of Christ

Session 1 Deacons Through the Ages

For two thousand years deacons have shone as they’ve served churches and communities around the globe.  A congregation without biblically functioning deacons is impoverished, but a congregation with them is incalculably rich.

Based on the precedent of Acts 6:1-7—a passage generally seen to establish, or at least preview, the office—deacons in the early church were tasked with supporting the work of pastors by caring for the “outward” or “physical” concerns of the church.

It was the risky, self-giving love—modeled often by deacons—that bewildered the Roman world.  Early church father Tertullian observed, “It is our care of the helpless, our practice of lovingkindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents.  ‘Only look,’ they say, ‘look how they love one another.’”.

It is all too easy to lose sight of the spiritual value of deacons because their role is so practical in the life of the church.   But many of the earliest deacons were giants of the faith.   In AD 258, a man named Laurence is one of seven deacons serving in Rome.  His task was to oversee the church’s money and distribution to the poor.  Emperor Valerian issued an edict—all bishops, priests, and deacons must be rounded up and killed.

Laurence is soon taken before the magistrate and given the offer: “surrender the treasure of the church, and you will be set free.”   Laurence wasted no time entrusting the money to safe hands, and then gathered together the sick, the aged, the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned.  He then returns to the court with the pitiful band in tow.  When the magistrate demanded an explanation, Laurence respond, “Sir, I have brought what you asked for.  These are the treasures of the church.”

While dying a martyr’s death, Laurence endured the flames, startling his executioners by quipping, “ You may turn me over; I am done on this side.” The deacon’s courage made a great impression on the people of Rome, leading to many conversions.

As various heresies popped up to threaten the faith, a formalized hierarchy was developed to streamline—and centralize—decision-making authority within the office of bishop.  The primary role of deacons shifted from agents of charity to, essentially, secretaries to the bishop.  This shift away from  charitable work caused the diaconate to deteriorate.  The office was reduced to a mere steppingstone to the priesthood.  Charitable giving came to be viewed as a means of saving one’s soul and lessening one’s time in purgatory.

The time had come for diaconal reformation.  John Calvin’s first official act as pastor in Geneva, was to present a detailed plan for the order and governance of the church.   Calvin held the diaconate in high esteem and opposed the Roman custom of making the deacon the first step to the priesthood.  Under Calvin’s leadership, deacons again began to serve not merely as proteges of priests but as ministers of mercy.

The office of deacon has taken various shapes among Protestants.  In Baptist churches, a model of plurality of pastors and deacons—the pastors devoted to spiritual oversight, the deacons to practical service—largely endured until the early twentieth century, when main congregations began favoring a “solo pastor and deacon “board” model.   In more recent years, there seems to be a drive to replace the executive-board mentality with a more historic vision for deacons.  Deacons coordinating various ministries in the church as a means of supporting the pastor(s).

Let’s take a look at six popular conceptions of a deacon that fall short of the Bible’s high vision for the office.

1.      Pastor-in-Training Peter

“Heard they’re making you a deacon.  How long you think, before they make you a pastor?”     

Deaconing is not training wheels for pastoring.  It is a different office with different aims requiring, in many cases, different gifts.  Can Deacon Peter pursue pastoral ministry?  Of course, but  that should not be why he’s a deacon.  Diaconal service is too significant—too glorious—to be a mere steppingstone toward anything else.

2.      Toolbox Terrance

“You’re good at fixing things.  They should make you a deacon.”

There is seemingly nothing Terrance can’t find a way to fix. When it comes to tending the church’s building and grounds, his know-how is unmatched.  A deacon is far more than someone who knows his way around Home Depot.  Does he know his way around his Bible?

3.      Spreadsheet Sam

“Our church budget is a mess; we’re looking at another financial shortfall and don’t have any clear income projections for the next fiscal year.  Why don’t we make Sam a deacon—doesn’t he fix people’s money problems for a living?”

Wouldn’t Sam make an ideal deacon?  Again, not so fast.  I haven’t told yet you whether he’s a mature believer.  Spreadsheet wizardry is a welcome skill, but it’s not sufficient for holding an office in God’s home.

4.      Corporate Cliff         

 “Seminaries may teach ancient languages, bless their heart, but they can’t teach executive skills.  What this church really needs are some decisive deacons with business sense.”

Isn’t Cliff an ideal deacon?  I haven’t yet told you whether he’s a mature believer.  Executive leadership experience can be a serious asset, but it’s no indication of spiritual fitness.

5.      Veto Vinnie

“What’s the point of being deacons if we’re just ‘yes men’?  Of course, I tell the Pastor how it is—who else will?  Besides, I only want to keep him humble.  Last thing we need is a puffed-up pastor.”

Isn’t Vinnie an ideal deacon?  I think we can agree he’s not.

6.      Pseudo-Elder Steve

“Welcome to First Baptist Church, where the pastor say things, and the deacons run things.”

When deacons start to function either as leading shepherds over the whole congregation, or as a board of directors overseeing various staff and committees, the Bible’s job description for deacons has become blurred.   Any structure that encourages deacons to function as a counterweight to the pastor—a second house of legislature to “check and balance” the pastor—has overstepped its biblical bounds.

