The Role of Deacons – A deacon is literally a servant who leads the church by doing the innumerable things that need to be done, and by managing the many faithful people in the church who also serve.
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.
14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated by the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.
As we get into this issue of our topic today – it’s deacons. I know many of you don’t think that church government is very sexy, probably because it’s not very sexy, but it’s incredibly important. Who leads the church, in large part, determines the health of the church in the same way with a family. How mom and dad are really determines the quality of the family and the kind of the children and grandchildren that come up out of that family. Here in this church, elders and deacons and members lead the church and the kind of leadership that we have, really, is important for us as a church. And as we’re going through Timothy, I hope that you’re learning that it’s not just about you. It’s about us. That’s really what it’s about. Some of you may say, “Well, I don’t care about church leadership. I love the Lord and I’m fine.” Well you should care about your church, about the collective life that we have together.
We looked at last week the office of elders. What an elder is, what an elder does. This week, we’re looking at deacons and what a deacon is and what a deacon does, and I’ll preface it by saying that it’s very important to understand and to elevate the significance of this great office and the church. We see in Acts 6, and I guess that’s where I’ll begin, in Acts 6, there’s an occasion where the Apostles are doing ministry. They’re feeding widows. Women whose husbands had died and these women are older and they are in need and so the Apostles are serving them food, literally, which is, obviously, good. The problem becomes, though, that as Christianity and the church grows, and the number of widows grow, the number of Apostles remains static. They don’t have enough leaders to do everything that needs to be done. They can’t care for all of the physical needs of the widows, and they don’t have time for prayer and for study and for the forward advancement of the Gospel and the leading of the church. And so, they have a quandary on their hands. What are they going to do?
What they decide to do, is to appoint some pastoral assistants, some helpers, to come alongside of them and to do the work of feeding these windows, and apparently the problem had gotten pretty serious because there were Greek and they were Hebrew widows and the Hebrew widows were getting fed but the Greek widows were not, so you got a lot of racial tension. Apparently, the Apostles are good preachers and teachers and leaders but they’re not good with sandwiches or organizational charts, which makes me feel good personally, because I can’t cook or administrate. And I understand the place that they’re in. They can’t keep up with all the demands, so what they do is, they appoint additional leaders to help them. I believe that is a precedent that goes on through the Bible. That leaders begin something, it grows, it gets to be too much for them to do, and so then they appoint additional leaders to assist them and to work alongside of them.
You see this pattern throughout the New Testament where, as churches get started, the first thing they do is appoint elders. Paul, in fact, commissions that. He says, “Appoint elders in every town.” So that’s what happens. Elders get in place, and then as the elders get overwhelmed with ministry, because there’s too many people into much stuff going on, they then appoint additional leadership, called deacons. That’s why we see the first occurrence of a deacon is in Philippians 1:1. It talks about three kinds of leaders there. He says to the elders and to the deacons and to the saints, the saints being the Christians that are members of that church. In this church, those are our three types of leaders. We have our pastors, our elders, synonyms. We have our deacons and then we have members of our church who lead Bible studies and worship and do a great number of things.
We see that the deacons and the elders are spoken of together, the two times the deacons are mentioned in Philippians 1 and 1 Timothy 3 because they work together like a left and a right hand in the church and practically, this is what we’ve seen in our church. When we started the church, the elders could do most everything. In fact, at the beginning of the church, if you called the church, I would answer because the office was at my house. If you came on Sunday and you got sermon notes, it was because I typed them up and went to Kinko’s and photocopied them. If you sat – for a while – if you came and sat in a chair it was because I showed up early and put the chairs up. At the end, when you left, and you left your coffee cup, I would pick it up and then, if you are a visitor, I would get your visitor card and then I’d call you that week and I’d take you out for a bite to eat. Did everything. Not very well, but I did it.
And then what happened was, the church started growing. We got beyond 12, 13 people. All of a sudden, we’re going crazy and we’re up to, like, 16 people and I’m totally overwhelmed. So then, other leaders come in and help and as the church has grown, there is a need for more and more and more leaders. To the degree today that we have a team of pastoral elders, a huge team of deacons and then an enormous team of over 500 members in the church; everybody doing their part to make this a healthy place that you can come and build friendships and learn about God.
And what it says there in Acts 6 is that the senior leadership needs to commit themselves, primarily to two things: prayer and the study of God’s word. That sometimes, if a pastor is doing everything in the church, they don’t have time to pray and to study Scripture. Because of that, theologically and spiritually, then, they begin to atrophy. They begin to die and you have a pastor who doesn’t have much of a relationship with God. Hasn’t spoken to God in prayer and hasn’t heard from God in Scripture. And so the pastors and elders are to be about Scripture study and prayer and teaching and leading and then the deacons come along side and basically to whatever else needs to be done. And I’ll say this as well that, then. Deacons, will find in the New Testament, as we study it, they’re just servants. That’s what they are. We have many descriptions of what an elder’s supposed to do in the New Testament. We don’t have any description of what a deacon is supposed to do. The reason being is that it depends on the church and it depends on the need. The bigger the church gets, the more needs there are, the skills of the pastors are doing one thing, then deacons are appointed to do anything and everything else. And so, we’re just told that they serve. That’s what they do.
