“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.