Summary: When the church needed the pastoral ministry expanded, Jesus led them to select deacons to serve the church.
AN IMPORTANT TIME! You have heard from Doyle Walls this morning regarding the process that will begin to unfold among us as we go through this exciting and important season where we will select new deacons to serve among us, the Body of Christ. Because this is an important time in the life of the church, I want to take the opportunity to preach a “different” kind of message regarding the “who, what, when and where” of deacons so that as we approach this time we can do so being informed by the Scriptures so that we do this in a way that honors and glorifies the Lord for this is His Church, not ours. For those of you who have been here for a while this will serve as a “refresher course” for you. For many others of you, because you are new to this particular faith family, it will answer some questions regarding why we are doing what we are doing. Today our primary text will be ACTS 6:1-7 which, throughout the history of the church, has been understood as the beginning of the office of the deacon in the church.
A THRIVING CHURCH
CONTEXT AND EXLPLANATION. At this point in the Book of Acts the church in Jerusalem was thriving. Growth was explosive as daily people were being added to the church through the preaching and receiving of the Gospel! Life change was incredible as these new believers were committed to the Apostle’s teaching resulting in growth in their faith in Christ. It was simply an awesome time of Gospel ministry in the early church. It did not take long, however, for a disruption to arise in the church, and that is where our passage picks up. Part of the ministry of the church was a daily distribution of food among those who did not have the means to provide for themselves—namely the widows among them. As it would be, the Hellenist (GREEK SPEAKING JEWS) group felt as if their widows were being short changed in the daily distribution of food while, all appearances made it seem that, the Hebrew widows were definitely not being overlooked and were well cared for. Rather than let this matter continue to “brew” among them (NOTE: THE RIGHT THING TO DO WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE THERE IS AN ISSUE IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH THAT DOES NOT LINE UP WITH THE SCRIPTURES IS TO BRING IT TO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE CHURCH NOT GRIPE, COMPLAIN, GROAN AND GOSSIP ABOUT IT) the people brought the matter up to their leaders. It was at this point that the leaders realized that the ministry of the church was larger than they were and more people needed to be involved to meet the vast amount of ministry needs that accompanies this kind of growth. The Apostles, being filled with the Holy Spirit and granted wisdom from the Lord in these matters, realized that they could not do it all and that the ministry of preaching and prayer to which they have been called to as Apostles/Elders could not be minimized or neglected in the Church, calls the people to choose from among their own men who could serve to meet this great need that they were facing. These individuals were not called to create a “new” ministry but to serve as an extension of the elder/pastoral ministry that was already taking place among them. The congregation did as instructed and a group was installed into a crucial position and the Gospel continued to go forth touching people and changing lives.
WHAT IS A DEACON?
A DEACON IS A SERVANT. The Greek word from which we derive the English word deacon is diakonos which literally means “a servant; or one who serves.” At a foundational level the role and responsibility of the deacon in the life of the church is to be a servant. They are called and appointed to care for the needs of the faith family. This was the job of those called in our passage. There were people who had practical and legitimate needs and this position came about so that those with legitimate and practical needs could have their needs met by the church. We will talk more about this in a moment, but suffice it to say when we look into the Scriptures we find that deacons are not authority figures ruling and reigning over the church but servants who humbly and passionately serve the church.
A DEACON IS A “FIRE FIGHTER.” This issues, had it not been addressed and dealt with swiftly and as the Lord led, could have resulted in huge problems for the church that would have hindered the going forth of the Gospel. However, because this “fire” was dealt with swiftly through the installation of deacons we find that an atmosphere for Gospel proclamation was preserved and many, including priests, experienced God’s grace in salvation. Therefore, when the church experiences any sort of “fire” in it, the deacons are called upon to be peace makers and to seek out a solution that honors and glorifies the Lord to the issue whatever it may be.