High Capacity Servants

It wasn't until after the Apostolic age during the Patristic (Church Fathers) period that any commentator explicitly linked the servants identified in Acts 6 with the office of Deacon. Still, it seems that it is appropriate and helpful to consider Acts 6 as the inauguration of this important, but now degraded, office in the church.

Western Seminary, rightly (seems to me) teaches a plurality of Eldership and a separate office of Deacon. However, in our modern churches we frequently place people in the Deacon office who are, well, lesser. Maybe good-hearted souls who like to help out, or good ol' Boys who mean well and need some affirmation ("Billy Bob's a good guy, let's make him a Deacon"). I think that degrades the role, function, and office I see in Acts 6.

I look at who's described here and they are very high functioning, extremely commited, spiritual exemplars and leaders of the local church. They are men of the highest integrity. Especially as they are going out to very needy women, you better believe they need to be 'one-woman' men (1Tm 3:12)!

Look at the two examples: Stephen, when he gets caught in a debate, completely holds his own, has no trouble articulately and eloquently telling truth to power, and even though he knows he's going to see his friend Jesus face-to-face very soon, has the presence of mind (while getting his brains literally knocked out of his skull) to express compassion and forgiveness. That's spiritual courage on a level that I never want to experience (coward that I am). Stephen was NOT some well-meaning guy who needed a bit of affirmation. Stephen is a genuine hero.

The next example is Phillip who, after watching one of his best friends getting stoned to death, marches right into the most hated part of his region and starts preaching Jesus to Samaritans. People are responding and Phillip is showing signs of supernatural power. Such wild and wonderful things are happening in Phillip's ministry that the Big Boys, Peter and John, come over to see for themselves. Phillip's got no problem with that because the Spirit's told him to run on down to the dessert road where it just so happens that the most influential Jewish prostelyte in Candace's Queendom is heading back home with a new scroll that he bought up in the Mega-Bible-Bookstore in Jerusalem. Phillip catches him reading out loud and enters into a conversation, asks simple interpretive questions, gives a Biblical Theology of Messiahship and Jesus, sees this guy convert, baptizes him right on the spot, sends him on his way and then - apparently - the Spirit does a Star-Trek-transportor thing with Phillip plopping him 20 miles away. Phillip settles in at the influential seaport town of Ceasarea, raises some pretty impressive girls, and has a reputation as being a major Evangelist. This is no Good Ol' Boy - this guy has got Game and played it for the long term.

My point is that I think we need to re-evaluate our view of Deacons.


JohnMark said...

Well, considering how many commentators on Scripture we have from the Apostolic era, it not surprising that one does not come across an overt connection until the Patristic era.

Eric said...

I catch your point that we need to be careful in choosing our leaders. However, there's a lot of us Christians who are perfectionists: "Gee, I'm not nearly as spiritual as Stephen so I should never serve." We need to keep a balance between accepting whoever and unrealistic perfectionism

JohnMark said...

I think there is a fundamental distinction to be amde between service and office. Every Christian should be serving. Only those of excellent spirit and character should be placed in the offices of either elder or deacon. Second point, Biblically speaking, the deacons were not self appointed nor necessarily self selected.
P.S. Mater Messelt, what of the role of gender and deacons?

emesselt said...

I'm beginning to come down on the side of the fence that sees Christian leadership as a high calling - different from other vocations and a presumption of more respect. It's not an expectation of perfection, but shouldn't be just "anyone can do this!"

Yes, all Christians should serve.