We pastors make many mistakes in our dealings with deacons, which is probably understandable.
In a lifetime of ministy, a pastor might log a half century leading as many as ten churches. That means he will encoiunter ten different arrangements of deacons–one per church–some good, some not so good, and hundreds of deacons of all kinds. The pastor who does this and emerges unscathed is a rarity.
Most pastors sooner or later find themselves facing one or more deacons for whom “servanthood” and “servant-mindedness” are not found in their lexicons. They are all about power and control, and right now this pastor is in their crosshairs and has been identified as the enemy.
Deal with a few of those and you will walk gently into all future gatherings of deacons.
I know they are few and far between. Most deacons are good and honorable men (and yes, women too, in some churches; but in our SBC they are relatively rare) who want only to bless and serve. But it just takes a few to create havoc.
One of the greatest mistakes we pastors make is to assume either that our deacons already know all they need to, or that they do not want to learn more. My experience is that a right-spirited servant of the Lord–deacon or not–wants to learn more, to grow more, to serve better.
Pastors should create opportunities to teach their deacons good churchmanship. Here’s what that means.
Here are seven elements to be found in effective churches. Deacons and other leaders should know this standard and continually demand this of themselves and the other leaders.
Proverbs 29:18 is the definitive verse.
Leaders such as the pastor and ministerial staff should know where they are trying to lead the church, what they are trying to make the church become, and how they plan to do this.
This is basic stuff.
2. Solid lay leadership.
II Timothy 2:2 is your text.
“Select good leaders and trust them to do their jobs.” Write that in bold letters and plaster it on the walls of the church office and the deacons meeting room. Nothing will tell the tale on a church more quickly than the type of people it chooses for its leaders and whether they trust them.
Lay leadership should be rotated from time to time. In small churches, this will be more difficult. In larger churches, it is a must.
Rotating leaders prevents anyone from becoming entrenched and thereafter “owning” his/her position.
John 18:20-21 is the text.
A transparent leader has nothing to hide.
The finance committee must never do anything it would fear to admit to the congregation. The pastor and ministerial staff should never cut corners, misuse funds designated for another purpose, or refuse to tell the other leaders how much an event or a guest cost the church.
Ephesians 5:21 is the verse.
Believers of all levels of maturity from the newborn in the Lord to the eldest should be humble, kind-hearted, not thinking too highly of themselves (Romans 12:3), and with the welfare of the entire congregation uppermost in their minds. On matters where good people disagree, and where nothing fundamental is at stake, believers should be quick to want to give in to the other.
Pastors submit to members when they are called upon in trouble (a hospital visit, a counseling appointment, etc). Sometimes the pastor submits to church members who feel the project he is pushing is too much too soon. He must always demonstrate the attitude of Christ who did not insist on getting His own way, even though as Lord of all, He could have.
Other church leaders–deacons too!–should humble themselves before each other, and be quick to agree, prompt to respond, and slow to anger.
I John 1:7 is your text.
The body life of the Lord’s congregation is a biggie in Scripture. God fully intends His people will love one another (John 13:34-35) and enjoy spending time together (see Acts 2:42).
Churches should put a high value on the relationship of members to their leaders as well as to each other. They should have times to work together, play together, eat and pray and worship together. There should be unhurried times when members can just hang up and get to know each other.
Ephesians 4:3,16 are your verses.
Anything that threatens the unity of the Lord’s congregation is a matter of concern to the leadership and needs to be dealt with promptly. Sometimes the action required will be someone submitting to the others for the greater cause of the church, sometimes it will mean pulling the leadership back together to address an issue that has arisen which is causing the dissension, and sometimes it might even require asking someone to publicly repent or leave the church.
Disunity must not be condoned or ignored.
7. Lengthy pastorates.
Is there a text for this? I can’t think of one at the moment.
But our observation is that churches with a succession of short-term pastorates will never grow or achieve much for the Kingdom. Most churches are like ocean liners in that they take a long time to turn around, a long time to get up speed, and once you get them going, though, they can produce a massive amount of work.
The church which runs off its pastors every (fill in the blank) years is its own worst enemy, does a great disservice to the Kingdom, and may be leaving some damaged pastors in its wake. Such churches are seriously misguided and must be helped.
How does a church keep a pastor a long time? The short answer is God alone knows, since He is the One who moves pastors. The longer answer is: by praying for him and loving him, following his leadership, paying him adequately, and helping him build a strong and healthy church.
Pastor, teach these and other principles of effective churchmanship to your leadership, and you will bless the Kingdom of God in ways that you never expected.