Summary: Four lessons to help us better value the ministry of deacons in our church.
God’s Glorious Church
Deacons Leading in Church Ministry
Woodlawn Baptist Church
April 24, 2005
A rather pompous-looking deacon was working hard to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. “Why do people call me a Christian?” the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one of the boys said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”
Of all the positions in the church, I wonder if deacons don’t hold one of the most difficult. If they demonstrate strong leadership, they are accused of doing to much, of having too much authority. If they work in the background, then they are accused of not doing enough. Too much? Or not enough? Somebody says, “Deacons ought to do something besides try to run the church,” then the next guy comes along and says, “I’m not sure what deacons ought to do, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a deacon group that did it.”
It’s not just deacons: anyone who surrenders to serve in a church subjects himself or herself to a variety of complaints, misunderstandings, and lack of recognition for what they do. Just last week, one of my daughters became upset when one of our members was complaining about me in front of her. It bothered her. I told her not to worry with it; it goes with the territory. If you’re bothered by complaints, don’t sign up for ministry leadership! In fact, some complaining can be healthy if it is done in the right spirit. As I thought about the text we are going to read this morning, I thought of all the complaining churches do about their deacons, and it amused me to think that the very first deacons were ordained as the result of some complaining that was going on in the first church.
In Acts 6:1-7, a problem had arisen in the fellowship of the Jerusalem church, which by now had grown to over 8,000 members, made up of Jews and Gentiles from Jerusalem, the surrounding Palestinian area, from Egypt, Libya, Italy, Arabia and from other countries. The controversy divided the congregation along ethnic lines, specifically between two classes of Jews. There were the Grecians, or Jews of Greek descent who spoke the Greek language and were not native to the land of Israel, and there were the Hebrews, or Aramaic-speaking Jews who were native to the land of Israel. These Palestinian Jews would have been proud of the fact that they were from the land of the patriarchs and the land of promise, that they used the language their father’s spoke and that God’s revelation had come to them in that land. They felt that they were specially blessed by God more so than their Greek brothers.
The complaint then was that the Grecian Jews felt that the apostles were neglecting Greek widows in the daily food distribution. This was an ancient meals on wheels of sorts, and their widows were being left out, which looked to them like racism and favoritism. They were growing suspicious, jealous and envious of what was happening in the church body. Obviously, the congregation’s attempt to minister to the widows had been well-intentioned. But for some reason, the Greek-speaking members felt their widows were being slighted. I want you to join me as I read our text, then, as we talk today about deacons leading in church ministry, I’m going to point out four lessons that will help us to better value the ministry of these men we call our deacons.
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
#1 You Can Expect Our Ministries To Encounter Problems
Ministry, back then or now, isn’t always as successful as we would like it to be. Luke says that the number of disciples was multiplying, which simply means that the church was growing. People were being saved, and the saved were giving their lives over to Christ’s teachings. Their lives were being changed: they were being discipled. The Holy Spirit was at work; great things were happening throughout this early church. In fact, when we think of that church, we usually think of Acts 2, where it says that people were gladly receiving the word, being baptized, enjoying fellowship, participating in home Bible studies, observing the ordinances, and sharing all things commonly. Now here is the same church, only days or weeks later suffering from a problem among the widows.