By Joe McKeever, Preacher, Cartoonist, Pastor, and retired Director of Missions at the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.
Read Part One Here.
Here’s what happens.
A few deacons fellowshipping over coffee deal with various subjects about the church. Eventually, someone brings up the preacher and that ignites the interest of the rest of the group. One or two have some concerns and suggestions.
“The pastor is so effective, but he could be more so if he would just do this.”
“I agree. And the thing my wife mentioned, he should be doing that.”
“Well, who’s going to tell him? And how would he take it?”
From there, the group decides on a plan. After all, how could the pastor not receive this well? Aren’t we all in his corner? Haven’t we shown him how much we appreciate him? And hasn’t he been preaching about how we are to grow and improve? Surely, he’ll want us to bring these suggestions to him.
What the deacons either do not know or do not care to know is that Pastor Tom carries scars from his dealings with a rogue deacon group in his previous church. And even though he loves his present flock and sees God blessing his ministry, something inside him expects another bomb to go off, for some little group to show up at his door demanding that their wishes be met if he wants to remain in that church.
This is a delicate moment in the relationship of Pastor Tom and this assemblage of deacons. The problems are twofold: the pastor does not see it coming and thus is not prepared, and the deacons have no idea what they are about to stir up.
It does not go well, and here’s why.
The most confused group of people in the average Southern Baptist church is the deacons.
They have no idea what they are to be and do. Depending on the whims of the deacon chairman for that year, they become servants or managers, program heads or administrators. Helpers or bosses. Activists or inactive.
The church’s constitution and bylaws are usually vague on who they are, what they are to do, how they should function.
And, let us admit up front, Scripture does not give us a lot of guidance on this matter either. At every deacon ordination I’ve ever attended–and in a half century of ministry, that’s quite a few–Acts 6:1-7 has been read. But there’s not a word in that passage about those seven men being called deacons.
In fact, let’s quit calling them deacons and start calling them what the name means: servants.
Calling them “deacons” is sort of a hedge someone must have erected to prevent them from having to do what their name implies. The word diakonos literally means servant. Furthermore, in almost all the places where the New Testament uses that word, it refers only to servants, to people doing the lowliest jobs in a household or an estate, and not to a class of officers or leaders in the church.
This is the second part of series; click to read part one.
If you have pastored for even a year, you recognize among our congregations a general lack of concern for their eternal lives. It’s seen in the ease in which people dismiss services, dismiss their obligations to the church, and dismiss the commands of God’s Word for a more culturally acceptable position. As pastors, we should not be shocked that our people don’t care about the eternal souls of others because by their behavior they lack concern for their own souls. Why do our people seemingly not care for their eternal souls? I believe it stems from a second false implication about the finished work of Christ on the cross that has settled in our Baptist churches.
False implication #2:
Because Jesus died on the cross for my sins, I don’t have to pursue salvation.
Mix some of our favorite invitation hymns (“Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now. He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.” “Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.” “Victory in Jesus, my Savior forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood.”) with spiritual laziness on the part of the believer and you get sinners content in their rebellious lifestyle, claiming their eternal salvation based on a said belief in Jesus as the Son of God who died on the cross for their sins.
This false implication takes the complete work of the death of Christ and the biblical understanding of the security of the believer to an illogical conclusion. The thinking goes, “Since Jesus death obtains eternal salvation for me and I can’t lose my salvation, then I don’t have to pursue eternal salvation.” This frees people to pursue the American dream instead of experiencing God in their lives. Just a few weeks ago during the Easter season, the news across America fixated on people standing in lines for hours to buy tickets for a $640 million lottery jackpot. How many of our people came to church that Sunday more disappointed that they didn’t win and had to go to work on Monday than excited about encountering the living God who bought their eternal souls with the blood of His one and only Son?