The Blessing Of Deacons
41 years ago, the Miami Dolphins embarked on an unforgettable and undefeated season. No other team has matched that perfect record. Every year 30-some odd teams try, but for 4 decades, it stands alone.
The Redskins coach George Allen, who coached against the Dolphins in the ‘72 Super Bowl, was asked to comment on Miami’s defense. His reply was “I can’t recall any of their names, but they are a matter of great concern to us.” Does anyone remember the nickname of the ‘72 Dolphins Defense? The “No-Name Defense.”
What made that team special was not the handful of superstars, it was the dedication of every team member to do their part with excellence for a common purpose. Something special happens when everybody plays their position. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. They had some great players, no doubt. But plenty of other teams over history have had better personnel, more Pro-Bowl players, and Hall of Famers; yet no team has reached level of achievement that they did.
Imagine this morning what would have happened if just 3 players on that Dolphin offense decided they didn’t like what they were supposed to do, and wanted to play somewhere else. Let’s suppose in the huddle, they call a sweep to the right with Mercury Morris running the ball. But Larry Little, Jim Langer and Norm Evans all decided that they wanted to play running back. How well do you think they would have done that year?
You know the sports world isn’t the only place where “Positional Confusion” takes place. Sometimes it happens in the church. There are some congregations where the preacher does the work of the Elders, Shepherding the flock by visiting the members and handling Spiritual matters.
The Elders do the work of the deacons, since they were never allowed to do anything while they were deacons, they now use this opportunity to finally get to spend the Lord’s money by picking out carpet colors and copy machines.
And the Deacons do the work of the members, basically showing up for worship and leading a prayer or serving on the table.
And then the members have no expectations and no accountability. They don’t have to be a part of Bible class, or Small Groups, or any work of the church. And because a church suffers from positional confusion it slowly dies and everyone sits around and wonders why. The truth is that the health of this church and every church will be seen in the dedication of the deacons and the accountability of the members.
This morning is an exciting time for us as we commit four more men to the work of the church. We have the opportunity to allow four men to use their talents and gifts to call us into a deeper involvement in the work of the church.
One of our mistakes is that we have made a deacon an office, but that’s not the original intent. The word we translate deacon is actually better translated as servant like we see in Matthew 20:26 "It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,
The idea of having deacons in the church, is to serve the church and help the other members find a place to serve. That’s what we see from the very beginning. If you have your Bible, turn back to the text that was read for us this morning in Acts 6.
As the church grew in Jerusalem so did the problems. The Hellenists, who were Greek Jewish Christians were complaining that the Hebrew Christians neglected their widows in the daily distribution of food. The Apostles discerned that their first responsibility was to the Word of God, but they recognized the need to have someone serve tables. In their wisdom they asked the congregation to select seven men to meet this need and serve the congregation. These men should be of good reputation, Full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
The results of this decision can be found in verse 7: And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith. This text is so deep and rich, but we are going to have to do a cliff notes version this morning. I want you to notice very quickly four things that a Deacon must be in order for this Church to be successful.
They must be consistent and persistent in his work.
Planning might get the job started but only persistence will get it done. In Jerusalem the widows were hungry every day. This was not just a one time problem. This was an everyday problem and the men that would be appointed would have to be trusted to take care of this job every day.
In our church there are problems that we can foresee and problems that just happen. It doesn’t make sense to appoint someone to just handle the problems we can see coming down the road. Can you imagine our Shepherds having to stop the work of caring for our souls so that they can get someone to meet a benevolence need or change the bulbs in the projectors?
That doesn’t make any sense. The wisest thing to do would be to appoint a servant over an area who would take on the responsibility to see that the daily things as well as new problems are taken care of, that the plumbing problems are fixed, Air Conditioners work, and we have a plan for how we are going to reach out as well as reach in to one another.
That seems to be the pattern that was set in Acts 6. When the deacons were appointed to take care of the daily distribution it was their job. The Apostles didn’t have to take time away from Shepherding every day to appoint men to do this job; these men were appointed and entrusted to do a work. And the men were trustworthy enough to get the job done. These men had a servants heart and they took their opportunity to serve the church seriously.
The men we are asking to work in different areas today, are being asked to serve the church without having to be hounded to get it done. We trust that David will take care of the Benevolence requests that come up, Jeff will make sure that our Audio/Visual as well as computer problems are handled in an efficient manor, that Steve will plan and implement our Acts of CommUNITY as well as our other internal ministries, and that Brian will minister to our Young Adults, giving them the tools to change our world. That is the expectation of our current Deacons as well as our new servant leaders.
A Deacon must be entrusted with responsibility and authority.
The apostles were going to appoint seven men "over this business." The apostles were wise enough to realize even though they had the Holy Spirit miraculously indwelling in them they still couldn't do everything. They had the power to heal and cast out demons; but they couldn’t look after “this business.”
They needed helpers who could be trusted with responsibility and authority, and these deacons had both. You see without authority, you don't really have responsibility. If a deacon has the responsibility over our Mission work, but does not have the authority to ask questions of the Missionaries, check on that work, set the amounts of support given annually and for special needs, then they really have no responsibility at all. While our Shepherds provide direction, set policy, and approve budgets, our Deacons must be trusted and given the authority to do God’s work.
What we do not read in Acts 6 is that these 7 men had to go and ask the Apostles about every little detail of their work. That would be exhausting, that’s why the Apostles trusted these seven men and gave them authority to do the work to the best of their ability, and in the manner they saw fit. That’s having responsibility and authority.
Deacons must be "people builders"
A deacon is a servant, but they do not serve alone. For a deacon to be successful they must involve other people in the work. Think about this; when we get to Acts 6 there are at least, by a conservative count, 15,000 Christians in Jerusalem. If 10% of that number were widows then that would be 1,500 widows. Now if you divide that by 7 you would get 215 give or take a 1/10 of a %. So if these seven men were supposed to work alone then each man was required to serve 215 widows 3 times a day.
So you can see why Deacons have got to be people builders. They have got to enlist others from the Body to help them with their work. So I need you to know that just because we have a deacon, that doesn’t mean that you are off the hook. If we leave all of the work to the deacons then in a matter of months they will get burned out. So let me encourage you to join these new and current deacons in the work of the kingdom.
Finally a Deacon must be a representative of God.
In Acts 6 the Apostles give the three qualifications of these servant leaders. They were to be trustworthy, fully of the Holy Spirit, and having good sense. We don’t select a deacon and hope that they grow into a man of God, or appoint a man thinking this is their stepping stone to one day being a shepherd. These men we present to you today we believe are already representatives of God.
We believe that these men are exclamation points not "question marks." We get in problems with Deacons sometimes because they were appointed too soon! Or I have heard of churches appoint a deacon to get him to attend church! And then I worked with a congregation that tried to appoint some men deacons to keep them from moving their membership! How silly can we get?
The church grew after the appointment of the seven in Acts 6. I believe that it is all related. Why did the number of the disciples multiply greatly? The word of God increased. Why did the word of God increase? The men who were selected by God to minister, did.