Scripture Reading: Matthew 9:35-10:7, 10:26-31
It could not be clearer. The disciples are called to follow Jesus. Jesus is their leader and teacher. He chose them, He called them, and He will equip them, too.
Rarely is leadership so clearly defined. Think of your church. Leadership is probably as varied and as colourful as the different roles Christ gave to the church. Not everyone is a pastor, elder, deacon or teacher; we cannot all be administrators or coordinators. Praise God that we are gifted differently and that we have opportunity to lead where we are gifted.
With so many leadership roles, however, how should they all work together? In Ephesians 4: 11- 12, Paul gives an answer. The goal of leadership in the church, says Paul, is “to equip [God’s] people for works of service.” “Diakonia” is the Greek word used for “works of service” – the word from which we derive “deacon.” Essentially, the leadership of the church works together to provide the resources and equipping for all of the people in the church to be able to serve like deacons in the community.
So what does it look like for deacons and other leaders to equip the church for service? How do you do that? The simple answer is to follow Jesus, just like His disciples.
Model: In Matthew 9:35-36, and elsewhere, Jesus exemplifies what the disciples will be sent out to do. Not only does He meet needs and bring the good news of the Kingdom, Jesus also looks with compassion on the crowds around Him. What a beautiful model of diakonia.
In the church and community, serving looks differently for each person. Peter urges Christ-followers to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10). Those gifts might be hospitality, encouragement, compassion, prayer or others.
Deacons, as you discern gifts within the diaconate, and assume different roles to match those gifts, you will be “faithful stewards of God’s grace” for your congregation. Serve your community with the compassion of Christ, and others will follow.
Encourage: Jesus did not just model ministry and mentor leadership, He also equipped His disciples through encouragement. He told them not to be afraid; He reminded them of their value.
So, how do you, as deacons, encourage people in the church to use their gifts to serve others?
The Bishop’s charge to the deacon in the ordination service says:
Bishop Deacons are called to work with the Bishop and the priests with whom they serve as heralds of Christ’s kingdom. They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love. They are to serve the community in which they are set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all the people. They are to work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible.
All of these are only accomplished through prayer, and the equipping of the Holy Spirit, in humility and with dependence. The Holy Spirit gives encouragement (Acts 9:31), so that you may encourage others. May your goal be like Paul’s, that the church “be encouraged in heart and united in love.” (Col. 2:2a)
Deacons, you have an important leadership role in the church! As you are examples and mentors of service, and encourage your congregation to serve, you will bless your community and be blessed in return. Commit this to God and resolve to lead as God has called you.
Find original here: with thanks to Diaconal Ministries Canada. This article has been slightly edited for deacons in the Church of England.
(image from slide show by Deacon William T Ditewig https://slideplayer.com/slide/4967751/)