The truth is I’ve never officially served as a deacon on any church leadership board. Though I have done some deaconing (actually not a real word), the title of deacon has never been mine to uphold. Like some of you, I have worked with many, befriended a few, and prayed often for the deacons that I have served with. So this brief article is not my attempt to straighten out all of the deacons in our past, present, and possible future. Besides, that should be done at another time, in a galaxy far away from this blog.
Honestly, I’m thankful for the deacons that I have served with. Nope, none of them were perfect. Neither was their pastor. For more than a few reasons, I’m sure that those of us in ministry owe the deacons an apology (at least some of them).
You see, not all deacons are bad. Many are in fact, good and godly people. Though it might seem hard to believe (swallow hard here), some are more spiritually mature than the pastors they serve God with.
Because of the more than a few bad bananas of recent American church history, we have unfairly characterized, even demonized, the majority of deacons who volunteer their time and talents to help provide leadership for the local church. To the deacons who have innocently taken a bad rap, I apologize. I’m sorry. Really, I understand what it’s like to be counted as guilty because of association. On behalf of pastors and other know it all ministry leaders, I’m sorry.
Please forgive us. We’ve allowed the stress and pressures of ministry to get the best of us. In our own immaturity, we don’t always see in the moment, that your questions are good and necessary. Forgive us for thinking that your calm disagreement meant your disapproval of our leadership. Forgive us for assuming you had poor motives, without ever taking the time to get to know you and love you.
Unfairly, many have been asked to serve as a deacon when they had no particular gifts of leadership. Herein, lies a big part of the problem. The biblical case for deacons and what we commonly think of and expect from them are not the same. In my opinion, many deacons who serve as leadership board members didn’t realize that they were actually being asked to serve as governing elders. However, that’s another can of doctrine for another time and space.
I’d like to leave a simple plea for every pastor, deacon, and church board member (regardless of official title). PLEASE work together in your local church toward unity. Our forty-fifth president’s inaugural address envisions an America where we can all “speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity.” That too describes the ideal church board environment. When the church leadership is in unity, the whole church soon follows and she becomes an unstoppable force. This is indeed, why the enemy works so hard at promoting disunity among us. Unity is the church’s greatest need and without it, there will be clear path fouls in each directive we attempt.
Unity does not mean that there will always be a consensus. We won’t always agree. Unity does not mean uniformity. We will not always dress alike, talk alike, or think alike. When people pause and think realistically for a few minutes, we all begin to agree upon the impossibility of those descriptions of unity. Ultimately, unity is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of a reconciling spirit. This definition accepts that even though we will at times disagree and have different ideas, we will choose to stay in a right relationship with God and each other. There will be times when an offense between board members occurs, but we must be committed to deal with it openly, calmly, and as soon as possible. Walking in total forgiveness must be our relational priority as mature followers of Jesus Christ.
Deacons, please help us in the primary pursuit of unity for the sake of our local church and expansion of Christ’s Kingdom.
What do you think? Do deacons deserve an apology and more understanding? Are there any deacons out there who would like to accept the apology, provide mutual grace, and take up the challenge of unity? Comment below and tell me about it. I welcome your perspective and feedback.
This recent post by Thom Rainer is also a good resource for deacon ministry.