Deacons At First Baptist, Alexandria

There are two church offices mentioned in the New Testament. Today there are many professional roles and volunteer positions in the typical church, but only these two are specified in scripture. Pastors (or Elders), and Deacons.

I have spent my entire adult life ministering in one group—and working hand in hand with those in the other.

Last night I talked to several people who have been nominated for the role of Deacon at First Baptist—it was an "interest meeting" to explain the job and answer questions. I gave the same talk I have given for years, not to pressure these men and women but to try to persuade them that it will be something that will challenge them, fulfill them, and if they do it half right will bring them much joy. My talk this time had to be a little different.

Whereas the New Testament lists Deacons and gives their qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13), it nowhere provides a list of their duties. The result is that every church uses their deacons in a different way. In many churches they are the "official board,” setting policy and guiding major decisions for the church. In others, they are the business managers or the Personnel committee. Their meetings are sometimes filled with rancorous debate and Robert Rules of Order.

We don't do it that way. We have an Executive Church Council and various committees for all that stuff. Plus, FBCA is increasingly a pastor-led church, and you look to the senior pastor and staff to set the agenda and set forth the vision. For our Deacons, we take a cue from the meaning of the word. Deacon means "servant," or "one who kicks up dust," busy about the work of service. Thus, our deacons are servants to the congregation.

Each one is assigned a certain manageable number of families for which they will be responsible. Deacons are extensions of the pastoral staff, staying closer to these families than we can. Celebrating with them, or grieving. Encouraging them in their faith. Perhaps explaining church decisions and helping them feel better about something they didn't quite understand or even disagree with.

Solving problems is why Deacons came into being in the first place, if I understand Acts 6 correctly. Things come up in any church, and unity can be so easily disrupted. A good group of Deacons can help keep the church together in difficult times. Positive, forward thinking, faith-filled. They are peacemakers.

I recently spent a morning with another church's Diaconate. They asked me to talk with them about handling conflict, something their church was experiencing. I did my best, and left them encouraged and, I believe, hopeful.

I need Deacons to be my friends and confidants. A sounding board for me should I have some new and strange idea. It's not that we debate and vote in our meetings, but we do discuss what is going on in the church and do our best to find consensus.

This year's interest meeting was different, of course, because I'm not going to be around to work alongside them in the years to come. And a new pastor may have a slightly different role in mind for the Deacons of First Baptist, Alexandria. That will be fine—and they will adapt. But, before then, the crucial job they must embrace is to work for, pray for, and constantly pursue unity and cohesiveness. Just as in the worst of the COVID pandemic, to keep their families informed and feeling a part of things. To let no one slip through the cracks. Their role has never been more important to the trajectory of our church than now.

Deacons are leaders—and they lead by service, and the example of a godly life. It's a heavy responsibility, for sure. But looking around at our current team, and these considering joining in the new year, keeps my heart filled with hope. I will certainly be praying for them as they do their service for Christ the King.

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