Questions Deacons Ask (second in a series)

Doesn’t Acts 6:3 say that the deacons are in charge of the business of the church when it says “whom we may put in charge of this business”?

That’s quite a stretch, friend.

Assuming the question is serious and not frivolous, I would answer a) the word “business” there means “need” or “lack.”  Some translations have it as “this task.”  So, we might infer that deacons are in charge of the needs or lacks of the church, whatever is lacking, wherever there is a need.

And b) but neither here in Acts 6 nor in I Timothy 3, where qualifications for deacons are given, do we find specific directions as to the work of deacons. Read on.

Why doesn’t the Bible say what deacons are to do?

It does. It says they are to serve.

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Questions Deacons Ask (first in a series)

By no stretch of the imagination do I present myself as an authority on deacons or churchmanship (or anything else for that matter).  But, since the Lord has me holding a number of deacon workshops (retreats, training, etc) each year involving several hundred of the Lord’s finest, I get asked questions regarding this ministry.

Here are some of the most recent questions I’ve fielded in these workshops….

Some new deacons feel their opinions don’t matter.  How can we address this?

Humility on the part of the new deacons and thoughtfulness on the part of the officers–these are always in order.  That is to say, newly ordained deacons will want to be cautious about jumping into discussions to offer their opinions.  Better to stay back and listen and learn until the appropriate time.  At the same time, the chairman or moderator should encourage them to join in the conversation from time to time.

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If I were a deacon just starting out

If I were a newly ordained deacon, I would be eager to learn my craft, to honor my Lord, and to serve my church.  So, here are some of the things I would do:

–I would stay on my knees, asking the Father to purify me, make my motives holy, and to give me a heart to serve.

–I would read Luke 17:7-10 again and again until it became part of my DNA.  I would resolve never to seek appreciation or expect honors.  We are servants.

–I would find the godliest, most effective deacons now serving our church and latch onto them.  I would pick their brains, and ask if I could work with them until I learned all they could teach me.

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Would someone please rock that boat?!

The deacon made no attempt to hide his disgust with his preacher.  As far as he was concerned, preachers were the hired servants of the church. And, as a head deacon, that put him in charge.

“Preacher, I have some new rules for you.”

“You have rules for me?”

“From now on,” said the old man, “you will keep a written account of every copy you make on the copier.  And you will keep a notation on every phone call you make.”

And that was not all.

“Furthermore, you are not to make any personal calls from the church office.  If you have a personal call to make, you will go to your house and make it.”

Pastor: “What if I need to call my wife when she is at home?”

“Then, you will get in your car and go there and talk to her. But you will not call her from the church phone.”

This conversation actually happened, just this way.

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What every pastor’s wife–and one in particular–wishes to say to the deacons

Every pastor’s wife I know would like to say to the good and faithful deacons:

“Thank you.”

“Thank you for loving the Lord, for loving this church, and for loving your pastor and his family.”

“Thank you for praying for us, for being in your place of service on Sunday, and for taking care of the members during the week.”

“Thank you for your servant heart and for not seeing yourself as my husband’s boss, only as his support and helper.”

“We are richer and the work is better because you are faithful.”

Sadly, all spouses of pastors cannot say that. But they wish they could

When the wife of a pastor friend suggested an article on “What preachers’ wives would like to say to the deacons,” I said, “Write me what you would tell them,” and I’ll see what I can do.

Here it is–her list, completely untouched, just as it arrived a few minutes ago.

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The day I got tough with our deacons. Finally.

(Readers need to know I love deacons. And yet, I bear scars from run-ins with a few members of that fraternity over the years. My son is a wonderful deacon. These days, I’m writing a series on “My Favorite Deacon” for Lifeway’s Deacon Magazine.  So, let no one interpret what follows as a putdown of deacons. It is not. I am, however, aware that many pastors fight ongoing battles with some who insist on controlling the church. My heart goes out to them. This is sent forth with them in mind.)

Deacons and pastors were given as servants of God’s people.  Ephesians 5:21 urging that we “submit to one another in the fear of the Lord” applies to both groups in the same way it does to the entire congregation.

There is no place for bigshots and autocrats in the family of the Lord.  Jesus Christ is Lord of the church (see Matthew 16:18), and Scripture warns pastors not to “lord it over the congregation” (see I Peter 5:3).

What then is the pastor to do when the deacons insist that their job is to run the church?  That was the situation I came into in 1990 as a new pastor.  Now, not all deacons were infected by the ruling virus, but at least half of the group of 24 were, enough to thwart anything the pastor tried to do that smacked of upsetting their little apple cart.

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Courage greatly needed–in the pulpit and in the pews

“The Lord is for me; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6.  See also Hebrews 13:5-6)

I read that scripture–especially the Hebrews 13:5-6 incarnation–and smile.  Asking “what can man do to me?” is kind of like asking for it, isn’t it? Daring them to “bring it on.”  The answer of course is that man can do a great deal to you.  But the bottom line–and the point of the scripture–is that ultimately, with God being “for me,” it does not matter.

Nothing matters so much as our being one with the heavenly Father.

Can we talk about courage?  This is as rare as plutonium these days, particularly among the very people who should demonstrate it most readily, the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Only two people in the church need courage: the one in the pulpit and the one in the pew.

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The single most encouraging thing you can do for a pastor

First a disclaimer: I’m a retired pastor, I have no deacons (and no church members), I love deacons, and I’m loving ministry. However, there was a time when life was tough.

That’s what this is about.

I was having trouble with a few deacons. From the day I became their pastor, these men and their families had dedicated themselves to not liking me and being non-supportive in anything I suggested.

Eight years later, we did something.

Amazing, isn’t it, that we waited so long.  But one must not think we did not try a hundred approaches to bring unity among our church leaders.  However, nothing worked.

Finally, in exasperation I told the deacon officers–all of whom were faithful and supportive–that I had had it “up to here” and was ready to bring these men before the church and ask the congregation to take action.

The officers conferred with each other and came back with a most unusual request.

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What one new pastor told his church

“(I ask) that they may all be one, even as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that Thou didst send me” (John 17:21).

No one wants your church to be unified more than the Lord.

In fact, almost everything depends on unity.

On April 14, 2012, Pastor Charles McLain stood before his congregation, ready to lead his first monthly business session.

Before they got underway with reports and motions and votes, however, he had something to say which they needed to hear.  His little speech would affect the course of that church for years to come.

He wanted them to know how their business meetings were going to be conducted.

What follows is his written message just as he gave it (which he gave me, alongwith permission to share)….

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Self-destructive behavior from those who should know better

“…they exchanged the truth of God for a lie…” (Romans 1:25).

“What were you thinking?”

A pastor with a fine church, great respect, challenging opportunities, and a good income does the strangest thing. He arrives home from the monthly meeting of a denominational board and turns in his expenses (air fare, hotel, taxi, and meals) to the church bookkeeper. She writes him a check to repay him.

Eventually, it comes out that the denominational agency was also reimbursing him. He has been charging both the church and the agency for his expenses.

For a few thousand dollars a year, he was willing to risk everything.

What was he thinking?

A pastor with a great church and incredible potential discovers he can pull down an additional $20,000 a year by taking several groups to the Holy Land.  All his congregation sees is that their pastor keeps pushing these trips as a way to deepen their commitment and broaden their vision. They are completely unaware that the travel company is giving him a hefty commission.  When the membership finds it out, most are unhappy.  Nothing illegal was going on; this is accepted business practice. The problem is the pastor’s moonlighting and using his position of influence to pad his income on the side.

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