The solution is not to swing from one extreme to another, but to restore deacons to their intended biblical purpose and irreplaceable biblical role.  They are servants to work in tandem with the pastor in coordinating ministries.   If you want to find a qualified deacon, look first at his character, his attitude, and his life.  Is he humble and flexible?  Does he yearn to serve?  Is he already serving his Lord and church?   (BREAK)

If only we could rid ourselves of all this complexity and division and return to the glory days of Acts, when ministry was simple, and the church was unified (Acts 2:42-47).

What about two chapters later (Acts 4:32-34)?

How about two chapters after that (Acts 6:1-7)?

The disciples were increasing in number… and a complaint arose.

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly.

Had the conflict been mishandled, the ending could easily have readd, “And the word of God was compromised, as the disciples divided among themselves.”  How our church react to conflict can make all the difference in whether our gospel witness is obstructed or accelerated.  Acts 6 is a story of church conflict handled well.

Biblical scholars have long understood the seven to provide a pattern for the diaconal office.  As we have seen, tensions erupts—or finally surfaces—in the congregation.  We should not assume it was a ridiculous protest over a minor issue.  The moment the Apostles caught wind of division endangering the joy of redemption, they had sprung into action (Acts 6: 2b-a4).

Four things worth observation:

1.      “Word Ministry” Prioritized

Acts 6 showcases a three-front assault from Satan.  His first two attempts –persecution from outside and moral corruption from within—had utterly failed to destroy the church.  Now he tried distraction.  If he could occupy the apostles with social administration, they would neglect their God-given responsibilities to pray and to preach and so leave the church without any defense against false doctrine.  By prioritizing Scripture and prayer, the apostles are choosing to stay focused on the whole church’s spiritual welfare, even as they affirm the Hellenists’ physical needs. 

A church without deacons may lack health, but a church without biblical preaching cannot exist.  There is no such thing. 

2.      Whole Congregation Involved

The twelve didn’t unilaterally select the seven; instead, they involved the whole church.  First, these church members are saved.  Through trust in Christ, the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in their hearts.  They are qualified, therefore, to pass judgment on matters in Christ’s church because they have his Spirit.  Second, these believers are directly invested in the outcome of the decision.  This is their church.  Congregational involvement is not at odds with a church’s pastor taking a leading role.

3.       Character Mandated

Diaconal candidates must be:

·         Of good repute

·         Full of the Spirit

·         Full of wisdom

4.      The seven were not spiritual slouches; they were gold standard servants.  Character Mandated

Labor Divided

Rectifying the issue, in fact, is viewed not as an option but as a duty (Act 6:3).  The interests of the whole church—will be best served through a strategic division of labor.  This was not a separation into two spiritual teams, one varsity and one junior varsity.  The strategic division of labor modeled in Acts 6 was a sign of strength in the first church.  The division was complementarian, not hierarchal. Pastors and deacons who try to do everything end up doing a disservice to everyone.

Deacons are Shock Absorbers

Of the many lessons for deacons from Acts 6, perhaps the most overlooked is their strategic role in preserving congregational unity. Food wasn’t the deepest problem.  The deepest problem was a sudden threat to church unity.  Acts 6 is a remarkable model for navigating local-church conflict.

The differences were not limited to language; they also encompassed ethnicity and culture.  There was serious animosity that existed between these groups, despite their common Jewish religion.  The gospel insists that our unity in Christ supersedes any worldly difference.  The apostles did not delegate this problem to others because it wasn’t important, but because it was.

Notice how the congregation responded and the names of the seven called out.  Luke recorded the names because they are all Greek names.  The Hebrews in the church apparently prized unity so much that they bent over backwards to care for the Hellenists—even to the point of entrusting their own widows to their Greek brothers in Christ.

Given the root problem facing the seven, we can conclude that deacons should be those who muffle shockwaves, not make them reverberate further.  Quarrelsome persons make poor deacons.  The best deacons are persons with fine-tuned conflict radar. They love solutions more than drama and rise to respond in creatively constructive ways to promote harmony.

Deacons should have a knack for solving problems: specifically, solving problems in order to safeguard unity.  The seven were given considerable freedom in how to address the problem facing the Jerusalem church. 

The work of deacons has enormous spiritual implications.  There is an inseparable link between the labor of a deacon and the flourishing of the Word.  Public ministry is impossible without private service.

Stephen becomes the church’s first martyr.  Philip is declaring the gospel to Samaritans, African court officials, becoming known as Philip the Evangelist.  The Bible’s view of deacons is glorious. Let’s not settle for less.

 

 

Session 2   What Deacons Must Be   Presented by Pastor Poe

One of the tragedies in church life today is the lack of attention given to what biblical deacons are—and are not.  Many churches seen content to continue operating from custom and tradition on this subject, with Bibles closed.

Jesus doesn’t mince words when addressing leaders who cling to tradition on matters where God has spoken.  And a deacon’s character is something on which God has spoken. If 1 Timothy has a purpose statement it is found in Chapter3: 14-15. “that…you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the Truth,”  Notice three things:

1.      Paul’s instruction in this letter are to Timothy but they are for everybody. 

2.      Paul is not offering suggestions, strategic ideas or “best practices.”  Timothy is holding a letter of divinely inspired commands.

