Shouldn’t Jesus and the Bible define for us how to do church?
Today we will dive into the origin story of deacons. One thing to notice is how the church responded to a crisis with adaptive leadership. This approach of handling problems led to the formation of deacons in the early church at Jerusalem.
A servant, minister, a person who renders service and help to others, was used to denote someone who waited on tables, also transliterated as deacon, a trusted officer of help and service in the local church.
Adaptive leadership is not about finding the best-know or most available fix to a problem, but instead adapting to the changing environment or circumstances so that new possibilities arise for accurately seeing, understanding, and facing, challenges with new actions
(Canoeing the Mountains, by Tod Bolsinger)
Background Information on Acts 6
- The Apostles (Local Leaders of the Church)
- Hellenistic Jews (Part of the Church, but not local)
- Hebraic Jews (Part of the Church and local)
- The Problem- Some were getting overlooked in an important ministry.
- Do Nothing (Neutral)
- Shrink Back (Reverse)
- Engage (Drive)
In this passage will see how the Body of Christ responded to a growing crisis within its ranks. We can learn about how we can respond in similar situations. The adaptive church does the following:
1. Sees clearly the problems that are in front of it. (Acts 6: 1).
The Adaptive Leader
2. Engages and clarifies the problem from an organizational perspective. (6:2)
The Adaptive Leader
3. Seeks other leaders who are
Full of the Spirit (6:3)
Full of Faith (6:5)
The Adaptive Leader
4. Gives away leadership (v. 6)
The Bible’s Instruction on Deacons
Paul identifies nine qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-12:
- Dignified (v. 8): This term normally refers to something that is honorable, respectable, esteemed, or worthy, and is closely related to “respectable,” which is given as a qualification for elders (1 Tim. 3:2).
- Not double-tongued (v. 8): Those who are double-tongued say one thing to certain people but then say something else to others, or say one thing but mean another. They are two-faced and insincere. Their words cannot be trusted, so they lack credibility.
- Not addicted to much wine (v. 8): A man is disqualified for the office of deacon if he is addicted to wine or other strong drink. Such a person lacks self-control and is undisciplined.
- Not greedy for dishonest gain (v. 8): If a person is a lover of money, he is not qualified to be a deacon, especially since deacons often handle financial matters for the church.
- Sound in faith and life (v. 9): Paul also indicates that a deacon must “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” The phrase “the mystery of the faith” is simply one way Paul speaks of the gospel (cf. 1 Tim. 3:16). Consequently, this statement refers to the need for deacons to hold firm to the true gospel without wavering. Yet this qualification does not merely involve one’s beliefs, for he must also hold these beliefs “with a clear conscience.” That is, the behavior of a deacon must be consistent with his beliefs.
- Blameless (v. 10): Paul writes that deacons must “be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless” (v. 10). “Blameless” is a general term referring to a person’s overall character. Although Paul does not specify what type of testing is to take place, at a minimum, the candidate’s personal background, reputation, and theological positions should be examined. Moreover, the congregation should not only examine a potential deacon’s moral, spiritual, and doctrinal maturity, but should also consider the person’s track record of service in the church.
- Godly wife (v. 11): It is debated whether verse 11 refers to a deacon’s wife or to a deaconess. For the sake of this discussion, we will assume the verse is speaking about the qualifications of a deacon’s wife. According to Paul, deacons’ wives must “be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things” (v. 11). Like her husband, the wife must be dignified or respectable. Secondly, she must not be a slanderer or a person who goes around spreading gossip. A deacon’s wife must also be sober-minded or temperate. That is, she must be able to make good judgments and must not be involved in things that might hinder such judgment. Finally, she must be “faithful in all things” (cf. 1 Tim. 5:10). This is a general requirement which functions similarly to the requirement for elders to be “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) and for deacons to be “blameless” (1 Tim. 3:10).
- Husband of one wife (v. 12): The best interpretation of this difficult phrase is to understand it as referring to the faithfulness of a husband toward his wife. He must be a “one-woman man.” That is, there must be no other woman in his life to whom he relates in an intimate way either emotionally or physically.
- Manage children and household well (v. 12): A deacon must be the spiritual leader of his wife and children.
TALK IT OUT
- The word “deacon” speaks of someone who serves and helps others, originally it spoke of someone who waited on tables. The word came to mean a church leader who served. What might a ministry that focuses on serving look like today?
- Deacons in the early church began their ministry serving needy Christian widows. They did this so the apostles could maintain their focus on the ministry of the word. What does this suggest about present day deacon’s ministry?
- Pastor Rusty shares this quote, “Adaptive leadership is not about finding the best-known or most available fix to a problem, but instead adapting to the changing environment or circumstances so that new possibilities arise for accurately seeing, understanding, and facing, challenges with new actions.” (Canoeing the Mountains, by Tod Bolsinger) Deacons were an example of adaptive leadership in the first church. How might deacons play a significant role in adaptive ministry in the church in 2021?
- When it comes to adaptive leadership the church must: 1) See the problems in front of us. 2) Clarify the problem from an organizational perspective. 3) Seek out godly leaders. 4) Give leadership responsibility to these godly people. Why is this process so important if the church is going to fulfill its ongoing mission?
- Paul lists nine qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-12. Why are such high standards for deacons?
- The Apostle Paul identifies the following qualifications to serve in the role of a deacon: 1) Respectable, 2) What they say can be trusted, 3) Self-disciplined, 4) Not greedy, 5) Their behavior is consistent with what they believe, 6) Above legitimate reproach, 7) Their wives must also be above reproach, 8) He must be committed to his wife, 9) They must be a spiritual leader in their home. Take a few moments and consider why God might have given each of these qualifications.
LIVE IT OUT
- Identify three areas in the church where God might want you to serve Him.
- List four areas our church needs to demonstrate adaptive leadership to meet present day needs in our church and community?
- Obviously, not everyone is called to become a deacon, but the qualifications for deacons should challenge all of us to be all God wants us to be. Identify two or three qualifications from the list where you need God’s help to become godlier.
- Ask God to help both you as an individual and our church as a congregation better meet the needs that surround us today.