I am not, nor have I ever been, a deacon. I’m a veteran pastor (42 years) and retired director of missions (5 years), and a lot of other things (father, grandfather, cartoonist, blogster, banquet-speaker, etc.), but never a deacon. I am the father of a deacon, but that doesn’t count.
So what do I know about deacons and how did I come to know it?
Every church I ever pastored — and there are 7 of them — had deacons. The first, Unity Baptist Church of Kimberly, Alabama, had only one, Mr. Guthrie, but he was elderly and left everything to me. The last three pastorates — the First Baptist churches of Columbus, MS, Charlotte, NC, and Kenner, LA — had large deacon boards (fellowships, groups, however you want to refer to them), with all of them were very involved in the day-to-day affairs of the church.
In a couple of churches, I received scars from deacons meetings. In only one church, I’m happy to say, I came to dread the monthly deacons meeting more than surgery or an IRS audit.
With one church’s deacons, I became the topic du jour in a session that lasted until midnight, when a group tried to have me fired. The other deacons stood up and kept that from happening, I’m glad to report.
Some of the dearest friends I have on earth are deacons. Some of the wisest counsel I ever received as a pastor came from deacons. Some of the finest contributions in these seven churches, leadership that made a lasting difference, came from deacons.
I believe in deacons.
When a pastor announces to me that he has done away with the deacons in his church, I grieve inside. In the short run, he has probably cut out some of the stress in his life. In the long run, he has handicapped his ministry and muted a necessary voice for his greatest effectiveness in shepherding the Lord’s people and providing leadership for the church.
I have a love for deacons, experience in working with them, scars from trying to work with them, and some insights from the Lord’s Word about their ministry. That’s to answer the question, “Why would I, a pastor, attempt to lead a deacon conference?”
Not that there aren’t plenty of others well-qualified to do the same thing. Each person has his own insights and viewpoints.
Recently, I prepared a booklet, “How to be a world-class deacon,” which our associational office printed up. Want a copy? Send a dollar to Lynn Gehrmann at the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, 2222 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70122, and she’ll mail you one. Want several? Send one dollar each.
When I lead deacon conferences or weekend retreats (usually a Friday night/Saturday morning), I cover the contents of this booklet. At the conclusion, we give copies to everyone attending.
If anyone had told me five years ago I would be offering my services to our churches for deacon retreats and conferences, no one would have been more surprised than I. But, God is sovereign and “does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). This, apparently, was part of His plan.
The funny thing is that as I make myself available to churches and associations in my retirement — for revivals, Bible studies, prayer conferences, mission messages, supply preaching, banquet-speaking/cartooning — the greatest surprise to me personally has been to find that leading deacons conferences and retreats is the most rewarding of all.
Once again, I suppose, it bears out that old adage that, “God does not like to waste suffering.”