We can infer, as we go through their criteria, that their handling money and they’re dealing with people. They’re managing the church. They’re overseeing things. That’s what deacons do. But I really want to elevate our deacons today because honestly, this church does not, cannot exist, without deacons. And as we grow, we can’t have an infinite number of elders. Practically, it’s just hard to manage a large group, but we can have an enormous number of deacons, and we will. And so for those of you that are aspiring to eventual leadership in this church, today I really want to point you to this role of deacon. And it’s not that there is varsity and junior varsity. In fact, there are pastors and pastoral assistants that work with the pastors, also doing pastoral ministry, and that is exactly what a deacon is. So, we’ll start in 1 Timothy, Chapter 3, Verse 8. That’s my introduction. And now we’ll look at the qualifications, the criteria, for a deacon. If you wanna be a deacon, here’s what you gotta do.
“Deacons,” servants, the word means servants, “likewise, are to be men worthy of respect,” the first one there, worthy of respect is the first criteria. It’s somebody that you admire. Somebody that you look up to. Somebody that you would like to be like. How many if you can think of someone, you say, “Man, I would really like to be like that person.” Not that you’re worshiping them but that you see the way they take care of their life and their family and they love God and they serve God. But they’re the kind of person that are really are worth following. They’re respectable. There’s no overarching character defect. There’s no big hole in their conduct or their holiness. This is an overarching principle. It’s where it says in Hebrews 13 that leaders are those people that we can imitate their way of life and the outcome of their faith. They’re people that we want to follow. They’re people we want to be like. We look at their marriage and say, “I’d like to have a marriage like that.” We look at their kids and say, “I’d like to have kids like those.” We look at their love for God, say, “I’d like to love God like that.” They’re the kind of people that we respect. We respect, that’s the first thing, if you wanna be a leader in God’s church. You gotta be a person who’s respectable. Respectable. And you think about it, you probably don’t have a long list of people in your life that you greatly respect. There’s not a lot of these people in our world. Deacons are those people that we all look at and we say, “Those are respectable people.”
The next thing is that they’re “sincere.” How many of you have met a leader in the church that’s phony, that’s plastic, that’s inauthentic, is insincere. You felt like it was just all hype and games and smoke and image and there was no sincerity to it. When they’d speak to you or they’d preach to you or they’d serve you or they’d get to know you, you just didn’t feel like there was any sincerity in it at all. A deacon can’t be that way. A deacon deals with people. A deacon has to love people, has to care about people, has to have the kind of heart that when you meet that person, you know that they’re sincerely interested in you; that they’re sincerely interested in your well-being. When they ask you, “How’re you doing?” they look you in the eye and they actually care. Of these are people that care about you. There’s nothing worse than meeting a leader of the church that is insincere and inauthentic and plastic and fabricated and completely self-consumed and doesn’t care about people. Deacons gotta be a person that’s respectable and also someone that sincere.
How many of you know someone like that? You’ve got a friend or a family member – if they’re incredibly sincere. When they tell you they love you or they care for you. They tell you, “I’m praying for you.” It’s heartfelt. It’s genuine. It’s amazing and these are the kind of people that you feel really close to because they, they embrace you and they draw you to themselves through their sincerity. There’s not a lot of sincere people in our day. I tell you what, this week when you’re at the bank or the grocery store or you’re at the coffee shop, and the person who’s working there that’s serving you – be sincere and see what happens. You’ll blow them away because we live in an insincere world. “How’re you doing?” “Fine.” “No, seriously. You doing all right? How’s your day?” you get this weird look like, “What’re you, a stalker?” I mean that’s what people are thinking. “No, I’m just – I care.” We have this thing in our culture, we, “How’re you?” “Fine. How’re you?” “Fine.” “Great, okay, I’ll talk to you next Presidential election.” “Okay.” “Who was that?” “That was my best friend.” We don’t do so good with intimacy and with sincerity. Deacons do. They care. They care about people.