3.      Paul is referring to the contents of the whole letter, but more specifically these “things” that he had just addressed were the qualifications for deacons (vv. 8-13).

This passage if not about a skill set. Its focus is squarely on who deacons must be.  God cares more about character than about gifting.  The passage points to six things.  Paul lists the negative requirements first—what a deacon must not be.  All three relate to a particular fruit of the Spirit: self-control.

 
 

1.      Not Double-Tongued

Qualified deacons strive to control their tongues. A deacon must be compassionate while remaining vigilantly on guard. 

·         Guard their tongues from disclosing information that need not be shared

·         Guard their ears from being party to gossip or slander against church leaders or members.

·         Guard their tongues from gossip or slander

Being doubled-tongued is a symptom of hypocritical pride.  A deacon driven by the fear of man can destroy a whole church. Flattery is saying to someone’s face what you wouldn’t say behind their back, whereas gossip is saying behind someone’s back what you wouldn’t say to their face.

2.      Not Addicted to Much Wine

Not only are deacons to be self-controlled in their speech, they’re also to be self-controlled in their appetites.   Qualified deacons will not indulge cravings or abuse substances that would hinder their work or witness.

3.      Not Greedy for Dishonest Gain

Biblically qualified deacons will control their wallets.  Paul warns against installing anyone known for being deceptive, cutting moral corners, or obsessing over money.  A worldly, materialistic person will struggle with greed, which will in turn fuel temptation toward dishonest gain.

After listing these three “negative” requirements, Paul then turns his attention to three “positive” ones.

 

4.      Holds the Mystery of the Faith with a Clear Conscience

It’s true that the primary responsibility for teaching and leading falls to the pastor—but deacons are not exempt from knowing their Bible.  When Paul uses the word mystery, he’s referring to divine truth that was once hidden and is now revealed.  He’s referring to the gospel and Christian doctrine. This qualification demands three things of potential deacons:

a)      They must know the faith

b)      They must hold the faith

c)      They must live the faith

 

5.      Tested and Proven

There must be a season of testing. What matters most is that your church has some means of vetting the character and competence of potential deacons—before it’s too late in order to protect the body of Christ

6.      Faithful Family Life

A deacon’s godliness must not extend to his closest relationships.  It must begin with his closest relationships. If a man is married, he must love his wife and be faithful to her alone—a one-woman man.  Serving one’s spouse is the ultimate training ground for serving the saints,

If the deacon has children, he must raise them in an atmosphere of gentle firmness and joyful love.  He must manage his family with deliberateness and diligence.  There is no such thing as a good deacon who is a lousy husband or dad.   Being a good family man is a prerequisite.

 
 
The Promise

Deaconing is not for the faint of heart.  The promise of 1 Timothy 3:13 keeps a deacon going amid exhaustion and discouragement.  Two gifts are listed that increase in measure: respect and boldness.  The first comes horizontally from the church; the other descends vertically from God. Though the call to deacon service is not glamorous, the reward is glorious. 

Galatians 6:9 “ Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.”

Above all else, a deacon must simply be a faithful Christian.  Deacons must embody the kind of character expected of all Christians, but they should be exemplary in the ordinary.  To determine fitness for the office of deacon, the congregation will need to measure each candidate’s life against the only God-breathed metric: 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

Celebrity or Leader

Celebrity replaces leadership when some is good at drawing attention and inspiring the masses, people automatically ascribe authority to that individual whether or not the person has true spiritual authority.  Disciple-faking is associated with a big worship attendance combined with a big social media presence that yields a big publishing all combining to make a big marketing platform for the celebrity’s personal brand.

The dynamic of celebrity wreaks havoc because it reinforces all the other problems of fake church growth.   It concentrates the culture on worship service instead of mission.  It entices attenders and leaders with the allure of relevance, not the gospel.  It is validated by numbers, not unity.  It grows by importing people, not by local context.  It adds programs that project the celebrity’s output instead of multiplying people by life-on-life discipling.  It models the false narratives of people’s natural preferences rather than the true narrative of kingdom imagination.

Jesus’ leadership was about calling.  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:18) .  His calling came with authority: what God called him to do, God gave him authority to do.   His leadership came from his authority which comes from God who has all authority.

 Celebrity comes from people and authority comes from God.  Celebrity cannot be shared, but authority can.  If leadership is based on celebrity, then the leader must hold on to as much attention as possible. Authority, on the other hand, is not a zero-sum game.  Authority can multiply; it can be given without being given away.

Giving authority is also giving permission.  This puts the Great Commission in a new light.  “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” by God (Matthew 28:18). On that basis, he grants his disciples the authority—the permission, the right the prerogative—to make disciples.

Jesus shared his authority with men who had watched him carefully and who were being trained. Jesus did not only share his authority with the Twelve; he has shared his authority with us.  He went away and gave us his Holy Spirit, a worldwide mission, and his authority to carry it out.  He shared his leadership to multiply leaders.  His calling was to give away a calling.

