Given at New Covenant Church on August 5, 2012:
Throughout, the following needs to be said if you’re considering being a deacon:
“If this is not your heart, you ought not serve.”
Therefore, we’ll start with two passages that should reveal to us what we should expect of the heart of a deacon and then follow with two passages that discuss their qualifications.
We All Need Help:
- The first man, who didn’t have a mortgage, car payment, kid in college, etc., needed help.
- We need the right kind of help.
- God knows what we need. We need to rely on His judgment and providence.
- God provided woman, which was unlike the rest of His creation. The rest of His creation isn’t going to fill the place of people.
- Churches that are not meeting the needs of the community around them are often failing because they are failing internally.
- There are typically two reasons for this failure: people are too proud to admit they need help or the church is too proud to help. I’ve seen both as a deacon and minister.
Takeaway: A deacon must desire to help, and must be the bridge between the individual/family and the church to see that needs are taken care of.
The Heart Should Be about Service:
- Jesus came to serve.
- Jesus deserve to be served by everyone.
- This was his final meal.
- The disciples were arguing over who would be first in heaven.
- Two even got their mom involved.
- Jesus senses the opportunity for an object lesson.
- Jesus takes the task you’d give to the “least valued” person in the group.
- Washing feet now isn’t seen as some great task, but then, considering no sidewalks, everyone wearing sandals, etc., was a very unenviable task.
- Jesus set the example of where our hearts should be.
- Zinger #1: v. 16 – we better not think more of ourselves than Him. If He’s willing to do the worst task without complaint, what’s our excuse?
- Zinger #2: v. 17 – Talk is irrelevant. Actions are what are important. “Put up or shut up.” “Just do it.”
- In other words, service is mandatory of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
- While we are talking about the heart of a deacon here, this is true for all who call themselves Christian.
- It’s not about rank, position, or station. If you’re doing it for these reasons, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
Takeaway: While we are all called to service (no exceptions), deacons are to exemplify this. No task is too menial. No service too small. No excuses are accepted. Being a deacon is not about power or recognition or about a reward for faithful attendance; being a deacon is about serving the Body of Christ now.
The First Appearance of a Deacon-Like Position:
- The believers hadn’t been scattered yet. That was to come.
- A large number of people, many who didn’t live in Jerusalem, had to be taken care of.
- The ones with local roots were okay, but the ones that didn’t have them were hurting.
- Specifically, the widows were in trouble. These didn’t have husbands to take care of them or the supporting family structure.
- The 12 had to teach and make disciples. They couldn’t do it all.
- Food service is not glamorous. It’s hard. It’s tiring. It’s not a position most would desire. However, it was now a calling. Every calling in the Church is important. Humans make distinctions in positions. With but a few exceptions (and that’s usually reserved to judgment) God is only interested in obedience.
- The 12 left it to the Body to determine who would serve.
- They had the following qualifications: men of good repute, full of the Spirit, full of wisdom.
- Good repute – had to be trustworthy. Had to be dependable. Makes sense. We’re talking distribution and logistics.
- Full of the Spirit – What does this have to do with food service? Nothing directly. However, we see a blueprint for tackling other problems. Men who were led by the Spirit would be able to discover needs within the Body and get them met.
- Full of wisdom – not just common sense, but also Biblical wisdom. Men who knew the Scriptures and God’s expectations were desired. So often God’s condemnations were based on where the people had failed to heed His warnings about who and what should be taken care of. Men of wisdom would be able to cut through to the real needs.
Takeaway: Deacons should be men of good reputation who are knowledgeable and obedient to the Word of God and are led by the Holy Spirit. Deacons should be men of service, no matter how unenviable the task, because every task is important.
Paul’s Qualifications of Deacons:
- Dignified (ESV) – the Queen of England is dignified. The Greek word here is better translated majestic/awe-inspiring in a way that invites and attracts people to a person. This is more than just an earthly dignity but also a heavenly one (indicative of a calling). We want deacons to be approachable, to be ones that people want to go to in order to share needs.
- Not double-tongued – deacons must be willing to share the truth, even when it’s not what we want to hear. This is edifying. Also, if someone is always telling people what they want to hear, that means they are changing their story, they are lying. That’s not what we want.
- Not a drunkard – this is speaking towards any addiction, not just alcohol: drugs, gambling, video games, etc. Addiction causes a person to act differently than they normally would. The addiction takes control. We can’t have that with respect to deacons. The Holy Spirit must be in control.
- Not greedy – a deacon who is focused on money, money, money can’t do the job effectively. We’ve all been in the situation where we gambled on a less expensive solution and hoped it worked. While this may make sense for washing machines and refrigerators, it never does for people. The deacon must always be concerned with getting the right solution, even if it costs him personally.
- These lead to a further testing – meaning a closer examination of one’s life if one wants to be a deacon. You’d better be ready for the additional scrutiny. This is not something the church wants to get wrong.
- A deacon must be blameless, above reproach. You can’t doubt a deacon.
- There are qualifications for a deacon’s wife, if he has one, because they are integral to his ministry.
- A deacon’s wife must meet the same “dignified” standard. If a deacon’s wife isn’t thought of in this way, then a person in need might shy away from the deacon for fear the wife will be involved.
- A deacon’s wife must not be a gossip/slanderer. If she is, folks will avoid the deacon. This defeats the purpose of the ministry.
- A deacon’s wife must be sober-minded. This isn’t to say that a deacon’s wife can’t have fun. What it means is her head isn’t “in the clouds.” There’s practicality to her.
- A deacon’s wife must be faithful in all things. There’s a lot of stress and work to being a deacon’s wife. She’s got to be able to keep things going, just like he does.
- A deacon must be the husband of one wife. This really set things apart from what was true in the Greek world of Paul’s age – no multiple wives, no divorce (NCC: Paul taught on what the Bible says about divorce and those should be applied here), and no adultery. Apply the same idea if one being considered is single. If they are “playing the field,” that’s not a good sign. We want to see men who are committed to making their personal relationships work, who are willing to sacrifice and stick through the tough times. If a man is not willing to do that in his personal life, why would we be able to expect he’ll do it with the Church?
- A deacon must have control of his children. Biblical precedents for damage when a man in a position of authority didn’t: Eli, Samuel, David, Solomon. This is a series of train wrecks that resulted in Israel having a king and then splitting apart, never to reform as a single nation of all the tribes.
- v.9 – A deacon must know the Gospel, believe in the Gospel, and live a life according to the Gospel. This would rule out a new believer because there’s not a track record to show his true belief and his obedience. Also, it is essential that a deacon know the Word so that he would use it to guide his decisions and actions.
Takeaway: These qualifications are non-negotiable and are presented by Paul for very good reasons. If a man (and his wife, as applicable) doesn’t meet these qualifications, he should not be asked to serve in the position of deacon. If a man is asked to serve and knows he does not meet one of these qualifications, he ought to decline service. As I opened with:
“If this is not your heart, you ought not serve.”