Why Charlie doesn’t want to be a deacon and Robert is thrilled to be one.

“For those who serve well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 3:13).

It’s good to be a deacon. It is, that is, if you can pull off the servant, team-playing, supportive, and godly aspect.

Not everyone can.

Charlie and Robert are both Christians, friends of one another, and good guys. But when the deacon nominating committee approached both men about serving as deacons, the answers they received were completely opposite.

Robert: “Me? You think I’m deacon material? Wow. My dad was a deacon. I’m not sure I’m up to that standard.  Can I have a day or two to pray about it and talk to my wife?”

Two days later, he accepted, and was ordained.

Charlie: “Are you kidding me? You think I’m deacon material? You sure are lowering  your standards, aren’t you?” (Said with a laugh.) “My dad was a deacon, and I saw how he struggled with church issues. Give me a couple of days to think about it.”

Charlie called the committee two days later to decline. He said, “I just don’t think that’s for me. I’m not deacon material. Not yet, anyway.”

Here’s why Robert became a deacon and why Charlie did not.

Robert was honored to be chosen, was overwhelmed to be ordained, and is daily challenged to become a better Christian.

1) Robert loves the church and wants to do anything he can to make it stronger and more effective.

2) Robert loves helping people and is pleased when people call him for help just because he’s a deacon.

3) Robert loves to work as a team, rather than a loner.

4) Robert has no trouble at all putting himself under subjection to his ministers and the deacon leadership.

5) Robert is thrilled when his church is healthy and strong and is reaching people for the Lord Jesus. He has noticed that his church is most effective at this when it is unified.

6) Robert loves his pastors, and always has, no matter who they were or how different their styles. “Some were easier to love than others,” he says with a smile. “But they were all godly men.”

7) Robert is humble and does not see himself as ever becoming a preacher or deacon chairman. He is perfectly willing to work in the background. In fact, he prefers that.

Charlie loves the Lord too, but not always in the conventional sense. He has a problem giving up his independence and lone-ranger approach in order to become a deacon.

1. Charlie likes his church, but would rather they not count on him. He’s frequently away on weekends due to his personal hobbies (the fishing and hunting trips, the golf outings, his son’s ball games, etc). He sees himself as well-rounded.

2. Charlie loves people, but thinks the needy are mostly deadbeats and the church should help only the deserving.

3. Charlie enjoys his independence. He can choose to support a program or criticize it without anyone making a federal case about it. He is not always on anyone’s team.

4. Charlie has a problem putting himself under submission to anyone. “As an American citizen, I have the right to make my views known,” he has been heard to say from time to time.

5. Unity in the congregation is not that big a deal to Charlie. In fact, he enjoys a little dissension from time to time. “Keeps us from getting complacent,” he laughs.

6. Charlie sometimes has a problem with the preacher, and wishes they could rotate them every two to three years.  “He’s just a man,” Charlie says, “and not Moses just down from Sinai.  I don’t know why everyone thinks he’s any smarter than the rest of us.”

7. Charlie sometimes thinks he would like to be a deacon to make some changes in his church. If he were the chairman, he would have the authority to be heard. That is the only reason he can think of for wanting to become a deacon.

As a pastor, I’m delighted Robert is a deacon and that Charlie is not. In fact, having had a few Charlies as deacons in churches I’ve served, I hope never to have another.

If Charlie were to become a deacon and make it through the screening process (that is, the list of qualifications mostly based on I Timothy 3:8-13, the interview in the ordination council, and the waiting period to see if anyone has an objection), he would give his pastor the occasional headache.

As a deacon, Charlie would clutch his independence as a badge of honor, would not always support the program agreed upon by the others in the room, and might become a vocal critic of his preacher. He would teasingly call himself the pastor’s “loyal opposition,” or “devil’s advocate,” without realizing the spiritual implications of what he was saying.

No church needs Charlie as a deacon. Until he submits his strong personality to the Lord Jesus and learns to respect the God-appointed leadership which the Lord sends the church, Charlie has no business being counted a church leader. (I will go so far as to suggest that if his negatives are this visible to others, often it comes to light that Charlie has private issues of greater concern. These could involve drinking, profanity, pornography, pot-smoking, and such.)

