You may be asking, “What does leadership have to do with my ministry as a deacon? Isn't it the elders and the pastors who lead by ruling?” The more common portrayal of deacons is: deacons are to serve by responding to others when called upon. Of course, there is the expectation that deacons will also promote justice and stewardship, as well as be involved in visiting, administration and outreach. A tall order, indeed!
So, what connection exists between leadership and deacons? We know that diakonia (serving our neighbors) has a central place in both the Old and New Testaments. We also know that ministry to neighbor and love of God are intimately related. Deacons are called to lead as they represent Jesus in the church and in the community, so let me highlight a few examples from His ministry to remind us how serving and leading go hand in hand.
Jesus and Leadership
Even though we read in Mark 10 that Jesus “did not come to be served, but to serve,” his ministry practices demonstrate what it means to be a servant leader.
- Jesus enlisted disciples and sent them out as witnesses of God’s kingdom (Mark 3).
- Jesus motivated his disciples to be a “new social reality” in the world (Matthew 18).
- Jesus identified with the poor and the oppressed and defended the cause of the hurt in society (Matt. 5).
- Jesus spent time with people at their point of need and encouraged people with a picture of shalom (John 4).
- Jesus demonstrated how we are to relate with two simple tools—the basin and towel in John 13.
- Jesus articulated a vision for the work that is still far from complete (Matt. 28).
What does this mean for me?
As we have just read, Jesus led by serving and served by leading. Like Jesus, we must depend on prayer, rest, and the power of the Spirit to serve sacrificially. We can also try to implement some of the following suggestions as a way to develop leadership capacity during the next year.
- Ask someone to join you on your next visit to someone in your church or in the community.
- Identify and motivate a person in your congregation to attempt something new in the area of justice or stewardship.
- At your next meeting, suggest that more time be spent in corporate prayer and/or peer learning.
- Empower some members of your church to organize a community meal in your neighborhood to celebrate God’s grace.
- Challenge members of your congregation to find some new ways to be a “good neighbor” to someone who does not know Jesus.
- Model Jesus, by showering others with love—in word and deed.
These are just some simple examples of what it means to give leadership as a deacon. May God continue to encourage you as you represent Christ in this world.