That authority is part of the general calling that God issues to all believers to be saved and serve. Ephesians 2:10 says that God prepared good works for us to do.  No one else can do what God has prepared for you to do.  You have an ultimate contribution to make and a legacy to leave with your life.  It will never happen unless you walk in the works he prepared in advance for you, starting now.

When celebrity thrives in the church, it tends to choke out each believer’s special calling.   Celebrity monopolizes calling.  Leaders stay heroes, never to become leader-makers. In celebrity-based leadership, fame is retained,, not retrained. It’s the exact opposite of disciple-making, in which “everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40). Calling-based leadership sees no tension or competition between the discipler’s calling and the disciple’s.   

 

Workshop 2 The Hear of Christ

Session 3 What Deacons Must Do

Character, not a set of life skills, is paramount to what a deacon should be. But character is not everything,  Deacons are not installed to have quiet times, after all; they are charged to perform tasks.  At the broadest level, deacon work encompasses three things in the life of a church.

1.      Spotting and Meeting Tangible Needs

A church without biblically functioning deacons will be perpetually distracted from its central mission of making disciples.  Neglecting the ministry of teaching and prayer would eventually gut the very heart of the church. 

The Apostles led the congregation in setting apart seven men, known for their godliness and wisdom, who would coordinate a solution.  Deacon work through the centuries has focused chiefly on tangible needs, particularly caring for the poor and vulnerable.  The larger principle includes anything in a church’s life that threatens to distract and derail pastors from their primary responsibilities. 

A deacon should be skilled at spotting practical needs and then taking the initiative to meet them efficiently.  But the best deacons don’t just react to present problems; they also anticipate future ones. Without effective deacons, pastors will suffer incessant distraction and get an onrush of practical demands.

Look for godly saints who see and meet needs discreetly and without being asked.  A deacon must be reliable, neither angling for authority nor needing to be babysat.  A deacon should be a “safe pair of hands.”

2.       Protecting and Promoting Church Unity

The office of Deacon is designed to safeguard the harmony of the church.  Palpable humility is a mark of a deacon.  A spirit of gentleness.  A willingness to be flexible.  The ability to stand on conviction without being combative.

·         “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matt. 5:9)

·         “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (Prov. 19:11)

·         “I appeal to you brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgement.  For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brother” (1 Cor. 1:10-11).

Since you are a deacon or potential deacon, here’s a challenge: revisit 1 Corinthians 13 soon.  Read it slowly and honestly consider how your life these days—including your demeanor as a deacon—measures up. This is the famous “love chapter” was written to make a divided church recognize its shame.

You don’t want to nominate deacons who don’t recognize the importance of the ministry of preaching and teaching, but men who are anxious to protect it.  Look for people with the gifts of encouragement. A qualified deacon will increasingly resemble the kind of unity-forging love the Bible so clearly demands.

3.      Serving and Supporting the Ministry of the Pastor

Godly deacons in a healthy church will increasingly say, “I serve at the pleasure of the pastor.”  This language is not authoritarian, as the pastor and all leaders are accountable to the church body.  Deacons are best understood as formal assistants to the pastor. They must operate from the same biblical worldview, and theological understanding of Scripture.

The Greek work daikon, from which the English, Deacon is derived, expresses agency at the behest of a superior.  It is not limited to connotations of menial labor or table service; the idea is that of a subordinate carrying out an assignment on a superior’s behalf and having full authority to execute the superior’s delegated task. Acts 6 clearly demonstrates the seven were serving at the Apostles’ behest.

In 1 Timothy 3:8-12, Paul turns his attention to deacon immediately after discussing pastors.  He doesn’t want us to miss the inseparable connection and logical order between the two offices.  The structure of the passage suggests that deacons are both paired with and subordinate to the pastors they support.  The deacons are not a separate, autonomous body of officials disconnected from the Pastor.  The deacons operate under the leadership of the pastor. 

Looking to the Bible as our guide for church governance, deacons are never presented as chaperones of the pastor who impose a potential check on their every decision.  In a healthy church, godly deacons execute the vision and oversight of a godly pastor.

Two Key Differences

The qualifications for pastor and deacon in 1 Timothy 3 are strikingly similar.  The key difference: pastors must be able to “teach”.  This doesn’t mean may not teach, it simply means that the gift and responsibility of teaching is not a prerequisite for the office of deacon.

Additionally, nowhere in the New Testament are deacons described as overseers or rulers.  If pastors serve by leading, deacons lead by serving.  Pastors alone are identified by their calling to exercise oversight.  Members are called to emulate deacons; they are never told to obey them.  The task of the pastor is to “equip the saints”—the whole congregation—“for the work of ministry.”

·         Pastor lead ministry

·         Deacons facilitate ministry

·         The congregation does ministry.

Only The Word can give us God’s vision and direction for His church.  A godly pastor who is devoted to study and prayer will rightly divide the Word of Truth.  Godly deacons will gladly join their pastor in the Servant Leadership ministry required for a spiritually healthy church.

Healthy Models Today

1.       Mercy Ministers

Biblical mercy ministry should be directed primarily toward those suffering within the church family, not exclusively so.  Caring for the disadvantaged and distressed outside the church can be a powerful catalyst for proclaiming Christ’s grace and demonstrating His love. 

