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Summary: The rewards of serving well as a deacon are explored.

“Those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.” [1]

Jesus said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” [MARK 10:45]. Jesus also taught His disciples, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” [MARK 9:35]. Though being a servant is not especially esteemed in contemporary church life, servanthood is nevertheless highly regarded in the Kingdom.

As this congregation continues to grow, we will have increasing need for more deacons to serve among the congregants. The process of seeking out deacons will move along steadily. However, as we move through that appointment process, I trust we will encourage those who now serve, those who will serve and those who aspire to serve. I say this in part because we are growing; and growth brings the need to anticipate pressures we will yet face. However, my primary reason for this particular message is that in the studies we have been presenting, this verse follows that of the qualifications for deacons. I dare not pass over this particular verse, ignoring it as though it had no application to us as a community of faith.

The Apostle has provided the qualifications required for those who would serve the congregation. He has exploded the idea that deacons have a ruling role or some other administrative role within the church; he did this by including the distaff side among those who are to serve as deacons. [2] Paul now encourages the congregation of the Lord to esteem these individuals who serve selflessly with the assembly. Each member of the Body can encourage deacons through esteeming them for their work.

SERVING WELL — The word used for “serve” is nonspecific. It is possible that it refers to any Christians who serve well. In that case, it is encouragement for each believer to exercise his or her gifts wisely and to the glory of God. While this is a possible meaning of what Paul wrote, the fact that he stated this at the end of a section detailing the qualifications and service of ministers would lead quite naturally to the view that he is speaking of deacons who serve well. That is my understanding of what the Apostle wrote; and it is apparently the understanding of the translators of the Bible I use. [3] The words “as deacons” do not occur in the original text.

How would anyone know if a deacon served well? What criteria should be used to determine whether deacons have served well, or even whether they are serving well? It seems apparent that the Word is saying that deacons who serve well are rewarded. However, who does the rewarding and how will the congregation know whether they have served well?

Well, I’ve asked the questions, so let’s seek an answer in some semblance of order. First, how shall we assess whether deacons have served well? This raises the question of whether it lies under the purview of the congregation to determine whether deacons have served well. In order to answer the question, we need to review what the work of deacons is.

As mentioned in previous messages, [4] the work of deacons is not to serve as a glorified pastoral review board; the job of deacons is not that of ecclesiastical executives. Though many deacons have usurped oversight of the pulpit, warrant for such can be found neither in Scripture nor in the historical record of the churches until very recent days. During the latter part of the Twentieth Century, deacons among some evangelical groups began to assume oversight of the pastors. It is only because the pastorate began to be treated as a job, ensuring a rapid turnover of elders among the churches, that instability was introduced into the churches. To address the artificial volatility, boards began to seize control of the churches. It was out of this aberration that the unbiblical saying arose, “Pastors come and pastors go, but the church remains.” It sounds rather astute, but it lacks biblical legitimacy.

Though deacons may possibly function to oversee care and maintenance of buildings and grounds, they must not be reduced to a mere property committee. While a congregation should be wise in caring for the properties God has provided, those appointed to such a committee should not necessarily bear the title of deacons. To do such is to invite the introduction of an unbiblical responsibility that can turn the deacons from their primary responsibility as outlined in the Word of God.

Moving closer to the admittedly limited revelation from Scripture of the role deacons might play, they are often portrayed as the church factotums, performing whatever job the congregation may assign. There is some justification for this position, if only because the deacons are servants of the church. A servant does not designate his or her role to those served; rather a servant is assigned a task. Since we are speaking of a spiritual role, and not a mere physical role, we dare not reduce those appointed to the diaconate to odd-job persons or personal assistants. A deacon must not be allowed to become a boy Friday or a girl Friday.

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