by Jake Hall
published in Family Matters eNewsletter November 8, 2018
This Sunday we will call seven people from the pews of Highland Hills to serve as deacons for a three-year term. The role of deacon arose in the first days of the early church as that community expanded the need for more servants arose so that all people could be served. Out of the many followers, seven were called.
I served in a church where my mentor in ministry named his portly, purebred pug, Deacon. So that every day he could, um… invoke the name of Deacon as he took his dog for a walk. Come on, Deacon!, he would say. As a pastor, I think he enjoyed going outside and calling Deacon, “Deacon, come home” or when exasperated chiding Deacon, “deacon, what have you done now…” I can’t help but think this had some influence on his daughter attending Wake Forest University, whose mascots are the Demon Deacons.
Churches still “call” deacons to service. While I get the humor of a pastor calling his dog a deacon, being a deacon is no laughing matter. Deacons like pastors are ordained to a sacred service and a solemn duty. The role of a deacon varies across the range of Christian traditions: a Baptist deacon may have a different role than an Episcopal deacon. One this is sure, that in each tradition deacons and clergy accept a special calling to serve together.
At our church, our deacons are servant-leaders who, along with the pastoral staff, use their gifts in service to God and God’s church. You can recognize a future deacon because they are already serving in multiple roles in the church. Deacons aren’t waiters, but
servants. Deacons aren’t representatives, but exemplars. The role of a deacon isn’t earned by status, or stature, or tenter, but discerned, contemplated, and elected based on the very same qualities contemplated by the early church.
The writer of 1 Timothy offers these qualities for the service of both clergy and deacons. Deacons are to be temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. They must manage their own household well. They must not be a recent convert or puffed up with conceit. They must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace. Deacons must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons.
No, I won’t be calling my next dog, Deacon. I get the joke I just don’t think it is funny anymore. The role is too important for that. On November 11th you will be asked to call a deacon. Take it seriously, because it is no joke.
This Sunday we will elect seven deacons from a slate of fourteen candidates. For the first time in our history, the slate of candidates happens to be evenly divided between seven men and seven women. Candidates range in age from mid-twenties to midseventies. Less than half have served a previous term as a deacon at Highland Hills. No matter the length of their tenure, every candidate has a track record of vital, holistic engagement at Highland Hills.