In addition, they’re “not indulging in much wine,” they’re not alcoholics. They’re not drunks. They’re not drug abusers. They’re not drug users. They’re people that have self-control. They’re people that can keep their food, their drink in check. I’ll tell you what, too – and part of this is so important because some people use alcohol to self-medicate. They get depressed or they get stressed and they self-medicate through alcohol. If you’re a person that self-medicates through alcohol and you plan on leading in the church, you’re gonna have a real problem, because people are gonna drive you crazy. Okay, I love people, but they’re like herding cats. It’s just, it’s so hard to get you guys together on anything that if, if a deacon, a leader in the church, self-medicates through alcohol, they’re gonna have an alcohol problem. If a person goes to the bottle for therapy, they’re gonna have deep and profound issues with their walk with Christ. It’s not a sin to drink. It’s not – Jesus drank.
I was reading a commentator this week and he said, “You know, God’s leaders should never drink and if anybody drank, I wouldn’t let them be a leader at my church.” I’m like, “Okay, so Jesus can’t lead at your church. That’s a bum deal.” You’re holier than God. We can’t be holier than God. Some of you don’t drink out of conscience. That’s okay. I didn’t drink until I was 30, out of conscience. Didn’t. I had a conscience, just couldn’t, couldn’t drink with a clear conscience, so I didn’t. At 30, my conscience matured and cleared up and I didn’t have any conscience problems with alcohol, so I do drink, and I do drink wine. And I drink red wine like Jesus made. That’s what I drink. I don’t drink white wine unless I’m eating fish, but I don’t like fish, so I don’t drink a lot of white wine. But I don’t drink much wine, right? I don’t get drunk. I don’t go over the line. Some of you need to keep your drinking in check, particularly if you aspire to be a leader in the church.
“And not pursuing dishonest gain.” This is a person who’s greedy. Now, it’s not a problem to be a person who wants financial gain. There’s nothing wrong with making money. Some of you need to make more money, right? Some of you need to spend less money. You’ll see a direct correlation between those two variables. It’s not a sin, though, to work hard and make money, not at all. But dishonest gain, that’s the problem. The get rich quick scheme, the scam, to try to figure out how you can manipulate everything to make a profit. If a deacon has that attitude, here’s what happens. They’ll become leaders in the church and then all of a sudden, they’ll try to recruit everybody into their pyramid scheme. You know? I’ve seen this in churches where somebody’s in a business and, as a leader in the church, they’re just using everybody in the church to enhance their business. It’s not that we shouldn’t do business together. If I need an electrician, I’d like to hire one of you so that I could trust you, and I’d like my money to help feed your family. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do business together, but I am saying if we’re dishonest people, were going to manipulate all of our relationships to help our bottom line and we’re not being sincere in our relationships. I’m not getting to know you because I love you and we’re not doing business together because it’s good and prudent. I’m trying to make a buck. And that’s where we’ve got to be careful. And dishonest gain, as well, the church is notorious for having people like Judas Iscariot who keep putting their hand in the money sack and stealing from the church. Deacons count money. They deposit money. They pay bills. Our church this year, I don’t know what we’re going to bring in, probably just under $2 million, okay? If the deacons liked dishonest gain, “It’d be one for Jesus Christ, one for the bookkeeper, one for Jesus Christ, one for the bookkeeper. Our bookkeeper, he’s a good guy but if he had a problem with dishonest gain, we could be stolen from. That’s a tremendous problem in the Church. Tremendous problem.
“They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” This is, basically, the main variable that distinguishes an elder from a deacon. An elder, according to Timothy and Titus, must be able to teach. A deacon doesn’t need to be able to teach, they just need to be a good theologian. The need to love the Lord. The need to have sound theology. They need to have a good grasp of their Bible. They need to have personal convictions. The need to hold the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. The need not have any theological, you know, confusion. They need to be real clear. In this way, the difference between an elder and a deacon is this. An elder primarily leads through their words, teaching, counseling, preaching; and a deacon primarily leads with their hands; serving, action, doing. And you gotta have both in a church. You gotta have teachers and doers. That’s why James says, do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves, do what it says. It’s good to listen. You need teachers. It’s good to do. You need to get up and you need to go have some action. And in that is a healthy Christianity. Some leaders are better at speaking. Others are better at leading with their hands, through action in doing. Those people don’t need to be great teachers but they need to be good theologians. You should be able to ask any deacon, even if it’s a deacon that you don’t think is doing a highly theological thing. Maybe they’re helping build code for the website. You should be able to ask them, “What do you think about the Trinity?” And they’ll say, “Well, I understand the Trinity and I understand God’s sovereignty and I understand the Bible,” and they can answer your questions. They have good, sound theology.
We see this with a guy named Stephen in the New Testament, where as he’s getting murdered, he preaches a sermon. He’s a deacon, and it’s an amazing sermon, one of the most brilliant sermons and the whole Bible. He loves the Lord; he has sound doctrine; he knows his Bible. His primary thing is in teaching but he definitely holds to that deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. So you’ve got to be a good theologian. If you want to be a deacon, you gotta know your Bible. You gotta study. You gotta read. You gotta be a theologian who understands who God is and what he’s done and has no confusion about that in your own heart.