In the future, the deacon nominating committee should pay more attention to the subtle hints regarding their nominees. The fact that they even offered the position to Charlie does not speak well of them.

Hereafter, when a deacon nominating committee is satisfied that a man like Charlie is saved, loves the Lord, and fairly well meets the I Timothy 3 standard, let them ask a few more in-depth questions, such as:

–Is he a team player or does he prize his lone ranger status?

–If he takes an assignment, can he be counted on to fulfill it?

–Is there evidence he supports the pastor, even when he does not always agree with him? (No one agrees with pastors 100 percent of the time, nor should they be expected to. Nothing tells the story about our maturity as how we behave when we disagree with our spiritual leader.)

–Where is the evidence that this man loves his church to the point that he is willing to put his personal pleasure aside in order to care for its members or carry out an assignment he was given?

Why I want Robert as a deacon. The reasons will not surprise you.

–Robert is mature enough that if he has a problem with something I, the pastor, am doing, he will either come tell me or keep it to himself and pray for me.

–Robert is mature enough that he does not run to the pastor with every gripe he picks up in the congregation. He knows what to ignore and what needs his attention.

–Robert is strong enough to submit to other believers, whether they are the ministerial staff, the deacon leadership, or a church member.  Ephesians 5:21 is a huge deal to Robert.

–Robert agonizes in prayer for his church, for his pastor, and for specific people whom he knows to have issues and needs.

–Robert knows that since he was ordained a deacon certain ones in the community are always watching him, ready to pounce on any hypocrisies and inconsistencies they find in his walk and his talk. This drives him to his knees in prayer, keeps him in the Word, and serves as a constant reminder that the devil would love nothing better than to catch him in his snare.

Robert and Charlie are simply two names I pulled out of the air, and represent no one I have known or served with. I thought of calling them Larry and Moe, but then everyone would wonder what happened to Shemp and Curly.

After my pastor friend Bobby read the above, he messaged that he has known of good men to decline to serve as deacons because their preacher-fathers had been mistreated by them, and they want nothing to do with the group. This is sad, but is a needed reminder that not everyone who declines the nomination is lacking spiritual commitment to Christ or a love for His church.




12 thoughts on “Why Charlie doesn’t want to be a deacon and Robert is thrilled to be one.

  1. It is hard to support a program that you do not identify with. I was ordained in a Church where the Pastor prized the giving ability of men and total allegiance regardless of circumstances. It is hard to support a Pastor that manipulates and lies to the Deacon fellowship. It is also hard to understand that some Deacons will support a Pastor and vote his way regardless of facts: “the Pastor is always right”. It is hard to support a Pastor that disregards the Church constitution and bylaws and selects his own Deacons and does not present anything to the Church to vote on, even a budget. I have seen a few Churches that were pillaged by a Church Staff. How can you even tithe if you aren’t sure where the contributions are going because all Church mission work has ceased? No RAs or GAs or choir anymore. I have been at this Church for over 35 years. We were married there. But have times changed this much where the Pastor is unchallenged by any authority let alone a business meeting? By the way, I do tithe but all additional gifts go directly to other mission activities i.e. Lottie Moon, Gideons, Georgia Barnette, State Baptist Men’s activities like disaster relief, etc. I don’t know if my Church supports any of this because I haven’t seen a budget in years.

  2. An additional comment. Deacons are at fault for allowing this happen. At the last Deacon meeting that I attended many years ago, the chairman would NOT allow me to hand out copies of the bylaws and constitution to talk about some procedures in absence of a Pastor. He had decided that the Personnel Committe, which he was chairman of, should have unfettered control of all Church activities which was contrary to the constitution. To pursue this would have caused a rift and possibly a Church split which I believe needs to be avoided at all costs. Now I just do my outside the Church mission work and stay out of trouble.

  3. This post was interesting, but as I read it, I realized that you creating a false dichotomy, suggesting that either you’re a good Christian for wanting to be a deacon, or a lousy one if you refuse.

