As we wrap up our time together and before we affirm the deacon candidates and pray for them. I would like for us to take a brief look at Acts 6:1-7. This is a foundational passage of Scripture for church leadership.
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” 5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). 6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. 7 So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. (Acts 6:1-7, NLT)
That early event in the life of the church lays the foundation for Elders, Deacons, and the church body. We are going to take a look at all three, but today we will focus on the deacons. Even though the words “elders” and “deacons” are not mentioned in this event it lays the ground work for their responsibilities mentioned later in the Bible.
Elders are the servant leaders of the church
Let’s start with the elders. Elders are the servant leaders of the church. The Bible describes Elders as shepherds. As shepherds, the elders oversee three things.
They oversee the doctrine of the church
Elders have a passion and commitment to God’s Word. They study it and they share it. Elders are responsible to make sure Genesis Church stays faithful to the Bible. Elders are given the authority to protect the Genesis Church family from false teachings, heresies, and bad theology. This is why the apostles said in verse 2, We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. That statement set the stage for the elders of the church to focus on the ministry of teaching and preaching God’s Word.
They oversee the direction of the church
The apostles said in verse 3, Select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.There are all kinds of needs within the church and in the community, but Genesis Church cannot address them all. There are youth ministry needs, senior adult ministry needs, young adult needs, women needs, men’s needs, and there are local needs, national needs, and international needs and the list can go on and on. As Elders, we make decisions on what needs we believe the Lord wants us to address and what needs should be delegated out. We give direction to the church body. Just like the apostles gave direction regarding the neglect widows, elders can give direction about various ministries in the church.
They oversee the depth of the church
When I say “depth” I am referring to the health of the church. In 1 Peter 5:2, elders are commanded by God to “care for the flock that God has entrusted to you” (NLT). That means as elders we are responsible to make sure you are spiritually healthy, growing, and have what you need to grow deeper in the Lord.
Deacons are the lead servants of the church
Let’s talk about deacons. While elders are the servant leaders of the church, deacons are the lead servants of the church. If you want to know what a servant looks like, you should be able to see it in a deacon. According to Acts 6, deacons serve the church in three ways.
Deacons address complaints
Number one, deacons serve the church by addressing complaints. Acts 6:1 says, “But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food” (NLT). The original deacons were given the task to address the complaints from within the congregation. This would call for wisdom, discernment, and sensitivity as they were having to apply conflict management skills. This may explain why the qualifications for deacons are set at a high standard (1 Timothy 3). In similar fashion, deacons today may need to help with other conflicts that arise within the church.
Deacons show concern
Number two, deacons serve the church by showing concern. They are to help the church meet the practical needs of life. We see one example of this here in Acts 6:1, “…The Greek-speaking believes complained about the Hebrews-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food” (NLT). In order to meet this need and fulfill this ministry the church gathered together and they chose some men who would be able to represent Christ and the church. This “deacon body” of seven had as its first ministry task to serve the widows in the church regarding food. In similar fashion, deacons today will help take care of the various physical needs of the church body which may include food, visits in the hospital, repair of a home, and the like. The deacons are about serving the body, meeting practical felt needs.
Deacons encourage the leadership
Number three, deacons serve the church by encouraging the leadership. They encourage the elders by freeing up the elders. Acts 6:2-5 says, “So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, ‘We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word” (NLT). Every good pastor is concerned about the needs of the people being met and their spiritual growth. He wants them to feel loved, wanted, cared for and valued by the church. However, he cannot be there for everyone. His primary task is of a spiritual nature – prayer and ministry of the Word of God. By relieving the pastors/elders of the church to focus on prayer and the ministry of the word the church has a greater opportunity to be a deeper and stronger church theologically.
Laying on of hands and prayer
By adding qualified godly men as deacons we become a stronger church, a healthier church. Currently we have one deacon. Today, we are officially adding four more godly men who love Jesus and love Genesis Church.
At this time I would like to call these four men and their wives to join me up front.