A deacon! — 1Timothy 3:8-13
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 12, 2012
Often all you hear about, read about, or see in the movies and TV is a gross characterization of evangelical church leadership. In fact so much so that there is a societal mythos that is completely false concerning Christian leadership in evangelical churches; especially concerning deacons. The truth is there are literally tens of thousands of pastors and hundreds of thousands of deacons who serve in evangelical churches all across America and worldwide with grace and compassion as the servants of Jesus they are called to be.
Paul is writing to his young friend in the ministry Timothy on how a church is supposed to function and how congregations were to choose their leadership. Were Paul’s suggestions supposed to be the absolute law for all time and all churches everywhere concerning how a local church chooses its leadership? No, I do not believe so, however, since his writing is Spirit-inspired we as believers would do well to give it the weight it deserves and see it as extremely important guidelines in choosing a church’s local leadership. Let’s see what Paul writes concerning a deacon…
I believe if churches truly followed Paul’s suggestions to Timothy in choosing their leadership we would have fewer problems within churches. The problem is that pastors and deacons have been given authority they were never supposed to have and are often seen as a hierarchy rather than the chosen servants they are supposed to be. In fact Paul writes Timothy that…
I. Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling! (Vv. 8-9)
Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.
1. You would think that if Paul held the standards for a church’s pastor in high regard that he would do so for other leadership within the church and we discover he does. He immediately refers to his assessment for pastors by writing Timothy that “Deacons, likewise, are to be men of respect”. He is telling Timothy that in the exact same way Deacons are to be like their pastors in that they should also be “men worthy of respect”. Remember, respect is earned not automatically given. The idea is one of honest and deep devotion to the Lord. There should be no question as to where his spiritual allegiance lies. The deacon should be “sincere” not double-tongued, saying one thing and meaning another. Deacons have to be straight-shooters and therefore “sincere”. A leader cannot be sincere or worthy of respect if they are influenced by outside stimulates so they should “not indulge in much wine”. In our day and age there is a segment of the Christian church that is rebelling against past teaching that wasn’t necessarily biblical but not necessarily wrong either. One of these is the willingness of millennials and others to justify drinking alcohol. Churches for centuries never taught against drinking alcohol such as wine and the Bible does not teach against it. It was during America’s prohibition when many evangelical churches adopted a strict no alcohol policy because alcoholism was so rampant. People have forgotten that it was the American voter who demanded Prohibition in the first place. Alcoholism was a national problem. Personally I believe this is a good standard since so much grief comes from alcohol. And Paul did write, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18 NIV) This is the idea Paul was writing concerning pastors and deacons imbibing. However the deacon should not be consumed with worldly wealth “pursuing dishonest gain” either. Paul summarizes this section by stating that deacons “must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” This should be the man of God’s focus in life, not booze or dishonest gain. Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling!
EXAMPLE: In the past there were those who did not think that being called to a ministry by the Lord was necessary, that instead it was simply an office conveyed or passed on by the church to certain people whom they thought of as deserving. Nothing could be further from the truth. Being called to be a deacon in a church by God is an awesome and noble task. Churches are to be very careful in whom they set aside for deacons because these will be the men who will serve you as literally God’s waiters. Therefore deacons are to be men worthy of their calling!
Deacons are not to rule their churches nor are they to be seen as mini-pastors. They are to be the called out servants of the church that the church can depend upon to minister to its particular needs. The Book of Acts gives us an example of some men who were chosen by the Jerusalem church to literally “wait on tables” in taking care of the needs of widows in the church. (Acts 6:1-7) “They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.” (Acts 6:5 NIV) Paul writes Timothy that…
II. Deacons should be weighed in the balance! (v. 10)
They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
1. Deacons are not deacons for life as some churches teach just as pastors are not pastor for life. It is not some worldly rank conferred by the church. A deacon should be a man of God who is called by God to serve his church. We realize then that deacons are called out men of God for a specific local church to serve that church. Therefore these men “must first be tested”. Literally Paul meant these men who are being considered should be proven by their actions, attitudes, and lifestyles. Their lives should be an open book and they should be ready, willing, and able to have their lives examined by the church they are gonna serve. Sadly there are always examples of deacons who were poor examples, authoritarians or self-indulgent men who focused on themselves and the personal power they gained from their title of being a “deacon”. Yet there are many more deacons, as I shared before, who serve graciously and with great humility, honoring Jesus with their lives and service. The writer of Hebrews reminds us to “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7 NIV) And this is what Paul was trying to teach Timothy, namely that a church’s local leadership should be made up of men who the world, new believers, and the church would want to emulate. Therefore, “if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” As we look at those who want to serve us in our church we should remember that deacons should be weighed in the balance!
EXAMPLE: King Belshazzar is one of those tragic figures of biblical history. The Bible relates that he “gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them.” And that “he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them… As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall… The king watched the hand as it wrote.” (Daniel 5:1-5 NIV) He called for Daniel to interpret the writing and was told “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.” (Daniel 5:27 NIV) Paul knew if men are called to serve him as deacons, they should be weighed in the balance!
Leadership in the local church will be the example the local community sees as leading the church. How they equate the men who serve says a lot about the church itself. The title “deacon” is the
Anglicized form of the Greek word diakonos, meaning a “runner,” “messenger,” or “servant” and like pastors must also be men of quality, even though their function in the congregation is significantly different. Paul writes Timothy that…
III. Deacons should be good family men! (Vv. 11-13)
In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.
1. Continuing in his directions to Timothy Paul writes “In the same way” referring to the guidelines he had just laid out for pastors. In the same way deacons, if they are married, should have wives who “are to be women worthy of respect” as well. Some believe this to be a pronouncement that deacons should be married and this is possible under the way the original language is constructed. His wife is worthy of respect because she is honorable, honest, and not one of those “malicious talkers but temperate (meaning even keeled) and trustworthy in everything”. In fact I believe that the wife has a lot to offer in her support, insight, and encouragement to her husband who is a deacon. A wife that makes poor choices or is a gossip can be a huge detriment to their husband who desires to serve the church. Deacons and their wives must be able to keep things to their selves and not spread rumors or gossip. And again, like with a pastor Paul relates that “A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well.” A person’s spiritual skills begin in one’s home and how they are respected and honored by their own family reveals a lot about a man’s ability to serve his church. Paul knew that “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” Paul reminds us that deacons should be good family men!
EXAMPLE: Early in ministry I was exposed to a deacon whose family was well let’s just say not the best example in the world. I caught his son on top of the roof of the church yelling at and making improper finger salutes to passing cars one Sunday morning. The deacon’s response was to yell at his wife and his son in public and humiliate both of them. Needless to say he was not the best example of a deacon. Paul tells Timothy that deacons should be good family men!
Deacons are to be men worthy of their calling! Deacons should be weighed in the balance! Deacons should be good family men!
This article is copyrighted © 2017 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.