Scripture is clear that the central mission of the church is not to cure global poverty, but to preach gospel grace: it’s not to transform the world, but to make disciples heralding the One who has. 

In healthy churches rightly committed to preaching Christ and making disciples, it is crucial we do not dimmish the deacon office as a catalysis for her spiritual mission.  The gospel would not have been spread in Acts 6 if the Apostles had neglected their chief calling to preach and pray.  But it is also true that the gospel would not have spread had the seven not risen to meet the widows needs.

It is a holistic ministry that weds these concerns—gospel proclamation and gospel demonstration.  It has been par for the course throughout church history. Deed ministry has served Word ministry.  What God has joined together, let no church separate.

2.      A Team of Leading Servants

While a division of labor between the offices is important, the deeds of each are not mutually exclusive.  Pastors, despite their spiritual focus, should remain practically aware.  Deacons, despite their practical focus, should remain spiritually aware.

3.      Role-Specific Ministry Mobilizers

Some churches have role-specific deacon positions.  Deacons are elected to specific areas of ministry and are encouraged to coordinate volunteer teams as needs arise.  Such examples could be Ushers, Security, Benevolence, and assisting in the preparation and serving of the Lord’s Supper.  Role-specific mobilizer model is more frequently seen in larger churches, however specific needs can arise in smaller congregations.

Finally, it’s crucial to emphasize that the most effective deacons don’t do everything themselves.  They are mobilizers.  As you look within the church for qualified deacons, don’t’ just look for work-horses.  Look for those who will faithfully organize service, not simply do it all themselves. 

 

Workshop #2  The Heart of Christ

Session 4:  What Deacons Provide

One of the tragedies in church life today is the lack of attention given to what biblical deacons are—and are not.  Many churches seen content to continue operating from custom and tradition on this subject, with Bibles closed.

Jesus doesn’t mince words when addressing leaders who cling to tradition on matters where God has spoken.  And a deacon’s character is something on which God has spoken. If 1 Timothy has a purpose statement it is found in Chapter3: 14-15. “that…you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the Truth,”  Notice three things:

1.      Paul’s instruction in this letter are to Timothy but they are for everybody. 

2.      Paul is not offering suggestions, strategic ideas or “best practices.”  Timothy is holding a letter of divinely inspired commands.

3.      Paul is referring to the contents of the whole letter, but more specifically these “things” that he had just addressed were the qualifications for deacons (vv. 8-13).

This passage if not about a skill set. Its focus is squarely on who deacons must be.  God cares more about character than about gifting.  The passage points to six things.  Paul lists the negative requirements first—what a deacon must not be.  All three relate to a particular fruit of the Spirit: self-control.

 
 

1.      Not Double-Tongued

Qualified deacons strive to control their tongues. A deacon must be compassionate while remaining vigilantly on guard. 

·         Guard their tongues from disclosing information that need not be shared

·         Guard their ears from being party to gossip or slander against church leaders or members.

·         Guard their tongues from gossip or slander

Being doubled-tongued is a symptom of hypocritical pride.  A deacon driven by the fear of man can destroy a whole church. Flattery is saying to someone’s face what you wouldn’t say behind their back, whereas gossip is saying behind someone’s back what you wouldn’t say to their face.

2.      Not Addicted to Much Wine

Not only are deacons to be self-controlled in their speech, they’re also to be self-controlled in their appetites.   Qualified deacons will not indulge cravings or abuse substances that would hinder their work or witness.

3.      Not Greedy for Dishonest Gain

Biblically qualified deacons will control their wallets.  Paul warns against installing anyone known for being deceptive, cutting moral corners, or obsessing over money.  A worldly, materialistic person will struggle with greed, which will in turn fuel temptation toward dishonest gain.

After listing these three “negative” requirements, Paul then turns his attention to three “positive” ones.

 

4.      Holds the Mystery of the Faith with a Clear Conscience

It’s true that the primary responsibility for teaching and leading falls to the pastor—but deacons are not exempt from knowing their Bible.  When Paul uses the word mystery, he’s referring to divine truth that was once hidden and is now revealed.  He’s referring to the gospel and Christian doctrine. This qualification demands three things of potential deacons:

a)      They must know the faith

b)      They must hold the faith

c)      They must live the faith

 

5.      Tested and Proven

There must be a season of testing. What matters most is that your church has some means of vetting the character and competence of potential deacons—before it’s too late in order to protect the body of Christ

6.      Faithful Family Life

A deacon’s godliness must not extend to his closest relationships.  It must begin with his closest relationships. If a man is married, he must love his wife and be faithful to her alone—a one-woman man.  Serving one’s spouse is the ultimate training ground for serving the saints,

If the deacon has children, he must raise them in an atmosphere of gentle firmness and joyful love.  He must manage his family with deliberateness and diligence.  There is no such thing as a good deacon who is a lousy husband or dad.   Being a good family man is a prerequisite.

 
 
The Promise

Deaconing is not for the faint of heart.  The promise of 1 Timothy 3:13 keeps a deacon going amid exhaustion and discouragement.  Two gifts are listed that increase in measure: respect and boldness.  The first comes horizontally from the church; the other descends vertically from God. Though the call to deacon service is not glamorous, the reward is glorious. 