It says, in addition, “They must first be tested;” we don’t just throw a leader into a position. This is a great mistake that many churches make. The Bible uses the metaphor that our church is a body. I tell you this, one of the worst things you can do is just take an organ in a body without making sure that it’s a genetic and blood type match and fit. It kills the organ and it kills the body. Lot of churches do that. They exist as a body and they’ll just take a leader and stuff them in without testing them to make sure they’re a fit and the leader dies and sometimes the church even dies.
We don’t hire from the outside of this church. We do not. We get resumes all the time from Bible Colleges and seminaries all over the country. “Can I come work for you?” “Yes, but I won’t pay you.” Send it back, don’t get a lot of response, but we’re not gonna hire anybody that we don’t know because it tells us to test them. So what we do is, we’ll see people come to Christ and will train them in the church. They’ll become members of the church. They’ll start teaching Bible studies, leading outdoor ministry, leading worship, running activities, sometimes just serving very faithfully. Then, if we see that God’s raising them up, we’ll appoint them as a deacon, after they’ve been tested as a member. Okay, to be a member in this church, you gotta go through the Gospel Class, you gotta be theologically trained, you’ve got to be a Christian, you need to have been baptized. You’ll meet with a pastor. You’ll meet with a deacon to help you get plugged in. Our members – honestly I can tell you this, the members of this church – more is expected of them than most elder and pastoral boards in the average church. We just set the bar incredibly high because we want our members to be leaders who can teach, lead and serve and do things for Christ. Out of those, come deacons that have been tested as members. Our members give over 60 percent of our budget. They do the vast majority of our work. Our members are wonderful. We love the members of this church and we feel that it’s a family and these are the most mature and healthy and helpful people that we could have never prayed for. And out of those, as they’re tested as members, then we make them deacons or we make them elders.
The last thing we would ever do is go outside of the church, grab somebody from who knows where, give them money and then put them in charge of you. We don’t know them. We don’t know if they have a good marriage. We don’t know if they have good kids. We don’t know if they have a secret drinking problem. We don’t know if they’re bouncing their checks and they’re not good with money. We don’t know anything about them. You only get to know somebody and test them through a relationship. You got to be together a while. Your family’s need to have dinner together. You need to go through some difficulties in life together, side by side, and then you’re testing that person, getting to know them. So, we don’t hire from the outside and I will tell you, I think that’s one of the reasons for the health and the strength of this church. We love each other. We know each other. When someone becomes a leader, we celebrate because we all love them. We’ve had a relationship with them. We’ve seen God rise them up. They’ve been tested.
How many of you have had that, that somebody in this church has risen to a position of leadership – teaching a Bible study, becoming a deacon, an elder, overseeing something – and they’re a friend of yours and it was a huge encouragement to see how God’s using them and God’s raising them up and you’ve seen them be tested and you’re seeing them grow and their faith, and that’s what we do. You know, I’m not saying it’s always a sin to just go outside and hire somebody, but don’t you think that if we were a healthy church doing like Jesus said, making disciples, that we’d have more people that could do things than we could ever even hire. Of course. Of course. Of course.
Right now, we have a long list of people who were pastors at other churches that are members at this church. Some of you – sometimes I hear people say, “I just wish I could come in and meet with a pastor.” Well, you can but if you go to a community group, a huge number of the community groups are led by people who at other churches were the pastor. A bunch of them have been to Bible College and seminary, which means in our church, we have a huge number of people that, anywhere else, would be the pastor of the church. But here, because our church is large and we have so many good people, we have this huge pool of great leaders that I praise God for. And they’re tested and we look at them, we get to know them, and that’s what he’s talking about.
In addition, he says, “they must first be tested and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” We bring the potential deacons before the members of the church and say, “Do you guys have any problems with them? We’ve tested this person. We think they’re ready. We think they’re gonna do a good job, but you know them better. They’re in your Bible study. You go on vacation together. These are friends of yours. These are people you know. Is there anything you see?” and so, it’s the elders and the deacons, looking at them from one angle, and the people in the church looking at them from another, because you know what can happen in a church. A leader can keep the pastors really happy but mistreat the people that are under them in the ministry. Some of you have been in churches where you were in a department, college, single, high school group, and the person that was leading that didn’t treat you very good and didn’t do a good job with their ministry, but because they kept the leadership happy, the leadership didn’t know how they were treating you and they got to keep their job. That’s why it’s important that we ask everybody, not just the leaders, they are investigating a new leader, but the people that are being served by the potential leader, so that we get both perspectives. That’s what he’s talking about, okay?
