Many of us have grown up in different churches that view the role of a deacon differently. Our understanding of what a deacon is and what a deacon does can be a bit fuzzy.
My hope is to clear up some of that fuzziness with this really brief overview – at least as far as The Town Church understands the role of deacon and how our own deacons function.
For a more in-depth yet still one-page treatment concerning our biblical foundation and theological approach to the role of deacon, see The Town Church’s Diaconate Philosophy. Our approach is highly informed by the helpful little book Helping without Hurting in Church Benevolence by Corbett and Finkert.
Role of the Deacon
The deacon works to extend practical mercy and compassion as an act of service.
We see this in the prototype of the office of deacon in Acts 6:1-7. We also see it in the meaning for the word often translated as “deacon” from the Greek word diakonos, meaning “servant.”
The deacon’s work is no less than demonstrating the Gospel (in which Jesus displayed the ultimate example of practical love) in tangible ways. It’s beautiful! Operating from within a formal position within the Church, deacons model what all believers are called to do – love others by serving in practical ways.
The Focus of the Deacon
Because the role of the deacon is modeling the Gospel in extending mercy, the focus of the deacon is primarily people, not tasks.
Our deacons are not given tasks like maintaining our building or handling all the finances. Rather, our deacons are given people to love, out of which will arise specific tasks that need to be done.
A Practical Example
In order to get a grasp on what our deacons actually do, consider an example of our theological underpinnings all the way to the practical outworking. (Note: even though our deacons can serve within happy situations (such as the adoption of a child), often brokenness pushes us to needing help, as in the following example.)
Because of The Fall, our perfect relationship with God, others, ourselves and all of creation have been broken. Our broken relationship with ourselves can be experienced as depression and self-loathing, or even pride and self-absorption. These in turn create many different symptoms, such as loneliness, workaholism, self-harm, or the inability to keep a job.
In this scenario, the ultimate goal of the deacon is to see God bring healing to the broken relationship with self. We desire to see the Gospel transform this area! This often means addressing the symptoms, but never means only addressing the symptoms.
So if a person is dealing with workaholism and is willing to be helped, our deacons will complete an intake process first in order to gain a depth of understanding concerning the hardship and any root issues.
Based on the intake, concrete and time-bound plans will be made. Prayer support will be maintained. Practical strategies will be constructed.
Strategies may be one-time or on-going and may include both coaching as well as more in-depth counseling. It may include helping to put together healthy boundaries around the use of time as well as help getting connected to Christian community. It may include help finding a different job as well as one-on-one mentoring centered on the Gospel and the life that flows from it.
We ALL Need Help
ALL of us experience broken relationship to God, others, ourselves and the rest of creation. It shows up in many different ways in ALL of our lives. And, ALL of us at times need help from other people to address it.
Please don’t assume leaning on other people is reserved for only a certain type or degree of hardship.
It will take humility and courage, but please choose vulnerability within Christian community. Share your needs.
By the grace of God to you and me, our deacons are here to help.
(To connect with our deacons, email us at [email protected])