Deacons – Freeing of the
I want to start out now with the
consideration of what to me, as an elder and a pastor what may well be the most
significant work that is required of the office of deacon. And that is the work
of “freeing the ministry.” And to better understand this let us go again
to the sixth chapter of Acts, and we’ll look at the original that the church had
chosen and placed before the Apostles. Why did these Apostles call for the
choosing of these seven men? The answer was very simple, they said “It is not
reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables” (Acts 6:2).
Think about this statement for just a moment. What is the primary duty of God’s
called ministry? Is it not for the furtherance of the preached word of God? Yes
it is. And before the calling of the church of the seven these Apostles or
elders were serving in both capacities. As the elders of the church, they were
and are qualified to serve in all of the duties of the service of the
church. But, because of the short comings and limitations of the flesh, they
were over whelmed by the sheer weight of the burdens of their labors.
There were things that needed to be taken
care of and they said that it was not reasonable to expect them to be able to do
it alone, so they said, “Wherefore brethren, look ye out among you seven men
of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over
this business” (Acts 6:3). This was inspired by God the Holy Ghost in order
that the ministry might be set free to give themselves “continually to
prayer, and to the ministry of the word” of God (Acts 6:4). The original
seven deacons were chosen and set before the Apostles “and when they prayed,
they laid their hands on them” as it is to this very day.
Writing as an elder and a bishop or pastor
of a church, I can tell you that it does my heart good to read and to understand
this. I can’t tell how much it means to me to have good and faithful deacons in
the church. They set me free, but not so much “free from” as “free to” do
certain things that need to be done. These things would be very difficult and
maybe even be impossible to do if not for the deacon's wonderful and dedicated
service to God’s church and to me the pastor.
I have heard folks who refer to Old
Baptist ministers as being only “part time preachers.” The ministry of the Old
Line Primitive Baptist is much, much more difficult than that of the so-called
ministry of the world. The ministry is a twenty-four hour seven days a week
labour. Beloved, in the church of Christ, the elders must hold down three
responsibilities: first, to the Church and second, to the maintenance of their
families, and third, to care for their secular jobs. These humble servants spend
much time in calling on and visiting the sick; and they can often be found hard
at work on, in and around the church building. Not to mention there is their
time to study the scriptures and to meditate on the word. That’s the reason that
I thank God each and every day for the men that God has given to the church and
to the ministry who are deacons!
The function of the office of a pastor did
not change when God gave the church the office of the deacon, but God gave a
wonderful gift to all the pastors and, if we, God’s people, will but learn the
scriptural way in handling the office.
The service that these deacons undertake
are the things that belong to pastoral leadership. They share in the burden
with their pastor. God, the Holy Ghost, in keeping with His wonderful and
limitless grace, has created another who is there to help in the detailed
execution of these things in order that they not utterly absorb the pastor and
elder’s time, thought, and life. They serve first our Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ and His Kingdom Church, and second they stand in support of the ministry
and to God’s elect.
One way that the deacon sets the pastor or
elder free is by they are men, set apart by the church, in which the pastor can
have full and free confidence. For example, a pastor must be acquainted with all
of the goings on within the church that God has placed under his care. This is
where the deacons come in and serve in a critical way. They are to be the eyes
and ears of their pastor, ever feeling the “pulse” of the church. Helping
the pastor in such a way requires a relationship that can only exist when the
pastor and the deacons share in the new nature that is imparted by Christ. In
this way, there is a perfect freedom in having perfect confidence in one
another; making the labour of the shared ministry more effective.
When we read in Exodus 17 where the
Israelites were to battle the Amalekites, as long as Moses held up his hands,
the Israelites “prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.”
But Moses became weary and Aaron and Hur took a stone and put it under him for
him to sit upon, and each one of these men, one on each side took and held up
the hands of Moses (Exod. 17:10-13). What a wonderful picture of the
relationship between the pastor and the deacons! The mutual love of Christ binds
us together and at the same time sets us free. The best pastor is the one who
has faith and confidence in God and faith and confidence in the men that God has
given to him to aid him in the execution of his ministry.
The next time that we get together, I hope
to examine the deacon’s care for the church and his role in the leadership of
the church body. May God bless us to be true and faithful to His cause, and that
He might guide us to better understand and work in His Kingdom as good stewards
of the things that He gives us.