Galatians 6:9 “ Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up.”

Above all else, a deacon must simply be a faithful Christian.  Deacons must embody the kind of character expected of all Christians, but they should be exemplary in the ordinary.  To determine fitness for the office of deacon, the congregation will need to measure each candidate’s life against the only God-breathed metric: 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

Celebrity or Leader

Celebrity replaces leadership when some is good at drawing attention and inspiring the masses, people automatically ascribe authority to that individual whether or not the person has true spiritual authority.  Disciple-faking is associated with a big worship attendance combined with a big social media presence that yields a big publishing all combining to make a big marketing platform for the celebrity’s personal brand.

The dynamic of celebrity wreaks havoc because it reinforces all the other problems of fake church growth.   It concentrates the culture on worship service instead of mission.  It entices attenders and leaders with the allure of relevance, not the gospel.  It is validated by numbers, not unity.  It grows by importing people, not by local context.  It adds programs that project the celebrity’s output instead of multiplying people by life-on-life discipling.  It models the false narratives of people’s natural preferences rather than the true narrative of kingdom imagination.

Jesus’ leadership was about calling.  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:18) .  His calling came with authority: what God called him to do, God gave him authority to do.   His leadership came from his authority which comes from God who has all authority.

 Celebrity comes from people and authority comes from God.  Celebrity cannot be shared, but authority can.  If leadership is based on celebrity, then the leader must hold on to as much attention as possible. Authority, on the other hand, is not a zero-sum game.  Authority can multiply; it can be given without being given away.

Giving authority is also giving permission.  This puts the Great Commission in a new light.  “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” by God (Matthew 28:18). On that basis, he grants his disciples the authority—the permission, the right the prerogative—to make disciples.

Jesus shared his authority with men who had watched him carefully and who were being trained. Jesus did not only share his authority with the Twelve; he has shared his authority with us.  He went away and gave us his Holy Spirit, a worldwide mission, and his authority to carry it out.  He shared his leadership to multiply leaders.  His calling was to give away a calling.

That authority is part of the general calling that God issues to all believers to be saved and serve. Ephesians 2:10 says that God prepared good works for us to do.  No one else can do what God has prepared for you to do.  You have an ultimate contribution to make and a legacy to leave with your life.  It will never happen unless you walk in the works he prepared in advance for you, starting now.

 When celebrity thrives in the church, it tends to choke out each believer’s special calling.   Celebrity monopolizes calling.  Leaders stay heroes, never to become leader-makers. In celebrity-based leadership, fame is retained,, not retrained. It’s the exact opposite of disciple-making, in which “everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher” (Luke 6:40). Calling-based leadership sees no tension or competition between the discipler’s calling and the disciple’s.  

Workshop 2: The Heart of Christ

Session 5   Who Deacons Reflect

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    One of the goals of The CLEAR Path Training is to recover some of the dignity and even the glory of Deacon service.  Many deacons are running low on energy and encouragement, drained of motivation and joy.  Deacon work is not glorious because it is always seen.  Often it isn’t.  Nor is it glorious because it always gratifies. Often it doesn’t.  Ultimately, the work is glorious because of Who it mirrors.

Look at the Old Testament and how Israel foreshadows the deacon as God’s chosen servant, especially in Isaiah.

Isaiah 41: 8-9, 43:10, 44:1-2

Isaiah 44: 21-22, 48:20
Isaiah 49:6
Isaiah 42:1

By the time of Isaiah’s final servant song, the emblematic servant is in full view. 

Isaiah 52:13, 53:10-11
Isaiah 56:6-7

The King is the servant, the conqueror.  He is the same person.  God’s suffering servant is none other than God’s Holy King. Servant-Leader reflects the very nature and character of God.

When Jesus launches his public ministry, he wastes no time identifying Himself as the subject of Isaiah’s ancient son. 

Luke 4:16-21

Jesus has come to embody Israel’s purpose, to succeed where the nation had failed and ultimately to be exiled on a pagan cross.

Mark 10:42-45

Jesus turns the leader concept upside down making the first last and the last first.  He does it by demonstration. He deacons.  At his final meal with His disciples, Jesus makes the arrangements.  No servant is present to wash the disciple’s feet.  As their great master / rabi, He kneels down, assuming the posture and role of a slave, he cleanses their filthy feet.  When a quarrel arises over who is greatest, Jesus speaks and identifies the correct response, “I am among you as the One who serves (Luke 22:27).  God’s eternal Son, on the floor, dignifying the most menial labor in the world.

Jesus’ earthly ministry continues both in word and deed in large part through the offices of Pastor and Deacon.  As pastors serve primarily through The Word, deacons serve primarily with deeds.  Christ cares for His church through the officers He chooses, and Deacons are a means by which He continues part of His priestly work.

By caring for the hurting, deacons function as Christ’s hands and feet to a world that needs his touch.  As they discern and meet practical needs, deacons reflect the Savior who took the ultimate initiative to meet our deepest need.  By protecting and promoting church unity, deacons please the One who prayed for it and died to secure it.

