12 Things I Tell the Deacons
No one is more surprised than I that the Lord has me leading all these deacon training conferences and retreats these days.
I love deacons and treasure the relationship with quite a few from the six churches I served over four decades.. My oldest son is a deacon and served as chairman of our church's group the last two years.
I carry a few scars from battles with deacons. I encountered a few along the way with mental health of the worst kind, some with stunted and deformed theology, and one or two who thought they were rightfully entitled to rule over the universe. This website carries some forty or more articles written on the ministry of deacons over the years. And frequently, the best lessons are ones I learned the hard way.
Usually, these days, a deacon retreat or training period will take place at the church for a couple of hours on Friday night and three hours on Saturday morning. These are fun times, the coffee pot is on, we're sitting around tables, and we share great Christian fellowship. Along the way, I write twelve principles on the posters (using my easel and a large "post-it note" pad, so we can tear each page off and stick on the wall), devoting some 15 minutes or so to each point.
The 12 principles are rather fluid, and sometimes I drop one point to add another. But as of now, the following is the current dozen. See what you think.
1. PRAYER: Nothing you will ever do is more about faith than praying.
Our Lord said, "My house shall be a house of prayer." Everything we do should be undergirded by strong prayers, seeking God's will and His power, protection, and provision. And we're not just talking about handing Him our laundry list, but praying prayers of faith, asking God for what we believe to be His will and doing so in Jesus' name, for Jesus' sake, by Jesus' blood.
2. CHANGE: If you do not like change or cannot deal with it, you're going to have a tough time with Jesus.
Salvation involves a massive change in one's life. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." But the change has only just begun at that moment. Thereafter, the process continues throughout the rest of our lives, in something Scripture calls "sanctification." Then, at the return of Christ, we read, "We shall be changed."
Anyone wanting to set the status quo in stone and keep it as it is will soon find Himself working against the Lord Jesus Christ. He said, "I make all things new."
If I'm any judge of anything, the Holy Spirit is trying to do a new thing in your life even today.
3. CONFLICT: Every church and every Christian needs a little conflict from time to time.
Conflict is like what my dad used to say about his six children: "I wouldn't take a million dollars for one; I wouldn't give you a dime for another."
Looking back on the conflict you came through, you see a hundred things: the hand of God, the working of the Holy Spirit, the plan of the Lord (to some extent), the provision He gave you, and the lessons He sent. The Psalmist said, "It is good that I was afflicted that I might learn to fear the Lord."
Pity the Christian who has never had any opposition or trials in life. They become like the human body which has never come up against resistance: all flab.
4. SERVANTHOOD: A servant works in the background to make others successful.
At a concert, there are people running around wearing t-shirts which read "Event Staff" on the back. These are not the headliners, not the stars whom you came to see and hear. But without them, nothing would happen. They clean the building, put towels in the bathrooms, arrange the lighting, run the sound, everything. And yet, you did not come to see them and you never learn their identities. They work in the background.
5. DEACONS: The word means servant and nothing more; if you are not willing to work in the background to support the program, please decline the offer when it comes.
6. PASTORS: The Holy Spirit puts the pastors as overseers of the Lord's church but not as independent contractors. They are responsible and accountable.
7. CHURCH: Since the church is the Body of Christ, whatever we do to it, we're doing to Jesus; however we treat the church, Jesus takes personally.
8. UNITY: Few things matter more to the Lord than that His church remain unified; everything about its mission depends on it being a unit.
9. SUBMISSION: The key to unity is God's people submitting to one another for the good of the cause; Only the strong can submit, the weak and immature will insist on getting their way.
10. FELLOWSHIP: 95 percent of the first-time visitors who walk into your church are not looking for a great sermon or choir program, but for fellowship; if your people love the Lord and one another and welcome outsiders into their midst, you are going to reach a lot of people for Jesus.
11. COURAGE: If you do not have the heart to face a wrongdoer in your congregation-or on your leadership team-please decline when asked to take a leading role in your church. Only the courageous can lead the way.
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina.