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A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a man below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am." The man below replied, "You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 degrees north latitude and between 59 degrees west longitude." "You must be a pastor," said the balloonist. "I am," replied the man. "How did you know?" "Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help so far." The pastor below responded, "You must be a deacon." "I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?" "Well," said the man, "you don't know where you are or where you are going. You made a promise you have no idea how to keep, and you expect me to solve your problem. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault!"

Many deacons learn and make mistakes as they go. I certainly did when I was first a deacon in the mid-1970s. In my many years of service I have found that a great many deacons don’t know what they are doing, don’t know where to turn for help (and help isn’t available when they do), and eventually leave the ministry due to compassion fatigue or burn-out.

In subsequent weeks, I hope to list user-friendly roles I believe deacons should play that are biblical and manageable. These are:

  1. Deacons must equip and mobilize the saints. 
  2. Deacons must collect the gifts of God’s people and distribute them. 
  3. Deacons must stimulate a diaconal lifestyle. 
  4. Deacons must come alongside those who are hurting. 
  5. Deacons must prevent poverty within the body.
  6. Deacons must be knowledgeable about local community resources. 
  7. Deacons must empower the needy to make good use of all available institutions of mercy. 
  8. Deacons must cooperate with neighboring churches.

Knowing and following these roles should encourage deacons and churches alike.

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