Sarah looks at the ballot for deacons for the coming year in her congregation. Today in the Sunday worship services is the annual election of a new set of deacons.
As she looks at the ballot, she wonders to herself, “Who are these people, and what makes them qualified to serve as deacons in our congregation?” She is less than enthusiastic. She is unclear about the role of deacons in her congregation. Her image of deacons, based on what she has experienced, is very low.
She thinks to herself, “Deacons in this congregation are a waste!” She repeats this out loud to her husband, Jeremy, on the way home. He agrees, and observes that there was only one person on the ballot today who is under the age of 60, and again too few women.
Later she goes to her quiet place at home and begins to ponder why she believes deacons in her church, and perhaps in every Baptist church, are a waste. Here is her list.
First, deacons in a Baptist church are a waste if there is too much debate and confusion about their role and responsibilities. For deacons to be of value there must be clarity. There must be intentionality. There must be a role that is well known and respected throughout the congregation.
Second, deacons in a Baptist church are waste if there is no an intentional effort to help deacons to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ in the spirit of 2 Peter 3:18. They must represent the spiritually mature edge of the congregation. This particularly bothers Sarah as she does not perceive that many of the people on the ballot show obviously signs of spiritual maturity.
Third, deacons are waste in a Baptist church if staff sees no need for them, and does not know how to work with them as a team. She has the distinct impression the staff actually sees deacons as getting in the way. This perception is supported by a conversation with a friend about her husband’s service as deacon.
Fourth, deacons are waste in a Baptist church if the best equipped people are unwilling to serve as a deacon. If the congregation is continually turned down by the most qualified people, then there is a challenge that needs to be addressed. The most qualified people are often the busiest people. They must see in the role and responsibilities of deacons an opportunity to make a contribution to significant ministry.
Fifth, deacons are waste in a Baptist church if the same people serve over and over again. When there’s no attempt to develop new people to serve as deacons then the quality of deacons is diminished. Deacon service can become dull. It can fall into a pattern of mediocrity. Fresh faces with new ideas are needed. Attempts to develop the next generation of spiritual leaders are essential.
Sixth, deacons are a waste in a Baptist church if they see their role as a board or executive committee for the congregation. Deacons must fulfill a servanthood role. They are not to represent authority, management, and control in the congregation. They are to represent servant leadership, a spiritual compass, and a role model of Christian character.
Seventh, deacons are waste in a Baptist church if the nomination and election process is based on popularity and not suitability. One of Sarah’s observations of the past 14 years is that not only do the same names appear on the ballot on a three year rotating basis, but only the most visible and vocal people get elected. People who are new or not as well known in the congregation may appear on the ballot, but seldom get elected.
Sarah completes her list and shares it with Jeremy. He likes it. He agrees with it. Then he challenges her to decide what she should do with it. Who should she tell? How could she be an agent for change? Is she feeling led to be nominated as a deacon in their congregation?