I have been a deacon (also called an elder in other congregations) at my local LCMS church for a few years now. I wasn’t asked to be a deacon but was told later that the Board of Deacons had their eye on me to serve. To be honest, when I started I really had no idea what a deacon did besides help during communion. I have come to learn that there is a lot more involved with being a deacon. My training was limited to conversations with my pastor and other deacons who had been serving for many years. The nature of the duties for the Board of Deacons requires that only men noted for their Christian knowledge, zeal and experience in spiritual work of the Kingdom of Christ shall be elected for membership. At times it can be very challenging and even unpleasant. One thing I know for sure, you have to know what your role is and what it isn’t.
What it is.
Being a deacon is all about service. It is about serving your congregation in all matters outside of the pastoral office. Weather it is talking to members about attendance, working on budgets and making important decisions that affect the church and its members; deacons perform an important role in the church. It is also about serving your pastor. In my limited experience there is a twofold approach to serving your pastor as a deacon. First, you are to support him in his role as pastor. You support him by having his back when he makes tough decisions that affect the church and its members. You also support him by being able to ask him important theological questions when it comes to his role as the shepherd of the flock. Any pastor worth his weight would want questions from his deacons on why he does the things he does. Deacons should not be afraid to voice concerns and ask questions. Deacons also need to understand they aren’t theologically trained and need to err on the side of caution when questioning his pastor. The second part of service to your pastor is to support his overall well being. Being a pastor is a tough and lonely road. Deacons are often times confidants and sounding boards for their pastors during times of trouble. In my opinion, this second part is much more important as it can affect the pastor’s service to the church and also affects the man behind the robes. Anything you can do for your pastor, whether it’s time away from the everyday grind of the pastoral ministry, opportunities for additional pastoral training or conferences he may want to attend, or just having him over for a beer. Letting your pastor know you care about him and his family outside of his role as pastor is important.
What it isn’t.
I’m a deacon…I’m not a pastor. All things theological are to be left to my pastor. Like I stated above, there is nothing wrong with asking questions and searching for answers out of love for your church and members. However, you should never overstep your service as a deacon and interfere with your pastor’s call as pastor. The congregation called him to preach the Word, administer the Sacraments and care for the souls of the members. My role is to support him in his role. I have considered the idea of becoming a pastor but I recognize that the call of the Lord to become a pastor is not to be taken lightly. Also the training of a pastor is not to be taken lightly. If I ever decided to become a pastor, I would want all the training and education I could get so that I could properly serve a congregation. I am happy to serve my pastor and church as a deacon but I also know how to fall in line. My church has many older members and if things go as they have been going we will see many members called home to Jesus with few new members replacing them. Can the church afford to keep its doors open? Can the church afford to call another pastor when our current pastor retires? To me, one thing is certain…you attempt to call a pastor or you shut the doors.
What your church always needs.
The church is always in need to people to serve. The church is always in need of people to proclaim the Gospel in their vocations and service. In our walk together as members of holy Christian church we must not forget our true identities as baptized children of God. Redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ we are all called to work with one another out of love for our neighbor. We are to support each other in our defined roles in the church. Our Father in heaven has indeed shown us all great mercy by giving us brothers and sisters in Christ to support us in our times of need. Our support must not step outside of those defined roles. I’m a deacon and my pastor is the pastor. These roles are not the same. What is the same is the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ. God will keep His church moving forward to the blessed end of life everlasting with Him. Our sinfulness may try to impede this but our God is faithful and His Word is true. Thanks be to God for faithful Christians who look to God for their instruction, forgiveness and redemption.