Philippians 2:3-11

Deacon, lift up your eyes from the mundane to the Messiah.  See Him touching unclean hands and washing filthy feet and serving ungrateful sinners and finally relinquishing his life for those He loves.  The entire deacon service finds its model and its mission in the life of your Savior.

Your current role as a deacon is just an internship for an eternal future in which you will see His face, together with all his servants, world without end. 

Jesus, the ultimate Deacon is returning in glory.

A godly deacon is devoted to Lordship. He has willfully and deliberately surrendered his life to the total mastery and authority of Jesus Christ. He intentionally follows Scripture. As he lives and serves he is in constant contact with his Master. He is only interested in doing what his Lord says to do.

A godly deacon is equipped for ministry. He is continually seeking avenues for learning and applying God’s Word to his ministry of service. He is disciplined in his life in order to be prepared for his next act of service.  The equipment needed by the deacon to effectively fill his role in the church includes;

1.      His Bible—He needs a clear translation of the Bible that he can read, study, meditate on and apply to both his personal life and his ministry of service

2.      His Relationships—He needs a good relationship with his wife and family as supporters and with his Pastor and fellow Deacons as colleagues in the ministry.

3.      His Calendar—He needs to maintain a disciplined schedule in order not to waste valuable time and in order to balance his ministry with personal and family time.

4.      His Money—He needs to be a good steward of the money entrusted to him by God.

A godly deacon is adapted to purpose. To be effective in ministry to persons who are very different from us, we must adapt. Adapting  means we must be willing to adjust our lives to better align with God’s will. If we are to adapt to His purpose we must adapt to the people, places, and circumstances where disciples need to be made.

A godly deacon is conformed to Christlikeness. He sees Christ as his personal and foremost example of servanthood. He is allowing the Holy Spirit complete freedom to mold and make him more like Jesus. He desires conformity to Christ in his thinking, his feeling, and his will,  He wants his life, character, attitude, actions, and decisions—every aspect of his life—to resemble Christ. The Son of God live His earthly life in conformity to the Heavenly Father. Deacons must live their lives in conformity to the Son. The Servant-Leader in the church should be transformed into the likeness of Jesus.

The godly deacon is open to the will of Christ. He is focused on knowing and doing God’s will for his life. He has a passionate desire to participate in God’s work, exercising his spiritual gifts. Many believers make the mistake of thinking God’s will is “just whatever happens.”  God’s will is not arbitrary or random. It unfolds on a daily basis based upon the pre-determined plan of God for our lives.

 

The godly deacon is numbered in the body of Christ. He loves the local church and considers others in the church as more important than himself. He understands his role in the church is to complement and enhance the positive servanthood of other. The Deacon is a servant-leader who can have a big influence on others.

 

Workshop 2: The Heart of Christ

Session 6: Deacons as Difference Makers

  

Deacon work is at its core, self-giving service for the good of another. As the world shouts out, “Assert yourself”, godly deacons look for ways to deny themselves. As the world beckons to “Serve yourself’,  deacons are busy strategizing ways to serve others. As the pervasive world of social media urges, “Promote yourself”, deacons quietly set others to win. No culture in history has done more than ours to broadcast mantras and implant a mindset that runs so contrary to the heart of deacon work. Self-denying service has always been challenging, but has it ever been so countercultural.

The godly deacon isn’t gunning for an office, a title, or a spotlight. He knows that doing deeds “to be seen by others” is what marks opponents of his Savior. The godly deacon has internalized the upside-down nature of true greatness, described by Jesus himself in Matthew 23: 11-12:

The greatest among you shall be your servant (diakonois). Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

“A deacon who is above the people is below the office.”

The godly deacon is not perfect, but he is prayerful and growing in humility. He’s not the smartest guy in the room, but he is teachable. He’s not the most experienced guy in the room, but he is respected because of the way he treats people. He is not a “yes man,” but he’s also not a self-appointed pastoral critic.

The godly deacon loves to fade into the background, not because he’s falsely modest but because he cares about what’s foregrounded in the church: the glory of Jesus Christ. He knows that the brightness of Christ’s glory will be eclipsed if the pastor is perpetually distracted by administrative problems. He enjoys facilitating ministry and handling logistics so the pastor can concentrate his energies on leading and shepherding the congregation through the ministry of the Word and prayer. He is motivated by loved.

The godly deacon is a growing, mature believer who is known among the church for his character, his humility, his eagerness to serve creatively and quietly. Faithful deacons should see their fingerprints in the unity of their congregation.

Deacons are God’s idea. He loves deacons and He wants us to also. We shouldn’t elevate deacons to an executive board of pseudo-elders. It is an office of service, not oversight. Deacons are an influential cavalry of servants called by the King and deputized by His church to target and meet tangible needs. To protect and promote church unity. To enhance the ministry of the Pastor and in so doing, accelerate the mission of the church.

Deacons do physical work with spiritual effect, and invisible work with palpable effect.. Their calling is noble. Their service is needed. And their reward is near (1 Timothy 3:13).

Godly Deacons are difference-makers because they are disciplined. Spiritual growth and maturity only come from understanding and maintaining four essential disciplines: prayer, worship, proclamation, and stewardship.

