Summary: A challenge for effective deacon leadership
God’s Glorious Church
Deacons: Modeling Biblical Leadership
Woodlawn Baptist Church
April 17, 2005
“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Today I want to continue our study of the Lord’s churches with a three-week study of the deacon. I first began attending Missionary Baptist churches a little over 14 years ago, and during that time, I have often found deacons to be on the receiving end of a lot of complaining and bad jokes. Church members complain about them, pastors talk about what they might have accomplished had it not been for them, and community members tell tales of what they saw the Baptist deacon out doing on the weekend. Like any other church member, deacons are subject to their faults, but not every deacon is joke material. Listen to the testimony of one Baptist deacon.
“For 33 years, from 1861-1894, Joel B. Lemon demonstrated effective leadership as a deacon in the Mill Creek Baptist Church in Virginia. Spanning the Civil War and Reconstruction, his life as a deacon reflected important leadership traits and achievements.
“As an active participant in Mill Creek’s Sunday School, Lemon studied the Bible faithfully, learning principles of biblical leadership along the way. He then modeled what he learned by serving from time to time as church treasurer, moderator, trustee, pulpit committee member, discipline committee member, and messenger to the Valley Baptist Association. He also arranged hospitality for church guests, visited absent members, urged members to contribute toward the church’s financial needs, supported mission causes outside the church, and served on a committee charged to send food and other provisions to Richmond College.
“Lemon was a loving husband, a caring father, and a community-minded citizen. He and his wife reared a large family of sons and daughters, of whom all received a basic education and several graduated from college. Two sons became Baptist ministers, and one became a physician. In 1870 Lemon helped form one of the first public schools in Virginia, and he strongly supported the building and maintaining of roads in his county.”
While you may not find that deacon’s name engraved on any monuments in Washington, I want you to know that the man was a leader who modeled biblical change in his life. You see, it is not men who are giants in the eyes of the world that we need serving as deacons today, but ordinary men who allow God to go the extra mile through them, being a positive influence on others in their homes, churches and communities, so that anyone examining their lives is able to see biblical change taking place in their lives.
That’s how deacons lead – not by barking out orders or “running the show,” but by modeling, by showing the way, which necessarily means that they have gone that way first. In Mark 10:42ff, Jesus said,
“…Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister (diakonos): and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant (doulos) of all.”
That word minister is translated from the same word from which we get our title deacon, and it means an attendant, a waiter, a Christian teacher or shepherd; a servant. How does a deacon lead in a church? By serving and ministering. Jesus said that He didn’t come “to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom…” That’s the essence of biblical deacon leadership – to minister, and to give your lives for the good of others.
Deacon Leadership Is Essential
Effective deacon leadership is essential in our church. It is essential because people don’t follow your words, they watch your life. They follow your lead in church business, in worship, in relationships within the church and more. Your moral and spiritual tone will to a large degree be a mirror to the church, so it is absolutely essential that your lives be changing into Christ’s likeness. You see brethren, as church leaders, whether you like it or not, your lives are on trial. It is one thing to minister and serve in the body as a member, but when you and I accepted roles of responsibility, we willingly placed ourselves on the stand for all to examine – and it is absolutely essential that what they see and what they hear measure up to the standards in God’s Word. It is essential because that’s how leaders lead – by example, by ministering and modeling the life we want others to live.