The next section is very controversial. Verse 11. This is where the big debate comes in. Those other ones, general overarching conviction criteria. Very, very straightforward. This verse is very debatable. Verse 11. “In the same way,” okay, so he says, okay, here’s all the qualifications for a deacon. In the same way, these qualifications need to apply, be applied to a woman. “Their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” And then in Verse 12, it goes back into the men. “A deacon must be the husband of but one wife.” The question is who’s Verse 11 referring? Okay, there’s three different interpretations. They call them exegetical options. You love that? There’s your big word for the day. Exegetical options. There’s three of them.
One of them says that is referring here to women who are deacons. Some of your translations will say “Deaconess.” Some of you, in your NIV, if you go down the footnote, it’ll say, “deaconess. Female deacon.” Some believe that the translation here refers to only man can be deacons and here, it’s talking about the deacon’s wives, okay? Others will say that it doesn’t refer to a female deacon or a deacon’s wife, but to women who are assisting the deacons, and the deacons would be men. So, two of the three interpretations believe that only a man can be a deacon and the third believes that a woman can be a deacon. Now the big debate as well is, in the NIV here, they made a decision to call it wives. In the Greek, it’s a neutral word that just means woman. It was used earlier in the book. I want women to dress modestly. It’s not just the wives, it’s not like wives have to dress modestly and all of the single girls can go Janet Jackson. That’s not what it’s saying. It refers to women in general, is what it refers to. So here, in the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect. Okay, what women? It’s a big debate. Our position as a church is this – that probably all three interpretations are correct and that’s why there’s a debate. We believe that a woman can be a deacon. We believe, for example, of Romans, Chapter 16, Verse 1, Paul lists a number of people in the church and he lists one woman first, so it’s an issue of honor and prominence, and her name is Phoebe that says that she is a servant at the church. The same word, servant, is the word for a deacon and so there’s a big debate – is this just a good servant or is this a deacon. We believe there, she’s a deacon. We believe that perhaps Euodia, Syntyche in Philippians, that some other women, like Lydia, perhaps, in the Book of Acts, may have been deacons as well.
We don’t have any problem with a woman leading in the church as a deacon, assisting the elders. Those churches that do have a problem with that do have another problem. They still allow women to lead, but they don’t give them a Biblical title. Okay, I was arguing with the pastor friend of mine and he said, “Well, we don’t have women deacons.” I said, “We do.” See, some of you think I’m a – like a chauvinist, sexist Nazi. That’s what you think, and some people think I’m a total liberal. So, I’m Biblical. That’s what I am. I get shot by everybody. I was arguing with this guy, he says, “Well, you’re too liberal on this issue. You shouldn’t have women deacons.” I said, “Do you have woman leading in your church?” He said, “Well of course, we have a woman who leads the children’s ministry, leads the women’s ministry, leads the administration.” I said, “What do you call that – those women?” He says, “We call them directors.” I’m like, “Where’s that in the New Testament?” I mean, you just made up a job that’s not in the Bible. Okay, we don’t wanna make up jobs that aren’t in the Bible. You know, like, Pole Vaulter. Right, we just don’t. It’s not in there. Deacons, elders, and pole vaulters. Well, we made one up. No, no we don’t. We have deacons, elders and members, that’s what we have. We can prove from the Bible that people are members of the local churches, that there’s deacons and the local churches and there’s elders. So, if we’re gonna have a woman be a leader in the church, let’s call her a deacon, there’s a precedent for it, and then she, if somebody says, “Hey, what’re you doing?” She could say, “Well, I got verses here. This is what I do. My job’s in the Bible.” I said, “So you have her functioning as a deacon but you call her a director and she doesn’t have a title that’s in the Bible. That’s not very respectful. That’s not very helpful for that lady.”
We believe that a woman can be a deacon. We have women deacons in this church. We also believe that a woman can be married to a deacon. A man can be a deacon or a woman. This is unlike the elder-pastor. Pastors are men, deacons are men and women. We believe that some women are female deacons married to, the wives of, male deacons. We also believe that some women are female deacons who assist male deacons. So those three exegetical options, we believe the reason there’s confusion is that they’re all true. So we don’t see any reason to fight over all this. We think that the different views on this probably could all be right, depending upon who you’re talking about; who you’re talking to. So, we do have women deacons, women leaders in this church.
Now, there are some additional criteria that are laid down for women deacons. Among those are not to be mouthy or moody, right? Now, you ladies, don’t argue with that, you’ll prove him right, okay? I heard a woman say, “I don’t like that!” He’s right. You’re mouthy and moody. Look at that. In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect. Overarching principle, respectable woman. Okay, which means the men and the women in the church look at that woman leader and say, “She is a respectable woman.” This is my question. Do I want my daughters to grow up and be like her? I got two great daughters, I love them. There are, fortunately, a long list of women in this church that if my daughter grew up to be like them, I would do a back flip off the roof of my house. I would be ecstatic. Some wonderful women, respectable, absolutely respectable. We’re looking for those kind of women. The kind of women everybody looks at and goes, “What great ladies. Those are godly ladies.”
