The Forgotten Office: Deacons

Episode 656: With most churches now starting with multiple-pastor, multiple-elders models, a de-emphasis on the role of deacons has occurred. Host Clint Clifton interviews Matt Smethurst, author of Deacons: How They Serve and Strengthen the Church, about the value of deacons and dangers to be considered when implementing the diaconate in a church plant.

In This Episode, You’ll Discover:

  • What church planters should know from church history about deacons
  • How churches often wrongly inflate or reduce the role of deacons
  • How a church planter should prioritize establishing a diaconate
  • What dangers a planter should consider when looking for qualified deacons
  • Matt’s advice for church planters on women serving as deacons
  • The most overlooked responsibility of a deacon

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Sharable Quotes (#NewChurches):

Most churches now are starting with multiple pastors, multiple elders, and in all of that ecclesiological shifting, as good as it is, there has been this de-emphasis on deaconing and on the role of deacons in church plants. @ClintJClifton

Deacons were a bold and bright witness to the gospel among the earliest Christians. That’s been detailed by secular historians and it’s really stirring to read some of those stories. @MattSmethurst

As the church began to become more hierarchical, the role of deacon shifted from being practical carers for the poor to being almost secretaries to the bishop. It was in the Reformation that the diaconate was restored to more of its biblical office. @MattSmethurst

The main thing I’d want a church planter to understand just from the history of deacons is that they’re very easy to get wrong. @MattSmethurst

There are a lot of ways to get deacons wrong, but they can be summarized in two ditches. One is to wrongly elevate the role of deacon to that of a de facto elder. On the other hand, sometimes the role of deacon is wrongly reduced to that of a glorified janitor. @MattSmethurst

I always thought it’s fascinating that the role that’s designated for service in the Bible has so many spiritual qualifications associated with it. The world says that kind of job is reserved for the person who doesn’t necessarily possess any qualities like that. @ClintJClifton

The reason, church planter, you should consider implementing deacons in your church is not just because it has some practical use. It’s because God is wiser than we are. @MattSmethurst

It’s one of those things that, once you see it, it’s hard to unsee. @MattSmethurst

The reason you should care about deacons is because the Bible does. Yes, it’s it’s useful, but it’s not true because it’s useful. It’s useful because it’s true. @MattSmethurst

I don’t think there’s a hard and fast timeline a planter has to operate according to when it comes to when he implements deacons. @MattSmethurst

You can have a church without elders but you can’t biblically have a church without members. We wanted to get elders in place and then, as needs arise, create diaconal positions that would help facilitate and accelerate the ministry of the Word. @MattSmethurst

There’s so much confusion for church planters around “When’s the right time to bring this in?” I try to lay out a suggested path: It starts with settling the doctrine, the church covenant, membership, eldership, diaconate. @ClintJClifton

As a complementarian, if you are in a church where deacons are functioning like elders, then you shouldn’t install women into the office. You first need to figure out what it means to be a deacon and what it means to be an elder. @MattSmethurst

A church impoverishes itself if it forbids what the Bible allows. @MattSmethurst

If you ever have someone say, “Well, women deacons, that’s a liberal move.” Well, say that to Charles Spurgeon and John Calvin and Tertullian. It’s not a product of our modern American gender debates. @MattSmethurst

In the Bible, we have a 1 Timothy 2:12, which forbids the office of elder to women, but we don’t have a 1 Timothy equivalent for the office of deacon. @MattSmethurst

When it The hardest situations with deacons are not in a church planting context. It’s in a more revitalization context, where a guy is inheriting a situation where deacons run the place and they’ve been misunderstood and misdeployed for years. @MattSmethurst

Deacons have in our lifetimes never been as needed or as useful, because pastors are beleaguered. This is why the diaconate exists: to make your life easier, not harder. @MattSmethurst

A Mark Dever book called “A Display of God’s Glory” describes deacons as mufflers and shock absorbers. They’re given to the church to be a balm, to bring about peace and and to smooth the way so the ministry of the Word in prayer can prevail. @ClintJClifton

If you have someone in your church who loves to push the drama button, that person is not yet ready to be a deacon. A deacon should be the person where conflict and gossip go to die. @MattSmethurst

Published April 7, 2022

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