What is a Deacon?

I listened to another good message by Tim Keller–the first of four in a series on deaconal training.

Perhaps a lot of contemporary churches don’t use the terms elder and deacon too much anymore. But, whether your church uses those terms or not, your church has elders and deacons.

A very helpful definition of elders and deacons is:

Elders serve the church by leading, and deacons lead the church by serving.

The elders are the ones who oversee the church and make the big decisions. Also, it is the elders who do the preaching and teaching.

The deacons are the people in a church who will serve the felt-needs of the people within the church, and also out in the community the church is engaging (if it is a church on mission–meaning it is a church that does not just focus on itself but engages the non-believing community).

Keller uses Luke 10:25-37 to illustrate the function of the deacon–the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Here are my notes…

* The actions of the Samaritan are summed up into one phrase: “…he had compassion.”

* “…he had compassion.” can be broken down into:

-he was willing to take a risk and stop in a dangerous place (there were robbers around) (vs 33)

-he provided protection (vss 33&34)

-he provided money (vs 35a)

-he provided medical care (vs 34)

-he provided shelter (vs 34b)

-he followed up afterwards (vs 35)

* All of these items have something in common: they are all felt-needs.

* Everyone has theological needs–meaning we all need to hear and believe the Gospel; we all need to pray, worship, and read the Word so that we can know God; we need to be taught the Word by qualified teachers. Within the church theological needs are met primarily by the elders.

* Deacons work primarily to meet felt-needs.

* All people are created to be dependant–dependant on God.

* Four areas in which we are dependant on God are: Spiritual, Psychological, Social, and Physical.

* When we are close to God, we don’t realize how much we are dependant on God to fill the needs of those areas in our lives, because He is always fulfilling them.

* Read Genises chapter 3.

* When we move away from God we become aware of our needs as our dependency on God becomes aggravated from the separation away from God.

* Our Spiritual, Psychological, Social, and Physical health all begin to break down from this separation, or alienation, from God.

-Spiritual Alienation:
The planets are all moving through space at different speeds, and at different distances from each other, but the reason the planets do not collide is because they all orbit the same thing: the Sun. If the planets all began to orbit around different things, it would not be long until they began colliding into each other. God centers Himself around His own righteousness and glory. We were created to also center ourselves around God’s righteousness and glory. But, when we fell, we began to orbit something other than God. Now we are doomed for a spiritual collision with God–a toy train versus a real freight train. So there is a real and devastating spiritual separation from God.

-Psychological Alienation:
Because of sin and separation from God people feel shame, guilt, and fear. Also, because people no longer center on God, they will center on something else (drugs, alcohol, approval, sex, violence, etc…). These things cause all sorts of psychological problems.

-Social Alienation:
Because of the psychological issues in each of our lives, there is social conflict. Imagine you’re driving 120kph down the highway. You move to pass another driver. As you pass you look over and see the driver and the passenger physically attacking each other. What are you going to do? You’re going to back your car away from the other car very quickly because that car is out of control and it will soon smash into to you. It is the same with people–because we all have inner psychological issues, we smash into each other. The reason there are wars between people is because of the wars going on within ourselves. So now we have a social alienation.

-Physical Alienation
Why do we get sick? Because of all the other alienations listed above; because of sin. We don’t get sick because of our own personal sin (unless you’re a chain smoker who abuses alcohol, and eats McDonalds too much). We get sick because of the curse of sin which is over the whole world.

Read John 9:1-12

They asked if the man was blind because of his own sin or his parent’s sin. Jesus’s answer was that neither of those reasons were correct, but rather, he was blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

People tend to fall into one of two categories:

1) “When I look around me, and see all the problems of the world, the poverty, and sickness, I want to say: ‘Come on people! Get your acts together and start making right choices and start taking responsibility for your own lives!'” (was it because of his own sin?)–these people tend to vote conservative.

2) “When I look around me, and see all the problems of the world, the poverty, and sickness, I want to say: ‘It’s God’s fault! It’s the government’s fault! It’s our parents fault! It’s injustice!'” (was it because of his parent’s sin?)–these people tend to vote liberal.

Now read Romans 8:20-21

Jesus said about the blind man: “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

Jesus uses the effects of sin to show the power of God. Jesus doesn’t get tripped up in blame shifting–we all know how sin came into the world, and we all know that we’re all guilty.

So! Although all creation was subjected to futility, it was subjected in hope that it would one day be free from bondage and corruption, and would obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Jesus takes the Spiritual Alienation, the Psychological Alienation, the Social Alienation, the Physical Alienation, and restores it all back to God.

* Now we go back to the parable of the Good Samaritan…

What is the role of the deacon?

It is to have compassion, and a willingness to engage people who are alienated from God spiritually, psychologically, socially, and physically; and to restore these people back into a right relationship with God, through the work of Christ, by addressing and meeting these people’s felt-needs.

“You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14)

“We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.”

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