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A few good men

By now you’ve received your deacon nomination form for this year. We’d like to ask you to take the month of October and prayerfully consider the men you will nominate to serve as deacon in 2020-2021.

What makes for a good deacon?

We find the first mention of deacons in Acts 6:1-7. At this point several years have gone by since the birth of the church. Three thousand believers came to Christ on the day of Pentecost, and as the church “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers . . . the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42, 47). The church was exploding in numbers. Revival was taking hold of the city. Another mass conversion takes place in Acts 4:4. Peter and John had just healed a lame man in the temple, and the result of their gospel preaching was observed when “those who heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”

People all over Jerusalem and Judea were coming to Christ in droves. Thousands of believers were now joined in faith, and the message of the gospel was expanding like wildfire. Jews and devout Greeks were worshipping together, breaking bread together, praying together, and sharing resources with one another. But the growing numbers of converts made “Watchcare” ministry a nightmare. How could the apostles keep up with it all? How could they focus their attention on the “ministry of the word and prayer” and also address the real-life burdens of the people?

The answer was to enlist the help of a servant team (called deacons) who would oversee the administrative details of caring for the people. These men would manage the donations of food and money, and graciously address the needs of the widows who were under their care. Although this task may seem spiritually insignificant, the apostles understood the vital nature of this ministry, so they instructed the people to choose men who were “of good repute” and “full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3).

As the church grew and the great missions movement of Paul reached the known world, qualified leadership continued to be a concern. Paul expanded on the qualifications of deacons in his letter to Timothy.

1 Timothy 3:8–13 (ESV)

8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9 They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Character is Everything

In many ways, the qualifications that we find in 1 Timothy 3 are just an expansion of the ones we find in Acts 6, Paul just adds some more detail so the standard is clearer. As we evaluate this list, it’s important for us to make some observations. First, most of the qualifications are adjectives. They simply describe the pattern of character that is expected in the conduct of each deacon. Paul wants Timothy to identify men who are consistently dignified, honest, charitable, and sober. He wants men whose character is dependable, trustworthy, and steady. Second, he provides criteria for every dimension of life (personal conduct, family relationships, and community reputation). This man needs to demonstrate deep, inward transformation. He needs to be a man who honors God in public and in private and whose life shows the mark of life-change. Third, he is a man who remains steadfast in the face of opposition. “Let them also be tested” (3:10). Paul is talking about men who will stand strong when they are faced with opposition and adversity. He is talking about men who faithfully resist compromise; who are full of integrity whether they are being watched or not.

So, as you consider the men who will serve as leaders at Maranatha, choose men who demonstrate the tested character of spiritual maturity. Look for men who are willing to serve even without a recognized title or position. Look for men who faithfully lead their families, and who are faithfully leading themselves.

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