There are few easy jobs in the typical congregation and plenty of really difficult ones. My candidate for the hardest elected position is chairman of deacons.
The absolute toughest and most critical, of course, is the position of pastor. He’s the point man and so much rides on his faithfulness. A close second to that is the deacon chairman.
I say this in full recognition that in our denomination at least–the Southern Baptist Convention–deacons are a varied lot. What they do and how they minister is strictly up to the individual church. Some function as boards of directors, some are teams of servants, some work as a steering committee composed of chairs of every committee in the church, and some are true spiritual leaders.
But there is one thing true in 99 percent of our churches: the chairman of deacons is the number one lay position within the congregation.
On paper, the deacon chair is simply the moderator of the monthly meeting of his group. But in actuality, he (and in the rare instance, she) is the go-between for the pastor and the congregation.
The congregation is having a major problem that involves the pastor. Someone has to visit the shepherd for a confrontational sit-down with him. It falls to the deacon chairman.
Someone or some group within the congregation is out of line. They are attacking the pastor unfairly. For the shepherd to confront them seems self-serving and puts him on the defensive. Someone else needs to do this. The chairman of deacons inherits the job by default. There is no one else better situated.
When you are nominated by the church as a deacon, they convene a council to examine you, then the church ordains you. It’s a big deal. We need to do something just as significant when the deacons choose their leader. The job is the weightiest in the church when done well.
A deacon chairman needs four qualities; if he misses even one, the church could be in trouble.