Dan Kelly asks:
We need to hire someone to bring practical leadership to those of us who want to serve but don’t have the capacity to envision, organize, and create. We’ll think of a suitable title for such a person later, but let’s get on with the hiring process.
What would we call such a person? And then it hit me! Deacons! This is exactly the problem that the early church had in the book of Acts. The Elders felt called to teach and preach, because therein lies the power of the Gospel. But what about caring for widows and orphans? Thus we have Stephen and six other deacons being elected. These were not men who were forced into the position or men so busy that it was a stretch for them, but seven men who had been called and set apart by the Holy Spirit to do this task. And they could not do it themselves…it would be silly to assume that seven men alone took care of all the orphans and widows in the early church. Instead, they organized….wait for it…programs!
The problem in the church today is that too many pastors are trying to do the deacons job instead of focusing on leadership, vision casting, shepherding and preaching. Too many deacons are content to simply focus on mercy ministry within their own congregations (at least in my community in Wisconsin our deacons attempted to network with other deacons from other churches to care for the poor but were told by most churches that deacons only care for the needs of those respective churches!). What we need is not churches sold out to a program, that produces social gospel, or churches that only preach, that produces theological egg-heads. What we need to solve the issue is a pastor who proclaims the power of the gospel from the pulpit, preaches gospel application in human life, and shepherds the deacons of the church to look outside the church walls and come up programs to help the poor. In this way, elders and deacons work together, elders through teaching and shepherding, deacons through action in performing mercy ministry.
Thus, as Dan says, we should be expecting our deacons to deacon! And to take Dan’s argument to the next level, if an elder/pastor is ‘worth of his hire’ as Paul says and can be paid, we should be willing to pay our deacons as well if it will help them in their calling to action! Imagine if a church thought to hire a full-time deacon and a full-time pastor!