A friend asked me to write an exhortation for a newly ordained deacon. Here’s what I wrote.
In many churches, deacons seem to be menial laborers. They prepare budgets, maintain church buildings, organize work days, clean up after pot luck dinners. Pastors and elders do spiritual things; deacons worry about grubby material things.
That, of course, is a distortion. As the PCA Book of Church Order says, "The office of deacon as set forth in Scripture is one of sympathy, witness, and service after the example of Jesus Christ."
Deacons manifest the character and mission of Christ, who came among us as One who serves. Deacons follow Jesus, and serve out the joy of new covenant wine (John 2:5-9). When Paul talks about suffering for Jesus, he calls himself a diakonos (2 Cor 11:23).
Still, it's not wrong to think of diaconal ministry as menial labor. What's wrong is to disparage menial labor. Whenever Israel enjoyed a revival, deacons were there - accountants to manage donations to the temple, managers to draw up duty rosters, carpenters and masons to repair the neglected house of Yahweh, supervisors to make sure the work got done. In the church too, when the Spirit stirs, He stirs up deacons, because adminstration is a Spiritual gift (1 Cor 12:28).
As a deacon, you are called to serve the people of the Triune Lord. You are a servant of your Father's house, called to follow the chief Deacon and keep in step with the Spirit who has gifted you to serve the good of all. The path to greatness is diaconal, for the greatest is the one who becomes servant of all. Stick to that path. Be a servant to the servants of God.
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