Last week I shared Ralph Kee’s concept of Cooperative Diakonia, from his brief, but thought provoking book, Diakonia: The Church at Work. (Find article here: Cooperative Diakonia: Serving or Sharing.) In his brief 26 page book, he argues that diakonia, (service) is much more than a religious word. It’s a movement—something that is “the word being done.” And it’s something still critical for the church today.
You can download Ralph Kee’s book, Diakonia: The Church at Work.
Today I want to highlight that Deacons are necessary and that the diakonia is critical.
Kee explains that all Christians are called to be servants in the church and in their community (diakonia), but not all Christians are deacons. “Diakonia is both an act and an office. It is an act in which all Christians participate, and an office to which particular Christians are appointed.” “Those who provide the leadership for both in house and public diakonia are called deacons.” They lead not with hierarchical leadership but horizontal leadership—not over, but together with the congregation.
He says, “The neighborhood, the world, often comes to God...through the door held open by the deacons. We see then, that of the church officers, the deacons will often stand the closest to the watching, curious, skeptical world. The deacons more than other church officers stand on the cutting edge of the church in the world. They are the harbingers of the Kingdom. They, and the people they guide in the carrying out of the diakonia in the neighborhood, are the first visible representatives of God’s new society.”
A harbinger or herald is a person or a thing that announces something is coming. They signal the approach of another or notable event. Wow - what a responsibility! Deacons are signs of God’s restoration! It’s like deacons lead the rest of the congregation in how to be restorers of people and places in a way that shows the coming and restoration of Christ’s kingdom.
Some churches have ordained deacons, other churches have other leaders inspiring and leading the congregation in that work. I’d say, based on the importance of the work, churches might want to strategically think how to be both diakonia and raise up leaders appointed to the work of deacon.
What do you think?
If you are a deacon: Do you feel necessary? Called? If you don’t have official deacons, why not? What might be the implications?
How are you and your deacons “standing on the cutting edge” of church and world?
As deacons, in what ways are you guiding those in your church to carry out their “diakonia”, particularly out into your neighborhood and community?
What would it look like for deacons to lead us into what Ralph Kee says is still true, “What you do speaks so loudly that I can’t (or can) hear what you say”? (Quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Let’s connect! I’d love to learn what you’re up to and have a conversation about your congregation’s diakonia and the deacons’ work.