It goes on to say, “Not malicious talkers.” Okay, not malicious talkers. Women tend to sin with their mouth and their mood. Okay, they do. A lot of you married women say, “Is that true?” Ask your husband. He’ll confirm that. Okay, I’m not picking on the women but I’m saying this. Women sometimes talk too much. They gossip. They nag. They call it verbal processing. They call it prayer requests. They call it thinking out loud. And what it really is, is sin. It’s sin. Their tongue is not well disciplined. If you are a lady who can’t keep control of your mouth, you can’t be a deacon. People are gonna come to you and they’re gonna open up their whole life to you for mentoring, for counseling, and if you are a gossip, can you imagine what that does? “Pray for so-and-so, you’ll never believe what she did. Pray for her.” It’s gossip, it’s not a prayer request. It’s gossip.
If you’re a person who is easily prone to maligning and undermining people – you may meet with someone, ladies get very frustrated by them, and then star undermining in gossiping about them and undercutting their respectability with your big mouth. If a woman can’t have control of her tongue, if she can’t stop nagging, stop browbeating, stop threatening, stop thinking out loud, stop gossiping, she needs to stop being a deacon. She can’t, she can’t. If someone is gonna – and I’ll tell you what, as a leader in the church, people trust you with the most incredible information. The most painful, personal, intimate details of their life and if you don’t have a reign on your tongue, you’re gonna kill people and you gonna breed in the church a culture of distrust. “I can’t talk to anybody here about anything important because if I’d do, it’s gonna come back to hurt me.” And then all of a sudden we have a church that doesn’t talk about anything that matters. We don’t confess sin to each other. We don’t work through problems together because we can trust each other, because there’s a culture of gossip. And in some churches, there is a woman who rises up to be sort of head of the women’s ministry. And oftentimes, she is seen as the grand matriarch of the church, and if that woman does not have of reign on her tongue, everything in the church goes bad, particularly for the husbands.
A lot of women’s Bible studies, I hate to say it, the women getting together to undermine their husbands with other women and it’s not good. Is not good. Prayer requests come, out comes the sewage and all the bitterness about the husband. That’s not the place for it. If there’s a problem, you speak to the person, like Matthew 18 says. If you need counsel, you to speak to an elder or a deacon that’s good, mature and godly and can hold a confidence. But just because you’ve been hurt, ladies, just because you’ve been wounded, just because you’re frustrated, just because it’s a hard day, doesn’t mean that your tongue can just go untethered, and this includes your email. This includes all forms of communication. Those women that have the capacity to keep control of their tongue and are not malicious talkers are invaluable because those are the women that other women can trust. They can come in to talk about their marriage and their children and their sex life or their depression or whatever is going on and they know they’re gonna get wisdom from that woman and that it won’t go any further. That she’s gonna be a good confidant. That’s where that Proverbs 31 woman says that faithful instruction is on her tongue. When she speaks, it’s faithful to God and it’s instructive to the person.
Okay, we have some women deacons. I love them, praise God for them. Pray for them. Because you know what, some of you ladies, too, you like to sin with your mouth and so what you do, you’ll find other godly women and you will try and bait them into a conversation with you to justify your own lose tongue, and it legitimizes you in your mind. “I shouldn’t be gossiping but if I can get so-and-so to listen, then it’s okay.” A lot of sickness happens with a woman’s mouth. It goes on, “not malicious talkers but temperate.” This is not emotional, right? If you’re an emotional woman, untethered, right? Marriage to you is like a roller coaster. Then you can’t be a deacon. Because you know what happens in ministry? People’s lives get devastated. People die. Children are miscarried. People commit adultery. Marriages fall apart. People get unemployed. People get injured. People get sick. I mean, you’re dealing with the stuff of people’s lives and if emotionally, you can’t handle it, you just fall apart, you shouldn’t be a deacon. God doesn’t say that because he hates you, he says it because he loves you. You know, in the same way, you shouldn’t be an emergency room doctor if emotionally, you can’t walk through strife with someone and remain in one piece. Temperate. Not temperamental. Not temperamental, right? I call this the Snoop Dogg requirement. Just sort of that smooth, even keeled, not that you’d go to smoke a lotta weed to get there, but just sort of that smooth just a little mellow. Little chill.
