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8 Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. 11 Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; 13 for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

{First Timothy 3.8-13, NRSV}

While we affirm the priesthood of all believers, this is not an endorsement for an independent practice of the Christian faith.  Yes, we are each uniquely gifted but we cannot serve God and God’s people alone.  Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, “The gifts that he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4.11-13, NRSV).   Consequently, each of us has a role to play in the work of Christ.  And if we are to grow and mature, we will do it together.


Paul’s words also point out that ministry is a shared experience that requires all hands in.  Described as the Body of Christ, we do not operate independent of each other.  In fact, we are encouraged to stick together: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day is approaching” (Hebrews 10.23-25, NRSV).  Holding each other accountable and responsible, it takes a village to believe.


The New Testament Church valued the work of its ministers but there were complaints early on about the care of the members, specifically the widows.  In the Acts of the Apostles, seven are chosen to serve the social needs of the community and while not referred to as deacons here, their work matches that of later descriptions (Acts 6.1-7).  One of the two offices of the Church, deacons along with pastors, are exemplars of what Robert Greenleaf called “servant leadership.”  While their responsibilities vary based on denominational affiliation and from church to church, there is no denying their importance and the necessity of their service to Christ’s Church.  Serving in worship and sitting at the bedside of ailing members, the presence of the deacon in the life of the church cannot be underestimated.


The Office of Empowering Congregations offers an annual training for male and female deacons and for deaconesses as they are referred to in some churches.  Called on to serve the spiritual needs of the congregation and support the work of the pastor, we strive to educate them in their role as spiritual leaders and partners in ministry.  We are grateful for the opportunity to equip hands that have strengthened the life and vitality of the church right from the beginning.

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