In this evening’s service, we are privileged to welcome Brother John Bunn into the diaconate of the church and to ceremonially induct him into office. There are only two offices of authority mandated by scripture for the church, the pastor and deacons, and both carry strict qualifications. Many times in New Testament churches it is hard to find men that meet the scriptural criteria, but this does not mean other men are not equally as spiritual or even more advanced in their knowledge of scripture. Even though this is true, we are bound by the Bible’s rule of faith and practice for our selection of men to serve in these offices.
The first deacons were chosen in Acts chapter 6 with a brief description of the type of men that should be considered. The apostles told the Jerusalem church, “…Look ye among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom ye may appoint…” (Acts 6:3). In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, more detailed qualifications are given with this added encouragement, “For they that have used the office of deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3:13). With these two statements, we can see the value of the office for the church and for the man who assumes it. We are blessed with a man who will serve with honor, dignity, and faithfulness, and the man chosen is richly rewarded with further strengthening in his personal faith and walk with God.
In the history of the church, there have been many abuses of these two offices. The purpose for them has been misconstrued and some have taken them as license to become lords of the church. The scriptural example for duty was given by the Great Lord Himself. He demonstrated it by taking a towel and bowl of water and then bending down on His knees to wash the disciples’ feet. This vivid illustration was that of a servant. If the Lord and Master would humble Himself to the lowly task of washing feet, then those who are His followers should do no less. Interestingly, the word “deacon” is a transliteration of the Greek word diakonos which means “servant.” The first deacons were chosen to serve the congregation, not to control them, and not to usurp the authority of the apostles who served as pastors.
The foregoing is unquestionably true, but we must also remember that although deacons are servants they are neither to be abused. They are especially qualified, gifted, spiritual men. They are as fallible as each of us, but they do hold a special office in the church. As such, they must receive our respect and gratefulness. Our purpose in this ceremony tonight is to convey this respect. We will lay hands on John to show our approval; we will give him a right hand of fellowship to acknowledge the reception of his new ministry among us. As we do, we will glorify the Lord for His graciousness in placing such a capable man in this body of Christ.
I do hope each of you plan to attend our service this evening. Members should be present as always, but especially tonight. We are brothers and sisters in Christ; we rejoice together when a family member is honored.
Pastor V. Mark Smith