Thursday, February 25, 2010

Confessions of a Church Planter (Part 7)


Now that my family was set in order, and I was beginning to set the church in order by installing pastor-elders, I had to arrive at some conclusions regarding the office of deacons in our church.

The Scriptures clearly describe two offices for leadership in New Testament churches - pastors and deacons.

Pastors (elders) manage the church; they teach sound doctrine, lead the flock, pray, make disciples, and provide oversight. Deacons serve in the church; in helps, mercy ministries, and any form of practical assistance. There is a clear distinction between the two offices, levels of authority, and the duties that each has.

Does PCC have deacons? Yes, we have deacons - as they are defined by the Bible. We do not have a deacon board that runs the church; our deacons run the ministries which have been authorized by our pastor-elders.

There are three words for “deacon” found in the Bible (diakonos, diakonia, diakoneĊ) and they all translates as “servant” or “service” or “to serve.” In some instances the word deacon also means "minister" or "messenger." In the Bible these individuals liberated the apostles from direct involvement in congregational care by serving in such areas as the daily administration of food to widows and the like, relief work to the needy, and waiting on tables, in order that the apostles and teachers might be freed up to teach the Word of God and lead the flock (see Acts 6:1-7). Deacons served as assistants to the apostles, and later, to the elders of the church. They were not called to supervise elders (pastors), but to serve as extensions of pastoral ministry by ministering to widows, serving others, distributing goods to the needy, and provide various forms of congregational care. As such, deacons are under the authority of pastor-elders, and the office, in itself, carries no authority beyond its immediate assignment. There are no specific on-going roles defined in scripture for deacons, rather they served as needed.

Thus deacons in Pace Community Church are equated as ministry leaders, ministry servants, or small group leaders in our ministry environment. Such a person in our church is a servant who drapes a towel over his or her arm and is actively involved in hands on ministry that is providing some type of congregational care, helps, visitation, or administration of a specific ministry in this church. This can range from parking lot supervisors, head ushers, the head of hospitality, leading our grounds-keeping team, building maintenance, hospital visitation, visiting widows and shut-ins, serving communion, locking and securing the building, welcoming visitors, building cleanliness, small group leaders, or any tangible form of assistance in preparation for the Sunday services. Without such people the ministries of Pace Community Church would simply cease to exist. That is why we need servant-deacons in our ranks.

Deacons are not elected positions. They are appointed by the pastor-elders of the Church (see Acts 6:3), on the basis of need and upon their unique giftedness for the task. There can be no limit to the number of deacons, as this is dependent solely upon the Holy Spirit's disbursement of spiritual gifts in the Church.

Additionally, by using this Biblical role of deacon (rather than a denominational or traditional one) we have created opportunities for women to serve in this capacity - such as Pheobe in Romans 16:1-2 (who is called a servant or deacon with the Greek word diakonon being used to describe her). We have long been taught that the New Testament does not show women in the capacity of deacon or deaconess and that God does not want women to be involved in the ministries of the church. However, this verse, which has either been poorly translated and interpreted, or ignored, lies like a little jewel in the Word of God and affirms women in their service to God. It says that Phoebe was a servant (diakonon, which means deacon) of the church at Cenchrea. Further still, the following passages, (Rom. 16:3, 12; Phil. 4:2, 3; 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9, 10; Titus 2:3-4), makes it evident that females were engaged in various Christian ministries.

Rather than sitting on bureaucratic committees getting very little done, our deacons are with people and meeting needs every week! And that's one of the things that makes PCC such a great church.

I Timothy 3:8-10 (NIV) 8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
Tomorrow – the role of women in the church.

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