Thursday, May 07, 2009

Free Markets (27) - Deacons

God’s tool for dealing with poverty is the ministry of the deacon. If theologians were really concerned about equality and poverty, deacons would be the most important ministry in the church. Unfortunately, the modern church does not understand the role and has changed it to something different. In Baptist Churches, elders are often called deacons. In the Catholic Church, deacons are priests in training. In other churches, deacons are responsible for raising money and maintaining buildings.

The deacons in the New Testament cared for the poor. They were the social welfare arm of the church. The record of the appointment of the first deacons is in the book of Acts. When the number of disciples had increased, some of the disciples complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

So the twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and of wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. This proposal pleased the whole group so they appointed seven men who were full of the Spirit…. They presented these men to the apostles who laid hands on them (Acts 6:2-4).
These deacons used the offerings of the Church to provide for the needs of the poor and the sick. They were fulfilling the parable of the Good Samaritan. When he found a person in trouble, he took action to meet the immediate need. He then took further action to find a permanent solution, taking responsibility for the cost himself. This is a good pattern for the ministry of a deacon. The work of the first deacons had immediate effect.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly (Acts6:7).
Crucial Ministry
The ministry of the deacon is the second ministry to be mentioned in the New Testament. The twelve were appointed to be apostles by Jesus. Deacons were established in Acts 6. Evangelists are first mention in Acts 7 and 8, but Philip and Stephen had already served as deacons when they emerged as evangelists. Pastors are not mentioned until Acts 20, and they were elders not the CEO/Pastors we have today. The first prophets appeared in Acts 11. They were not interpreting biblical prophecy, but in encouraging the flow money to people suffer from a famine. This suggests that deacons are more essential for the fulfilment of the churches calling than pastors, prophets and evangelists.

The importance of deacons is confirmed in Paul’s letters. He devoted several chapters to teaching about their role. The fact that this ministry has disappeared suggests that something is drastically wrong in the church.

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