The Heart of a Deacon

Yesterday, we installed three new deacons at Karis.  I'm really excited to have Jeremy Linneman working with C-Groups, Ryan Worley working with Shalom, and Jaylyn Salmons working with our Arts Community. Last night, we had all the deacons and their spouses over for some hang time and a bit of teaching.  Here is what I shared.  Forgive, as I said last night, the maniacal symmetry in the language!  Just as important as the task is the heart behind the one doing the task.

The Heart of a Deacon (Acts 6:1-7)

one who serves (v. 1-2)

modeling humility (v. 2)

fostering unity (v. 1)

displaying maturity (v. 3)

guarding ministry (v. 4)

encouraging vitality (v. 7)

From Mark Dever's, A Display of God’s Glory If you look at this passage in a more abstract way, you could ask, “In caring for these widows, what were they really doing?”  They were working to make the food distribution among the widows more equitable.  That’s true, but why was that important?  Because this physical neglect was causing a spiritual disunity in the body.  That’s how the passage begins in 6:1...  One group of Christians was beginning to complain against another group.  This seems to be what arrested the attention of the Apostles.  They were not merely trying to rectify a problem in the benevolence ministry of the church.  They were trying to stop the church’s unity from fracturing and being broken up, and that in a particularly dangerous way: among traditional cultural lines of division.  The deacons were appointed to head off disunity in the church.

Really, this is the goal for all the gifts that God’s Spirit gives to His church-- to build one another up and encourage each other (e.g., Rom. 1:11-12).  Paul says to the Corinthians that God’s gifts are “for the common good,” (1 Cor. 12:4-7, 12).  He extorts these early Christians, “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Cor. 12:12).  So Paul says in 1 Cor. 14:26, “all must be done for strengthening.”  As John Calvin said, commenting on 1 Cor. 14:12, “The more anxious a person is to devote himself to upbuilding, the more highly Paul wishes him to be regarded.”  So Peter wrote, “Each should use whatever gift he has received to serve others administering God’s grace” (1 Pet. 4:10).

Edifying and uniting the church is especially the ministry of the deacons as we see it in Acts 6.  Therefore, we cannot have people serve us well as deacons who are unhappy with the church.  The deacons are not those in the church who are complaining the loudest or jarring the church with their actions or attitudes.  Quite the opposite!  The deacons are to be the mufflers, the shock-absorbers.

Therefore, among those who would serve a church as a deacon there must be no small-mindedness.  Such members must not be given to “turfiness”--caring about their area, their rights and prerogatives in that area, or even quietly resenting service by others who would interlope into their sphere!  Deacons are not set apart to advocate their cause, or argue for their corners like representatives or lobbyists.  Instead, they are to come on behalf of the whole--to serve particular needs, yes--but with a sense of the whole, a sense that their work contributes to the health of the whole.  Even more, they are to be able to help others come to understand this particular ministry as a part of the uniting and edifying of the church as a whole.  They are to be builders of the church by being servants who help to bind us together with cords of kindness and of loving service.