My wife, praise God, she’s this. She’s this. She’s smooth. Just even keeled, temperate. It’s really nice. It’s really nice for me because when I come home and I walk in the door, I always get the same woman. I don’t get the – you know I don’t have to look at her, “Like okay, who we got tonight? You know, who we got?” Happy, sad, well-armed? Who we got? You know, what do we got? She’s even tempered. Right? “And trustworthy in everything.” It’s a big caveat, and everything you can trust her. Some women are trustworthy with money but not with their mouth. Some women are trustworthy in teaching but they’re not trustworthy in serving. Some women are good mothers but not good wives. Some women are good Christians are not good mothers. Here’s a woman that’s trustworthy in everything. Wife, mother, sister, Christian, servant, whatever it is she’s doing, teacher, whatever her thing is, she’s trustworthy in all of it. Because here’s what happens. There are pastors, there are the elders. As they get overburdened, they share pastoral ministry with deacons, some of which are women. If those women aren’t trustworthy, then that work will not get completed. It’s not gonna get done or it’ll get done the wrong way. It’ll create a big mess.
There are additional requirements for women deacons. Those of you ladies that aspire to leadership in the church, this is a really good verse for you memorize. Some of you, it’s very, very painful. But it’s good. Let it sting, okay? God’s word – it cuts you and then it heals you. That’s what it does. So let it cut you and then let it heal you.
In addition though, there are requirements just for the men. Verse 12. There are requirements for deacons in general. Verses 8, 9, 10. Requirements for women, Verse 11. Requirements for men, Verse 12. “A deacon must be the husband of but one wife.” A one-woman man. If you’re a single guy, looking at porno, dating around, flirting with girls, you’re not a one-woman man. If you’re a guy who’s married and flirts or looks at porno or has emotional intimacy with any woman but his wife, then, you’re not a one-woman man. Doesn’t mean that a deacon can’t be single. Jesus is single. Paul’s single, who’s writing it. Timothy’s single, who’s receiving it. In the Greek, it’s a one-woman man. If you’re a single guy, though, you need to really keep your flirtation and your sexuality in check. A one-woman man.
See, a lot of women, their sin is affixed to their mouth and their mood and to a lot of men their sin is affixed to their sexuality and so he says, ladies keep an eye on your moods and your mouth and gentlemen, keep an eye on your heart and your pants. That’s what he says. Lotta guys, emotionally, get too involved with a woman they shouldn’t be involved with and then sexually, get involved where they shouldn’t be involved. Husband of one wife, “manage his children and his household well.” He’s a successful father, successful husband. Pays his bills, raises his kids. Loves his wife. Manages his family. Changes the oil on his car. Mows his lawn, right? He cleans his gutters. He manages his home well. He reads the Bible with his kids. He loves his family because he’s gonna be managing the church. And if you’re gonna manage the church, you gotta do a good job managing your family. If your family’s in disarray, you’re disqualified from leading the church. If you can’t handle a couple people, why would we give you a couple thousand? If you can’t handle a couple bucks, why would we give you a couple million? If you who can’t handle a 1,500 square foot house, why would we give you a 40,000 square foot church? Good question.
There’s two kinds of deacons here at Mars Hill, staff and volunteer. Paid and unpaid. Many of you don’t know our deacons because I get to be up here every week but you get to enjoy the fruits of what they do. Here’s where I’ll close in 1 Timothy 3:13. Here’s what he says about deacons. There’s rewards for deacons. “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” First thing they get his honor. You should respect and honor your deacons. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that someone has to have sound doctrine, good marriage, they have to be tested, to prove, that they have to give time and energy to work for free. We require a lot of people who work for free. There’s a high honor. It’s a high office. It’s a high calling and you know what, some of you really should aspire to be a deacon. That should be your aspiration, your hope. A leader in the church that is serving Christ and making this a good church.
The other thing he says is they gain a great assurance. And I know I speak on behalf of the deacons when I tell you that as you serve Jesus, your faith grows. You get more assurance. You know that the Gospel is true because you see it changing people’s lives. You know the Jesus Christ is real because you see what he does in the world. Some of you don’t have a great assurance about your faith. You’re not saved by good works, but your saved to good works. That’s what Ephesians 2:8, 9 and 10 says. “Saved by faith and grace and Christ alone to good works that he’s prepared in advance for you to do.” As you do your good works, as you serve God, your faith builds because your testing it in showing it to be true. Those of you that are struggling with your faith, you don’t have great assurance, you need to get plugged in and serve. As you do serve, you’ll see by being closer to the action, that God is good and God is real and Jesus Christ is alive and well. There’s a great assurance that comes with that.
