Deacons Must Stimulate and Model a Servant Lifestyle


John Calvin sought to provide holistic help to the citizens of sixteenth-century Geneva. He intentionally partnered worship with ethics, and love of God with love of neighbor. For him, this was biblical and necessary. For Calvin, ministry was the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and Scripture was authoritative for faith and practice, regeneration and transformation. 

Calvin believed that all the faithful should care for their neighbors, and that the Church should give specific leadership to this common Christian duty. In 1557 he wrote a letter to the churches in Geneva. In it, he said, “Let us raise in each member of the Christian community the spiritual problem of his material life, of his goods, of his time, and of his capabilities, in view of freely putting them at the service of God and neighbor.”

Deacons have a great opportunity, as catalysts, to give ministry away and share the blessings of serving with church members. Deacons can do that through mentoring others, on-the-job training and showing leadership by modeling the joy of service—“out-zealing” one another in zeal. As Romans 12: 6– 8 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . . the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” As mentors, deacons would work alongside members, instructing and encouraging, careful to model the task at hand for the benefit of the member. Here the focus is not only on the task (mechanics), but confidence in the Lord and His service (obedience). Both cooperate to develop a fearless church volunteer staff.

Adding to the ease of mentoring, members can personally select a mentor-deacon with whom they have prior experience or contact. Similarly, on-the-job training provides hands-on instruction in areas that do not require close inspection or instruction. In many cases it can be mastered merely from observation. Of course, each deacon will need to attend some form of “officer training school” to learn expertise in the knowledge of mentoring or by gaining the same through their own mentor-mentee relationship. Either way, they would teach diakonia, the principle by which our Lord describes His entire ministry and of the life and ministry of His followers.

How do you respond to Calvin’s statement that there is a “spiritual problem of [the Christian’s] material life, of his goods, of his time, and of his capabilities. . ."? How is your church implementing this?

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