Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Deacons: Sincere

Not only should deacons be men and women full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6), it follows that they should also be "sincere" (1 Tim. 3:8). The deacon must not be "double tongued" or "two-faced" or "indulging in double talk." A person may be double-tongued in two ways. They may say one thing to one person and another thing to someone else. Or, they may say one thing and do another. In either case, their tongues are forked and they are not reliable persons for serving as deacons. The deacon's "yes" must be yes, and "no" no (2 Cor. 1:17-18). Bunyan's "Mr. Two Tongues" is not a suitable candidate for this important office.Why sincere? A couple of reasons come to mind.

Sincerity reflects the character of Christ. Our Lord never spoke with guile. He did not shade the truth or mislead others. He did not flatter. He was sincere in all His dealings with men, from telling them their desperate need because of sin and addressing self-righteousness to holding out the promise of eternal life. In all his dealings He was pure. Likewise, His servants are called to be sincere (1 Thes. 2:5) and to put away flattering lips (Ps. 12:2-3; Pr. 26:28). False teachers and divisive persons, not the servants of Christ, employ flattery (Rom. 16:18; Jude 16).

Ever had the experience of talking with someone about something important but leaving the conversation unsure that you were talking with a "good faith partner"? It leaves you unsettled if not anxious. When we think someone has been insincere in their interaction with us, our trust is eroded. Deacons are people who are meant to solve problems and to get involved in sometimes intimate matters of a person's life. Not surprisingly, then, sincerity in a deacon goes a long way in helping to calm distress and resolve issues. Even if the resolution isn't what one would hope for, they are helped immensely if they have been dealt with sincerely and lovingly. Phil Ryken makes some helpful comments on this qualification: "the word of a deacon ought to be one of the strongest guarantees in the church. People both inside and outside the church must be able to take deacons at their words." (1 Timothy: Reformed Expositors Commentary, P&R, p. 124).

Some things to look for and questions to ask:

1. Does the potential deacon have a reputation for keeping his or her word? Do they follow through on their commitments? The deacon should have a track record for completing assignments and tasks in keeping with their words.

2. Does the potential deacon speak consistently to different parties? Is there confidence that what the person says in one setting is what they will say in others? Here, it's helpful to find people who are not overtaken with fear of man. Deacons will be sent into trouble situations, so they can't be vulnerable to the faces of men or the pressure that's sometimes felt in tense situations.

3. Does the deacon speak the truth in love? It's one thing to say the same thing consistently. But that won't be helpful if what's consistently said is harmful to others or said in an unhelpful way. The deacon should clothe all his or her speech in the greatest of all virtues: love.

4. Churches should look for men and women who are known to be fair brokers. Are there men and women who already demonstrate an ability to "stand in the gap" between conflicted parties and serve the needs of both parties? Are there people generally trusted by the congregation as people who are impartial and who speak for justice?

Our deacons are often the front-line of caring for the body. Given that, we need persons whose words can be trusted and who follow through on their commitments.

1 comment:

Ken said...

Brother, thanks for these encouraging posts on diaconal ministry! Such excellent reminders. Your comment about fear of man is especially resonant, I would concur and add that diaconal ministry provides a regular context for repenting of fear of man...at least that has been my experience!