    I think this post misses the important fact that God calls people to different areas in the church, and enables them with different gifts. Personally I’d never want to be deacon, because I wouldn’t be able to do what God has called me to do in other areas (such as sharing the gospel via websites, etc.).

    I don’t spend my weekends fishing or camping, but writing evangelistic content for a website I own, and studying the word to help me do so. Not to mention taking care of my house and family and earning a living.

    The best deacons are those whom God called and equipped with the talent for it. Some don’t have it. It doesn’t make them less Christian, or necessarily mean they are harboring sin. It may be that their gift is giving, or teaching, or administration, or other vital service that they use to enlarge the Kingdom of God, and by being a deacon it would hold them back from this service.

    I praise God for men who take the initiative and become deacons, and serve faithfully. But I don’t condemn a person for not wanting to become a deacon, so long as they are being true to what God wants them to do within the church body.

    There are many different members apart of one body (the church). If all men were meant to be deacons, then where would the other members fit in? Some men simply are not deacon material by their very calling/nature. Not because they are sinners or lazy, but because God made them as a different body part of the church.

    That, I think, is what this post missed. It seemed to suggest there are no people out there that could legitimately want to reject deaconship, in view of a different calling within the body.

    • Thank you for an honest response. I went back and reread it to see if I’d done what you say (create a false dichotomy). My response is this: If I had tried to make those two guys representative of all the men of the church, then I would agree that this is the effect. But all I did was take two men and draw some lessons from each. After pastoring over 40 years and with 51 years in the ministry, I know both types intimately, believe me. — My own belief is that while the Lord may indeed call men (women too?) as deacons (He’s God and can do anything He pleases!), biblically we do not see that happening. The church at Jerusalem chose the deacons (Acts 6), if we assume that those 7 were indeed deacons (the word is not in the text). So, my conclusion is that as a rule, God calls the ministers and the church calls the deacons. Works for me at any rate. Again, thank you. Every blessing to you.

  4. Thanks for the follow-up comment. Either way, it is a well written article, and you certainly laid out some fascinating points about both types of men. After your clarification, I can see what your original intent was with the article.

    I certainly believe that after that many years in the ministry, you’ve seen your share of many different types (for better or worse)

    Thanks again, and God bless you.

  5. I was recently selected to be an elder/deacon (our church combines these two roles) and don’t feel at peace about it. After reading this post, I realize that I may be a Charlie. I feel that I should decline the nomination, but what is a good Biblical basis and method to do this? The pastor would probably argue that I was nominated by the congregation and thus is God’s will, but if I am not at peace and see that I am not ready to be in this position, surely I should not take the nomination?

    • Stephen, no one can tell you the will of God for your life. No one can force you to take a position when you say “no” and hold firm. But I suggest you do so graciously and lovingly, assuring the pastor that if and when the Lord says otherwise, you’ll be more than happy to let him know.

  6. I just recently turned down this blessed opportunity, for several reasons. 1. I’m not consistent at going to church. 2. I know of some deacons who live in sin. 3. Many church members live in willful sin and participate fully in the things of the world. 4. No one really wants to talk about God or holiness, just football, golf, jokes, and worldly things. 5. If I want to talk about living a righteous life I’m frowned upon. 6. I have a hard time submitting when I am mostly in disagreement, I feel like I’m betraying God when I participate. 7. My church celebrates Halloween, Easter egg hunts etc. 8. I dont have peace at church, not sure why? 9. I am not perfect, but my desire is to be complete in Christ, I take his word seriously. I do struggle with authority that does not line up with Gods word.I know of some ministries that appear to do things right and I would have no problem submitting to authority living under Gods word, even if I was cleaning toilets. 10. Those ministries are long distances from me.

  7. Interesting article. After being a member of my church for over twenty years, it bothers me that I have never been asked to serve as a deacon. Maybe there is a scarlet letter on my forehead. Am I perfect and without sin or blemish? Of course not! Are those who serve in my church as deacons, men of perfect character without sin or blemish? Of course not! So I have to ask, why have I never been asked to serve as a deacon?

