Biblical Pattern for Pastoral Ministry: Part 7 :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

1 Timothy 3:8-13: “The Deacon and His Responsibilities”

“Now in those days when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom whom we may appoint over this business, but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.’

“And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles, and when they laid prayed, they laid hands on them. Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great number of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:1-7, NKJV).

“Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double tongued, not given to wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husband of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3: 8-13, NKJV).

In the matter of caring for the members of a church, the elders and deacons are to work together to insure:

  • that the Word of God is faithfully preached and taught
  • that the needy and infirm are provided adequate care and assistance
  • that the business of the church is in good order and brings nothing questionable or deceitful into its operation that would bring shame and the loss of testimony upon the church body
  • to watch out for each other’s well-being and character by the means of accountability and earned confidence in each other’s gifts and strengths
  • to support each other in times of distress.

Any area of conflict should be brought before the officers of the church and dealt with in an orderly, charitable means that results in reconciliation and the solution to the problem that glorifies God and encourages the flock as a whole.

If an elder or deacon commits a sin that results in the individual resigning from their duties, the church body must pray for that person and his family that the enemy will not corrupt them further and that restitution can be achieved – except, in the case of gross immorality (such as any kind of sexual sin, especially in the case with a minor), it needs to be immediately handled by the proper legal authorities. In such instances, the church body needs to come before God to inquire how to administer any worthwhile pastoral care for all concerned, if such is requested.

Both elders and deacons hold their offices as servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, and for no other reason, and will conduct themselves with this standard in mind. There should never be any worldly, fleshly, carnal, or self-assumption of importance as a reason to hold these offices and their respective responsibilities. The church is not a business or company, but the representative of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, committed to doing His will and be in a state of obedience to Him and the Word until that day where we will all face Him at the judgment and give an accounting of our service to Him.

The standards that I’ve written are the ideas behind the rewriting and reorganization of the church that I pastored from 2017 to last year (2018). These statements became part of the new Church constitution voted in unanimously by the congregation, who had rededicated themselves to the work of Christ after a dry spell where they had wondered if they were even going to stay open. The Lord Jesus was gracious and blessed us with the ability to get the affairs of the church in good order and focus on ministry, evangelism, and outreach, as well as remodel the physical plant. I take no credit for any turnaround that the church experienced, but the brief tenure that I served there also helped to clarify and strengthen the church’s governing board and means of conducting the Master’s business.

Every new elected elder and deacon understood their collective responsibilities and gained a clear vision of their gifts and talents that they used in a wonderful and God-honoring way for the time I served there, until illness and other issues directed me to resign, trusting that the LORD would provide another shepherd for them, which came about in a timely manner in God’s plans.

In my brief times of pastoral ministry, I have had the blessing of serving with godly, honorable men who held the office of deacon in high regard and saw what they did as service to the LORD and not a “power trip” or “church boss” mindset. Some churches are not as blessed or fortunate, and the trail of pastor’s bodies and forced terminations haunt many congregations who don’t know or refuse to bend to the Bible’s absolute standards concerning this office and its specific demands.

I’ll be blunt and say without apology that some churches are so out of touch with what Jesus expects of them that it would be better if they just shut down and quit pretending to be the “house of the LORD.” It’s important to get our minds off what we think how things are to be run, and instead get back to God’s Word and the truth.

The issue is the biblical task of the deacon, and Paul presents the specific qualifications to Timothy and future churches throughout history and the world.

A Deacon is to have a reverent attitude and view towards his office, seeing it as an undeserved honor to serve the risen Lord Jesus Christ and His church. He is as serious about his calling as is the elder.

Like the elder, he is to be sober in his thinking and lifestyle, allowing nothing to compromise his responsibility before God and the flock.

He is to have no desire to do or say anything that would put his reputation into question or jeopardy.

All who wish to serve in the office of deacon need to be examined and questioned as to their doctrine, faith, and maturity.

Their wives also need to possess a spiritually sound walk with God and be a good example to the church.

A deacon must be able to handle his family in a manner that honors God and leaves no doubt as to his ability to perform his duties.

Their character, service, and attitude should mirror what Jesus Christ expects of them as they continue to advance and mature in the faith, becoming notable models of Christian service for the church body.

Both the elder and the deacon are to glorify God in their daily lives as well as the times of worship and service. People are watching.

Not only was I blessed to have godly men work with me during my pastoral tenures, but I grew up with a model of what Christian service and duty are all about. That was my grandfather, who held the office of deacon and chairman of deacons of the First Baptist Church of Lake Charles, Louisiana, from the time he moved to the city in 1943 until he was made Chairman Emeritus forty –five years later in 1988. He held that title until he passed away three years later, a week short of his 90th birthday.

He always made it his ministry to welcome the new pastor and his family by purchasing suits and clothing for them, and to make sure that when he arrived to the church on Sunday mornings, that everything was in order and ready to be used. He helped greet and direct visitors, pass out bulletins, lead in prayers for the staff, and assist with outreach plans for the community along with my grandmother. He had a closet in the house that held his clothing as well as a small area for his personal time of prayer. Every Sunday morning when the azalea bush was in bloom, he’d cut off a flower and pin it to my grandmother’s dress as a way of showing her love and affection, a love that lasted for fifty-five years. Not bad.

He and my Dad prayed for my recovery and life when I was born with health problems that were serious enough to warrant three months of ICU afterwards. As I grew up and watched his work and life, I figured that he and the LORD had such a good relationship, that He honored my grandfather’s request out of sheer love, respect, and friendship. When he passed away on November 5, 1991, the conversation carried over into the glory of heaven where He could now be with His Lord and my grandmother, who had passed away years before.

All of my grandparents, my parents, my best friend, and my daughter are all there, serving the Lord Jesus Christ. One day I’ll be there, too. I thank God that in this wicked, crazy world, He saw fit to put me in a family that, while not perfect, gave me the foundation I needed to show me what serving the LORD was all about and that He was worthy of everything I gave to Him in an attitude of love and servitude.

There is an old hymn which starts off with the phrase, “Serve the LORD with gladness.” It worked for Papa, it works for me, and for all who are part of the great forever family with a reunion to come that is not to be believed this side of heaven. If you’re reading this, and you don’t have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, I ask that you would bow your head, ask the LORD to forgive you of your sins and wrongdoings, to repent, and ask the Lord Jesus Christ to save you, surrendering all to Him. I will conclude with presenting a prayer for you to use:

“Dear God, I realize that I am a sinner and doomed to judgment. I don’t want to live a life apart from you anymore. I turn away from all of my bad behavior and thoughts and repent of them. I now ask that the Lord Jesus Christ save me from my sins and be the Lord and Master of my life from this time one. I will serve you, Lord, for the remainder of my time and life here on Earth, and I ask that your Holy Spirit teach and guide me in my new life. Help me to understand your Word, the Bible. I am yours, without regret or reservation. In Jesus’ name I give this prayer, Amen.”

Welcome home, little lamb. Now, go serve your King. You’ll never regret it.