Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective:What is a Deacon Called to Be?

The Pastor’s Persepective
“What is a Deacon Called to Be?”
First Published: July 16, 2002

Now that the congregation has completed its election of fifteen new ruling elders, it is now time to turn our thoughts, prayers and attention to the election of new deacons. We will begin the process of electing deacons on Sunday, August 4, 2002. Several weeks ago I preached on the nature and function of the work of deacons, as well as on the character of those who serve in that office. It would be appropriate for us to pause and consider these matters again in the column over the next few weeks. Read it. Stick it in the back of your Bible, pull it out and pray over it as you study over the booklet of diaconal candidates and prepare to cast your vote.

The question we asked in the sermon back on June 16, 2002 (if you missed it you can purchase it or check it out at the tape library, or download the transcript from the website) was: why do we need deacons and what kind of deacons do we need? (based on 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and some other important New Testament passages).

In 1 Timothy, Paul is laying down a permanent pattern of ministry for the church and in the immediate context of 1 Timothy 3, Paul has been spelling out matters about the church’s prayer practice and relation to the world, as well as the respective roles of men and women in the church.
His instructions for the office of deacon are found here in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. But before we go there, let’s consider the background to the New Testament office of deacon. To get that background, we have to go back to the last days of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

It was the night that Jesus would be betrayed. His disciples were going to take the Passover meal together with him (they didn’t realize it would be for the last time). No servant was present to wash the feet of the disciples. Jesus and the disciples had come from Bethany to the Upper Room. Their feet would have been dirty and the host had failed to provide a slave to wash them in the customary manner before the meal. Now Luke tells us (Luke 22:24) that in this very context the disciples were arguing about which of them was the greatest! (possibly in connection with the order in which they would recline around the table). In their midst was one of such despicable character that he had already arranged to betray his master. And NONE of these men, not even Judas, would demean himself by stooping to perform this menial task reserved for slaves. In that setting, Jesus, the Lord of Glory, got up, set aside his garments, girded himself with the long linen cloth used to dry the feet after washing and began to wash the disciples feet. Later that same evening, he would give them a new command “Love one another as I have loved you.”

It is that command the Jesus gave deacons to the church to enflesh. That is, the deacon is to model, he is to be a living example of the self-giving tagible love of Christ to his people. John, who was there that night (and never forgot what he saw) said later (in 1 John 3:18) “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” The deacon is to love in deed and truth, and model for the congregation what it is to love in deed and truth, and to motivate the congregation to love in deed and truth. The deacon has a heart for this ministry. He wants to put flesh on the Christian responsibility to love one another in time of need. Over the next few weeks we’ll explore together this important work in the church.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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