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Deacons

March 15th, 2017

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. (1 Tim. 3:8-11 ESV)

As with pastors, we should not suppose that just because someone is given a title in the church that they are suddenly changed in character to fit the title. If electing people to positions was all that was required for them to become mature Christians, then we should only need to be certain to elect everyone sooner or later and, voila, the church will be fully mature.

But, of course, this is not the way God works, for inner true spiritual maturity does not come with the position alone, rather the candidate for the position should be mature before hand. He should have gained his maturity simply through devotion, prayer, obedience, sacrificial and humble service for Christ, the study of God’s Word, the application of biblical principles to his life, his faith, responding positively to the teachings and advising of his mentors, and, above all, the work of the Spirit in his life.

There is no short cut to spiritual maturity – not for the pastor and not for the deacon – nor can this fact ever be forgotten. There is always the tendency in democratic systems that we may elect people who think like we do, who seem to mirror the same thoughts and feelings that we hold, even when those are immature thoughts and feelings. We may say, “Well, I like him because he speaks his mind,” when in reality this trait shows immaturity, for in speaking his mind the person may very well simply be insensitive to the feelings of others.

Or we may want to elect someone who “represents us” – our age group, our demographic, our ethnicity, or our income level. The first election of leaders in the New Testament church was recorded in Acts 6:1-7, and there they put a premium on choosing men with four traits:

  • That they were active participants in the new community of the church, brothers in the faith
  • That they were of “good repute” or good reputation, or whose sincerity and Christian character, as well as his commitment to Christ, were well attested to – we may assume this would apply both to the opinion of church and of society-at-large, though the stronger emphasis is upon the church’s opinion of him.
  • Filled with the Spirit – this emphasizes their daily walk, that it was not just “so-so,” not just “not so bad,” or even better than most, but that it was reflective of the Spirit of God in their life, and not just influenced here and there, now and then by the Spirit. They were to be filled with the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, walking in 100% obedience in their lives.
  • Filled with wisdom – they must know something about how the world works, and, specifically, how a Christian should act in this fallen world. This has usually led churches to look also at someone’s success in his career – Has he advanced? Has he been given real responsibility at work? Has he been successful in life?

So the wisdom issue was important to the early church. If we would apply this in our churches we would probably best say that financial success is not alone the most important factor, for there are all sorts of reasons why someone may not be financially successful. Neither is moving up the corporate ladder the single most significant factor, for there are many reasons why someone is passed over for advancement. But neither are these things insignificant. Leaders must be wise, and wisdom generally shows itself in the work place – not always, mind you, but generally. Really, the first three traits above may be held by a ten-year-old child. He may be a participant in the church, of good reputation, and filled with the Spirit, but he would not have the wisdom to know how to serve in this position.

The main consideration for leadership is not if the candidate is acceptable to the church, but if he is acceptable to God. The main issue is not his popularity, or his demographic, or even his sincerity and willingness to serve, but his spiritual qualifications.

A few years ago I was engaged in a conversation with a church member who actually served as a lay administrator of a Christian institution. His idea of church leadership and church decisions, however, was the precise opposite of mine. He saw church no different than a nation that held democratic laws. He thought about the people being represented, or speaking up for themselves, or making their voice heard. To me, however, this was entirely the wrong approach. Church should be, from first to last, about the will of God, and not about the will of the people. We should all vote not for what we want but for what God wants, and the only person whose rights we should be concerned within the church is Jesus Christ’s right to make the church what He wishes it to be.

Of course, there are other considerations – there must be a sense among the people that things are done “in a fitting and orderly way” (1 Cor. 14:40). We should all be “quick to hear and slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Our yes should be yes and our no should be no (Matt. 5:37). But still the primary guiding principles in selecting leadership should be those expressly given on the subject in the Word of God.

And their wives should also be people who are spiritual and wise. They should not be gossips, and certainly not addicted to alcohol, or divisive in their behavior. They must be careful in what they say and be known to be women of deep spiritual commitment to Christ.

We should always remember that church is not about our friends, or about our favorite issues. It is about the will of God and the glory of Christ. This thought we must keep before us at all times.

1 Timothy, Leadership , ,