In this short article may I make one plea: Deacons, stay humble enough to want to learn how to do your ministry in more effective ways. Keep asking of yourself, and of your team, “How can we do this better, how can we do mercy so we actually lead people to Christ and bring them into discipleship, how can we do this so people actually come out of poverty?”
I like Deacons. I honor the office of Deacon. I love the men and women who serve in the ministry of mercy throughout our churches. May the Lord bless them and give them a reward for what they do.
Pastors and Elders need to value the ministry of Deacons, and they need to be thankful that they have them. Pastors need to brag on them and give them honor, encourage the congregation to hold the Deacons up in prayer, and to give them their cooperation as well as the physical and financial resources to do effective work.
Some pastors simply want the Deacons to protect them from facility surprises, as in maintaining roofs, heating and air conditioners, grounds keeping, snow removal, clean bathrooms, etc. Some churches want them to make sure there are ushers, money counting, good budgeting, security, and parking lot attendants. All of these things are important, and the larger and more middle-class the congregation is than the more important these things are going to be.
In some of our congregations we have CEOs of major corporations serving as Deacons (really, this is not hyperbole). They know how to get business done, and the title is nice on their resume for community involvement. Everyone appreciates a congregation that maintains a healthy, safe, and welcoming facility and has a positive sense of good organization and administration. I appreciate these things too, but I know that they are not enough if our goal is to be faithful to Jesus and his kingdom.
Some churches have Deacons and never use them in ministry to the poor. The pastor and church secretary seem to do all of the benevolence, or else simply bar the door and send strangers asking for help away to other “agencies.” (Deacons should strongly discourage any pastor from being the “Sugar Daddy” in dispensing aid to people. Pastors should delegate that direct ministry to the Deacons.) As a former pastor I am very much in favor of having people “wait on tables” as it were so I can focus on prayer and the Word. At the same time I would very much like to see Deacons mobilize a congregation so that any and every poor person seeking help from our church would be met with love, compassion, kindness, wisdom, prayer, and effective help.
I yearn to see Deacons organize themselves, train themselves, and create effective ministry plans so that they are able to stay motivated, refreshed, and multiplied so they don’t burn out, drop out, become cynical, or waste their very precious time simply going to meetings.
So, in this short article may I make one plea: Deacons, stay humble enough to want to learn how to do your ministry in more effective ways. Keep asking of yourself, and of your team, “How can we do this better, how can we do mercy so we actually lead people to Christ and bring them into discipleship, how can we do this so people actually come out of poverty?”
If you ask those questions of your team you will begin to realize you need help, and so you will start praying more, identifying and recruiting more saints with more of the gifts needed to accomplish the mission, communicating more with the Pastor and Elders, and encouraging more financial liberality from the members.
When Deacons start seeing the lives of poor people being truly turned around they will hopefully begin to have a larger vision for the neighborhood and community. Hopefully they will begin to be proactive and create ministries and programs that help poor people create strategies for themselves that move them to self-sufficiency.
Randy Nabors is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, is Pastor Emeritus of New City Fellowship in Chattanooga Tenn., and the Urban & Mercy Ministries Coordinator- The New City Network at Mission to North America (MNA). This article is used with permission.