Can I brag on our church's deacons for a minute? Well, it is my blog, I guess. You don't have to keep reading if you don't want. But if you want a great example of what Biblical deacons look like, read on.
I have to confess that over the years I've been blessed to work with many good deacons. May sound strange if you've been around church life enough to hear the jokes/horror stories about the relationship between pastors and deacons. And honestly, I've had a few of those as well, as I'll mention. But for the most part, I've been able to serve with humble men who serve their church. The group I serve with now is the cream of that crop, though.
The aforementioned horror stories usually have something to do with power mad individuals who think being a deacon in the church means “I get to run things.” And I have come across one or two of those. They are domineering, they think their opinion carries more weight than everyone else's, they throw little tantrums if they don't get their way, which usually results in pastors getting fired. (Hmm, my flying fingers originally typed “fried.” Typing accident, or subtle truth getting out?) Fortunately, I've only come across one or two mild forms of that guy in nearly 25 years as a pastor.
The other typical problem is a bunch of weak willed individuals who cave under pressure from this or that group in the church to do this or that thing, or to not do this or that thing, and they end up merely as puppets. In this scenario, the deacon is still seen as an “authority” figure. It's just that instead of wielding that power on his own, he is the lackey of political groups within the church. Again, I've come across a few of those, been on the receiving end of their puppet power punches. No fun.
In both of those situations, the main problem is that people see the deacons as some sort of authority figure who runs the church. Whether they run it on their own, or at the behest of others, they are still trying to run things. That's not what deacons do.
In Acts 6, when those first deacons are called out, they are called out as servants. They are called out to settle petty disputes in the congregation so the apostles can focus on preaching and praying. The Greek word for deacon literally refers to one who runs errands. It's an attendant, even one who waits tables. In a word: deacons are servants. And that's what our guys do.
No one is perfect. I know that. Our men aren't perfect either. But they hold the role of servant very well. They care about our church family. They serve them. When I ask any of them to fill this or that role, they humbly accept. When folks are upset, these guys jump in and want to make things right, but in a biblical way, not a pandering to the power hungry.
Honestly, they've all caught flak for their servant role. Some want to use them in that “authority” role, as puppets. And when these guys don't give in to that, they've been accused of being my lackeys. As if I have some sort of power over them. What those folks don't know is how many times these same guys have “called me on the carpet.” Again, not in a power mad way, but in a biblical exercising of their responsibility to the church. If a ministry is not operating the way it should, including the pastor's ministry, these guys aren't afraid to step up and say, “we need to address this, work on this, fix this.” I appreciate the humble way they do that.
A few years back I asked them to come early for church to meet with me and pray before each service. Our service is at 9am, which means they then have to come at 8:30. That means their wives have to come early as well, or they have to make other arrangements, bring two cars, whatever. Not one of them complained. They all agreed happily, and come faithfully. In fact I have to show up earlier every Sunday now to get my “stuff” done, because they usually show up even earlier than the 30 minutes I asked for! They are servants.
Not everyone understands the difference between “serving” and “ruling” in the church. Whether it's pastors, or deacons, or committees, or whatever. Folks often overlook the truth that Biblical leadership means servant leadership. Leading by serving, not by ruling, or as the apostle Paul calls it “lording it over” others. I appreciate so much that these men get the difference, and seek to lead by serving our church.
This may not mean anything to anyone but me. It's sort of a personal reflection. But my prayer is that you may experience godly, servant leadership in your church as well. I pray God would raise up men to serve you and your church in this way. If you are a deacon, look to serve for Christ's glory, not man's. If you are a pastor, I pray not only that you are blessed to work with men like this, but that you are a servant leader yourself. Because in the end, what I think of when I consider these men, is: I want to be like that, too. I want to lead by serving. I don't want to be a “ruler.” I have one of those already. His name is Jesus. And ultimately I want to be like Him. And ironically, He lead by serving as well. There must be something to that.