The Deacon (Part two of a three part series on the ordained offices of the Presbyterian Church)

STK-many-hands-prayer-sepiaThis past week in worship we reflected on the words of Paul as he speaks about Spiritual Gifts.  Paul writes to the church in Corinth with regards to how the gifts of the Spirit are given:

      “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”          1 Corinthians 12:4-7

Today as we shift our discussion of the ordained offices from Ruling Elders to Deacons, I believe this is a great place to start.  In this passage Paul is encouraging us to remember that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in our lives is varied and as such enables us to perform various activities.   This is a critical lesson for us to learn when discerning who is called to the different ordained offices.  Each office calls for different gifts.  Yet they are all brought to life in the shared ministry for the common good.

That being said, the office of Deacon is one that calls for very different gifts than that of Ruling or Teaching Elders.  The title deacon comes from a word with it’s roots in Greek history, diakoneo.  In its most basic form it can mean “to serve,” “to wait on table,” or “to be slave.”  This is the concept the early church adopted to describe the function of the compassionate, caring arm of Christian mission.  The Presbyterian Church defines the office of Deacon as follows:

—The ministry of deacon as set forth in Scripture is one of compassion, witness, and service, sharing in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the lost, the friendless, the oppressed, those burdened by unjust policies or structures, or anyone in distressed. Persons of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly and sisterly love, sincere compassion, and sound judgment should be chosen for this ministry. The Book of Order G-2.0201

This ministry calling is to a very specific role and purpose.   Where as we talk about Ruling Elders being those who exercise governance, Deacons are primarily called to service.  The Book of Order puts forth a vision for Diaconate ministry that is engaged in the lives of the people around them.

At Christ Presbyterian Church and many other churches this ministry is one that is often a struggle to put into practice.  In our congregation, both members and regular attendees are assigned a Deacon.  This is done for both practical reasons, such as emergency communications, and also for the Spiritual need to form caring relationships.  I say this is difficult because most folks put the role of compassionate care and ministry to the sick, lost and friendless in the purview of the Pastor.

As you can imagine it takes a certain someone to fill the role of a servant.  I think that the office of Deacon is the most difficult position to discern to whom God is calling.  Developing deep caring relationships isn’t a normal practice.  We have been conditioned to keep our needs to ourselves.  Yet, Scripture and tradition tell us that there is a deep need to carry on such ministry. This makes it even more important that people called to be Deacons have a special Spiritual gift of caring and love.

I believe that Deacons can be the most helpful people to a Pastor.  Not every person is willing to share their lives with the Pastor.  Many times they reserve that for only the deepest needs.  Deacons can be a very powerful ministry of witness and compassion if they are encouraged by the people they serve to be such a ministry.  Our Deacons can want to be present in the lives our members, but that can only occur if they are invited into your lives.  This puts the responsibility for this ministry not only in the hands and hearts of the Deacons, but also those who are cared for in our congregation.

  • Please pray for our Nominating Taskforce that they may discern who God is calling to serve as Deacons for our congregation.
  • Please pray for God to help us identify who you see as having a special gift of caring and compassion.
  • Please pray for those who are being called by God to this special expression of their Baptismal calling.
  • Please pray for those currently serving as Deacons, may they be filled with God’s Spirit.