And then he closes with this great word. He says, “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so,” people, “so that if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household,” You know that, we’re a family. We’re a family. We’re not a business. We’re not a business, Mars Hill, we’re a family. People don’t serve you because they get paid. People don’t serve you because they have to. People serve you because they love you and people serve you because they love God. We’re a family. And in a family, everybody does their part. You do your part, I do my part, deacons do their part, everybody does their part. He says that people need to know how to conduct themselves in the family, in the household of God. Some people don’t know. They think that they come to church once a month, then they’re doing their part. No. That’s not how a family works. Family loves each other, works together. Everybody has a chore and everybody chips in and pitches in.
He says I want you to know how to conduct yourself in this household of God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. The truth is here. Lot of people say, “Well I don’t need to go to church. I have the truth.” No you don’t. It tells you to love your brother. It tells you to give your tithes and offerings. It tells you to serve. It tells you to consider others more highly than yourself. The Bible tells you a whole bunch of things that you can’t do unless you’re in this church or some other good church. There are other good churches. But you can’t be doing the truth unless you’re in the church. It’s not just sitting in your head, in your home, downloading information, your mind saying, “I know the truth.” No, you need to be the truth, need to do the truth, need to live the truth, and to do that you’ve gotta be in the church. It’s the pillar and the foundation of the truth.
“Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great:” in the Bible, a mystery is something that was unknown that now has been made known. He talks about Jesus. This is what I love. “He appeared in a body,” Say, “What does this have to do with anything?” He’s talking about what? Serving. Serving begins with Jesus. There’s one person here at Mars Hill that serves more than everyone. You know who that is? It’s Jesus. The deacons serve a lot, praise God for it. You know who serves more than the deacons? Jesus. Jesus serves more than everybody. So he’s gonna tell us about Jesus. The greatest deacon at Mars Hill. Jesus is the greatest elder. He is the greatest deacon. The deacons go to Jesus and say, “He served. We’ll serve. He served us, will serve others.” Here’s how he served us, Mars Hill. “He appeared in a body.” God knew we had sinned and run from him, separated from him. God became a man, born of a woman. Jesus. Took on human flesh. He “was vindicated by the Spirit,” he lived a life without any sin because he lived according to the power of the Holy Spirit and he died and was buried and it was the power of the Holy Spirit that rose him from death. That’s how he served you. He served you by coming to earth. He served you by dying for your sin and living a sinless life in your place. He “was seen by angels,” it was an angel at the tomb to testify to the resurrection. Jesus served you by rising to conquer Satan, sin and death for you. He served you by taking upon himself all of your sin and dying in your place because he loves you. He “was preached among the nations,” that’s what it’s all about. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. People need to see Jesus, know Jesus, love Jesus. The elders need to speak it with their mouth. The deacon needs to show it with their hands. The Christian needs to just demonstrated with everything in their life.
That’s what it is. It’s all about Jesus. He’s preached among the nations. Everybody needs to be served by Jesus. Before you can serve, you gotta be served. You gotta be served by Jesus. It’s not about just serving, saying, “Well, I’ll be a good Christian. I’ll do this, do this, do,” no, first has Jesus served you? Did he live for you? Did he die for you? Did the rise for you? Before you go out and preach that to the nations and serve him, be served by him. First things first. He “was believed on in the world,” do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe in his life, death, burial, and resurrection for your sin? Have you been served by him? Has he taken away your sin? Has he loved you? Has he embraced you? Has he forgiven you? Have you been served by Jesus? He says, he “was taken up in glory.” That’s where he’s at today.
You know Jesus is alive.
Do you know that? Jesus is alive. He’s alive today. He did die, but just once, and he lives forever. He’s taken up into glory, so today, were gonna take communion, remembering Jesus’ body and blood and how he served us. You’re welcome to do that if you’re a Christian. Today, if you’re non-Christian, you can sit there and pray and you can ask Jesus to forgive you of your sin, and he’ll come and he’ll serve you. He’s that humble. We can sing then, to Jesus, who was taken up in glory. And then we can go from here and we could tell good news to all nations of the earth, so that other people can be served by Jesus, and then we did what we can to serve them as well, to show that Jesus does love them and sometimes, these are his hands.
Father God, thanks for a time together with our great church. Lord Jesus, thank you that you served us. That you are the deacon of deacons. That you are the servant of servants. God I pray for those many people in this room, who aspire to be deacon. I pray, God, that you would, by grace, enabled them to rise to it. That the women would be qualified, the men would be qualified, that we would have, literally, an army of deacons – great godly servants – willing to do whatever the Gospel and the people need. God, where we fall short, please forgive us of our sins. Thank you for serving us in that way, Lord Jesus. And God, as we go into worship, we remember you Lord Jesus as our humble servant who is now taken up into glory and serves us even as we speak as our high priest, our intercessor, our king, our advocate, and our God. It’s to you we sing. We give our tithes and offerings, as a service to you. We partake of communion to remember your service to us. And God, please help us to be a people who are about being served by you and serving one another, in your name, amen.