This post is part of a series of posts on deacons and their ministry in the local church. This series is in preparation for the installation of deacons at Christ Community Church in the fall of 2022.
Deacons. It just sounds like one of those church words. In one sense, it is. It’s also biblical. The word is first used in association with the leadership role described in Acts 6:2:
“The Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.”
The word translated as wait is the word deacon in Greek. So how does waiting on tables relate to church leadership?
Well, people were complaining. One group of widowed Jews were being overlooked in the food distribution line and it just wasn’t right. (See Acts 6:1) The apostles knew they needed help and they began looking for individuals that could step up. Verse 3 gives a snapshot of who they were looking for:
“Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty.”
It’s a beautiful picture of the church in action. The leaders tell the disciples to select seven who had a good reputation, were full of the Spirit, and wise. Then, the apostles would appoint them to this duty. They would affirm their recommendations.
Here’s 5 things from this account in Acts 6:1-7 that apply to our context:
When people aren’t being cared for, the solution should involve more leaders. Many times the needs of people in our community are overwhelming. It’s easy to end up with compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue can cause us to say no to people or quit caring about the needs of people. But the apostles wisely began to recruit more leaders to care for the needs of the people in their community. At Christ Community, we are blessed with the opportunity to care for many people, but to keep doing that well, we need more leaders sharing in that responsibility.
Appointing leaders is a partnership between the body and the current leadership. The twelve apostles didn’t make a unilateral decision. They summoned the whole company of disciples and asked them to select a few they would deem leaders. From them, the apostles would appoint deacons. We hope to mimic this biblical model at Christ Community. Begin thinking now: Who has a good reputation, is full of the Holy Spirit, and wise?
We want our best leaders serving urgent needs. In church models with Elders and Deacons, the Deacons are often viewed as subordinates or training grounds for future Elders. That’s not what we read in Acts 6 at all. This food distribution issue was the pressing need of the moment. They needed their best leaders figuring this out. Stephen is proof of that. In the very next chapter, Stephen preaches one of the most important sermons in Christian history before being martyred. These Deacons weren’t second rate. They were the best of the best, perfectly gifted for the role God was calling them to. We need our best to move us into a new season of caring for the people of Shelbyville.
Dependence on the Spirit is a key marker for spiritual leaders. The text repeats twice the idea that these guys needed to be full of the Holy Spirit. These needed to be leaders who had learned how to depend on him at all times, to walk with him, to hear from him, and to trust that he was leading the ministry. Appointing a bunch of powerful people may seem to fix a problem in a pinch, but it won’t lead to lasting ministry because that only happens through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Empowering leaders often leads to kingdom expansion. The result of selecting and appointing people who were called and equipped by God was awesome! Verse 7 says the word of God spread, the disciples increased, and even Jewish priests were handing in legalistic religion for faith in Jesus! Servant leaders are catalysts for big kingdom things! At Christ Community, we believe that there is so much more that God wants to do in Shelby County and beyond - the best is yet to come! One way we can join Jesus in what he wants to do in our community and world is empower servant leaders just like they did in Jerusalem in Acts 6.
Stay tuned to loveshelbyville.com for more posts on Deacons including “Who should be a deacon?”, “Why now?,” and more!