Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Sense In Which Every Jesus-Follower Is a "Deacon"

Anderson Gardens,
Rockford, Illinois

διακονία,n \{dee-ak-on-ee'-ah}
1) service, ministering, esp. of those who carry out the commands of others… 

In Ephesians 4:11-12 Paul writes: So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for the work of ministry (works of service), so that the body of Christ may be built up. The term "the work of ministry" is, in biblical Greek, diakonias. In this sense every Jesus-follower is a "deacon," or a "minister."

It was a sad day in the history of the church when pastors started getting referred to as "the ministers." This unbiblical idea helped promote the church-as-audience, who came to hear "the minister" preach. A dichotomy formed between "ministers" and "lay people" (from the Greek word laos, which means "people").

In 2 Corinthians 4:1 Paul writes: "Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." Here again the Greek word we translate as "ministry" is diakonian. Note that "we" have this "ministry," and not just Paul. And this ministry is the glorious reality of the gospel and the new covenant.

The common use of diakonos is "of ministry in a general sense without any clear implication of church office." (Piper and Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 505, fn. 13) In 1 Timothy 3 the word "deacon" seems to function as an appointed office of the church. We read: In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

"Let them serve as deacons" is redundant, since precisely what "deacons" do is "serve." If they exhibit Christlike character then they may be appointed to "deacon" in a specified area of ministry.

Every Jesus-follower is called to be a servant.

Every Jesus-follower is entrusted with "the ministry" (diakonias).

The next time someone asks you "Who is the 'minister' in your church?" you may answer: "We all are."