    When I posed that question to a very prominent leader, deacon, and my Sunday School teacher, his response was, “well, what have you done to serve within the church?” My first reaction to that question was, “well, not much.” But that response may be related to the fact that for most of my life I have dealt with an inferiority complex, always comparing myself to others and usually coming to the conclusion that I just don’t meet up to other’s standards. As I pondered that question, it came to me that yes, I have served in several capacities for many years. I have served on mission trips, served in the choir for many years, served in the nursery, and served as a men’s group leader. But that just isn’t enough to be qualified as a deacon…..at least in my church! Remember, he didn’t ask about my spiritual walk with the Lord……he asked about my level of service to the church!

    What I have noticed, is that for the most part, our deacons are professional men who are financially successful and possess a very high degree of confidence. Certainly, there are some very humble, Christ-centered servants within that group too. But having a high degree of confidence seems to be a strong character trait within that group. In my opinion, humility and self-confidence don’t always mix well. Maybe that’s where I come short…..and maybe that’s a compliment!

    So why do I even mention this? It’s the self-righteousness that bothers me. We are all sinful creatures (deacons included) and judgment is reserved for God…..not man. I’m just not “good” enough to serve as a deacon because I just don’t “do” enough…. at least in the eyes of my church. Maybe I am more like Charlie. Maybe you would not like me as a deacon anyway. But I am comforted by the fact that my salvation comes from Jesus Christ…..not the deacon committee. I will serve the Lord whether I am asked to serve as a deacon or not.

  8. Dear Pastor Joe: Thank you for writing this. Based upon the two gentlemen you described, I agree with all you said about each. I do not want to be a deacon for reasons very different from Charlie’s. I meet all the qualifications for deaconship prescribed in Scripture. My Pastor and our current deacons want me to become a deacon. I am willing to do anything for God, our Pastor, our congregation and our community within my abilities, and many other things that are a stretch, and I’m willing to do this without a title. I’ve never felt a burden for serving as a deacon, so I’ve never felt that is something God is calling me to do. When initially asked to consider being a deacon, I graciously thanked the church and declined. Two weeks later, one of the deacons – during a worship service – said he wanted to speak with me following the service, saying, “We’re running a little short on deacons.” Our congregation is small without a lot of people meeting the qualifications. After speaking with him following the service and respectfully declining again, he made me realize that if I continued to decline, I would continue to be hounded until I finally acquiesced. They will never take “No” for an answer, I assure you. So, disliking being pestered and not wanting to risk getting nasty with some of my fellow members after being continually being hounded, I went ahead and said I’ll serve. As I said, I already serve anyway without the title in several capacities. Only difference is that now I have to attend breakfast every Sat. morning with Pastor and deacons (where all they talk about is how great Trump was and that COVID-19 is a conspiracy), attend a monthly Deacon meeting (where some deacons continually complain about our Worship Minister without good merit), and endure an ordination service where I’m the center of attention (which I dislike intensely – I get more than enough of that during the work week) with the ritualistic “laying on of hands” (I intensely dislike ritual; gives me the creeps – yes, I know they laid on hands in Acts, but that culture did a lot of things we don’t do today). I will endure the whole thing with a smile until I retire in a few years and we can leave California (which my wife and I view as a modern day Ninevah) to settle down in Arizona. We feel very much like Jonah felt, but have obeyed the Lord. We feel strongly that God wants us where we are for this season. We will continue to be obedient and find joy in what we do. It’s vital that we do what we should do rhater than what we want to do. I’m a hospital system Finance Officer, and deal with enough personnel issues during the work week. My local church is becoming one that is a source of stress to me, instead of being a refuge from it where I can recharge my spiritual batteries for the upcoming work week. Thankfully, our congregation continues to have a hunger for lost souls, and I will continue to work with our congregation until the final day. The foregoing is my personal reason for not wanting to be a deacon.

  9. One last comment: The words to the contemporary Praise & Worship song “I’m Coming back To the Heart of Worship” come to me now – “I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it” when it comes to some our local church leaders and what we’ve done with the Church. Jesus is the head of the Church and created it, but man has messed it up a whole lot. People are flawed creatures by definition, so this is natural, bound to happen and will keep happening. Despite that, we must keep working faithfully.

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