The Discipline of Prayer

The Deacon who is serious about his service to the church and serious about making an impact for Christ in his community will be a man of prayer. Paul gives us four specific ways for us to pray in Colossians 4.

1.      Pray Faithfully  (v.2 “Devote yourself to prayer…). This means we are to keep on giving ourselves over to prayer. Pray deliberately, constantly, and regularly. Have a time, a place, and a method for praying. We need to pray faithfully even as Jesus did. Nothing will bring more peace of mind and joy of spirit and purpose of ministry than a faithful prayer life.

2.      Pray Watchfully (v.2 “…stay alert in it..”). It is extremely easy for us to get sidetracked or interrupted when we pray. We are to stay alert and keep alert in the sense that we are guarded from enemy interference, and we are alert to the way God may be leading us to pray.

3.       Pray Thankfully (v.2… “with thanksgiving.”). God wants us to have a thankful heart and to pray from a thankful heart.  As a deacon maintains this discipline in his life, he will begin to see blessing after blessing unfold. Thanksgiving is first “thanks” land then “giving .”  The Deacon who is really thankful for his life, salvation, family, job, church, and his ministry will never hesitate to give himself away for God’s glory.

4.      Pray Purposefully (vv.3-4). Pray for (1) an open door for reception of the gospel, (2) an open mouth for clear proclamation of the gospel, and (3) an open mind for understanding of the gospel. It is for the purpose of the Great Commission that we pray. When Pastors and Deacons come together for prayer they can pray in agreement and for a common cause.

The Discipline of Worship

In addition to the discipline of prayer, the Deacon should develop discipline in worship or praise. Consider Paul’s words to the church in Romans 12:1 “…present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”  Worship is service in the spiritual realm. It affects the body, soul, and spirit. 

Authentic worship is controlled by the Holy Spirit. He uses believers and leaders to guide the actual service. True worship is consecration to the Lord. This clearly implies our worship is dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone is the object of our worship. Worship services are not primarily times of fellowship. It is primarily a time for believers to connect and commune with God, in a planned time to focus attention of God’s people on the person, presence and power of God.

The Discipline of Proclamation

It is clear from Acts 1:8 that Jesus intends for us to be  “witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Deacons as model servants in the church, should develop the discipline of proclamation. Sharing our faith is both demonstration and proclamation. It is a matter of practicing your faith and proclaiming your faith.

1.      Act in Discipline. Our lifestyle must reflect a genuine relationship to the commands of Christ.

2.      Act in Wisdom. Wisdom is a quality that definitely connects to the practice of our faith.  Render wise and godly counsel.

3.      Act in the Interest of the Lost.  His witness is focused “toward outsiders.”  His interest in practicing his faith is toward those who are spiritually lost. He thinks about the influence and impact he might have in the life of a lost person.

4.      Act in Time. When it comes the discipline of proclamation, timing is very important.  The earlier a man can live a godly life in the presence of others, the earlier that man will be able to share a verbal witness with others.

There are three directives for a man to share his faith found in Colossians 4:6

1.      Be Tactful. Your speech should always be gracious.  Have a gentle, kind and considerate demeanor. Exercise grace above judgment.  God loves and forgives the repentant sinner kind of witness.

2.       Be Tasteful.   Your speech is to be “seasoned with salt.”  Though you use kindness, the words are to have both attraction and healing.  These words are those people need to hear for the sake of their own personal repentance, faith, and salvation.

3.      Be Thoughtful.  The deacon is to know how to answer with the gospel. Be prepared at a moment’s notice. Study and practice sharing the Gospel.

The Discipline of Stewardship

Giving is a Christian discipline for every follower of Christ. It is a discipline that is both taught and caught.  A congregation will be only as obedient in this area as the servant-leaders, Pastors and Deacons.  Deacons have an exemplary role in giving. 

1.      Tithing. It is clear from the teaching of the Old Testament and of Jesus in the Gospels, that giving 10 percent of our income is a biblical starting point.  If a man cannot yet govern his finances in such a way that he gives a minimum of ten percent of his household income, it is unlikely that he will change just because he is ordained. Tithes should be brought into the church and managed by the church to carry out the ministry of the church.

2.      Giving. The deacon is to tithe but he is also to give. He is to develop the discipline of generosity.

a.       Giving is Voluntary.  Deacons should never have to be prodded to give.  They are to act on their own accord.

b.      Giving is Proportionate. Deacons are to give according to their ability.  Give in direct proportion to what you have received.

c.       Giving is Sacrificial. Giving only becomes a sacrifice when it goes beyond the surplus and cuts into what we have to live on. When God prompts you to give much more at a given time when you ever imagined you could, or would, be obedient.

d.      Giving is Personal.  It can become easier for some to attend regularly and give money regularly than it is to give time.  But to give personally requires that we give of ourselves: our time, our talent, and our influence as well as financially. Giving of ourselves to the Lord motivates us to give ourselves to others. 

The servant-leader in the church will give himself, as well as his money, to meet the needs of others because he has first given  himself to follow Christ. 

 

 

Deacons who will be disciplined in prayer, worship, proclamation and giving will “acquire a good standing for themselves, and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:10).  As deacons grow spiritually he will serve more faithfully and truly be a difference-maker in the Kingdom of God.