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A deacon has countless opportunities to bless his pastor and make his calling a joy. R. C. Reed said, “A good deacon is the pastor’s most valuable ally.” Here are fifteen practical ways to do that.[1]

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

To avoid friction between members, to promote happy pastorates, and to develop the grace of liberality, nothing is more important than a good deacon, one who can be patient, who can smile at unreasonable people, and speak a soft word to turn away wrath, one who is willing to give time and take trouble on himself, and make himself “all things to all men” in order to promote the interests of his Master’s cause. A good deacon is the pastor’s most valuable ally. Officially, he is worth two good elders.[2]

1. Know the Flock

“I had much to write to you, but I would rather not write with pen and ink. I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name” (3 John 13–15).

Diaconal aid is easier when you know the people personally, face to face. You may start with small talk, but do not stop there. Aspire to know something you could be praying for for everyone in your congregation.

Recommended Reading: Ed Welch, Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).

2. Grow in Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). “Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty” (Acts 6:3).

We learn wisdom by knowing Scripture and by reading good books about the truth of Scripture and its application. Ask God for wisdom in applying his truth to your life and ministry. Surround yourself with wise saints and learn from them.

Recommended Reading: Letters of John Newton (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2007)

3. Befriend Your Pastor

“May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me—may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” (2 Tim. 1:16–18)

Since pastoring can be a lonely calling, deacons have a unique opportunity to encourage the pastor. Take care to discover the unspoken needs of your pastor and his family.

4. Speak the Truth in Love

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:15).

The diaconate provides many opportunities to encourage, admonish, and counsel. A deacon must have the wisdom, courage, awareness, and love to make the most of these situations. Remember 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4:29—“give grace to those who hear.”

5. Promote Peace

“A soft word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

Deacons often hear frustrations and complaints. How you respond to them will have a significant impact on your church. R. C. Reed says the deacon must be always ready to “speak a soft word to turn away wrath”; in doing so, you stop a cancer before it grows and bless your pastor and elders. Most of all, a deacon must not grumble and spread discontent by his own speech.

6. Guard Your Tongue

“Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued …” (1 Tim. 3:8)

John Lorimer in The Deaconship counsels us: “A deacon, to be relieved from the annoyances sometimes connected with the discharge of his duties, is tempted to put the poor off with insincere words—to say one thing to one man, and an opposite to another.” Fight this temptation.

Deacons should speak well of the session and support them. Consider the Larger Catechism on the fifth commandment (Q. 127).

Recommended Reading: John G. Lorimer, The Deaconship: A Treatise on the Biblical Office (1842).

7. Keep Your Word

“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (Matt. 5:37).

John Lorimer on keeping promises in The Deaconship: “He is in danger also, perhaps, of promising to the pastor, and not fulfilling. This is justly fatal to character and to usefulness. It prevents confidence and creates contempt. The deacon, then, must be sincere.”

Diaconal work comes with many tasks that need to be done. You need a system to help you keep track. Do not build a reputation as one who does not keep his word.

Recommended Reading: Tim Challies, Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity (Cruciform, 2015).

8. Anticipate Needs

“Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear” (Isa. 65:24).

Our Father in heaven knows our needs before we even ask (much like we do our own children)! Be on the lookout for financial, physical, and emotional needs within the congregation; keep your ear to the ground. Look for things your session may have overlooked, and do them.

9. Spend and Be Spent

“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12:15).

Our Lord came not to be served, but to serve. (Not to be deaconed, but to deacon!) The diaconate is an office of sacrifice and service. It is an opportunity to lay down your life and work tirelessly for the needs of the saints. Being a church officer is not convenient.

10. Communicate Clearly

“The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips” (Prov. 16:23).

Communicate regularly with your session (Form of Government 11. 5). Let them know of your labors and your struggles. Work together on common concerns. Communicate clearly with your congregation about your work and how they can work together with you. Learn to run a profitable deacon meeting, including preparing an agenda, moderating discussion, and keeping minutes.

Recommended reading: Alexander Strauch, Meetings That Work: A Guide to Effective Elders’ Meetings (Lewis & Roth, 2001).

11. Delegate Duties

“Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (Acts 16:6).

Deacons do not have to do everything; in trying to do so, you remove opportunities for others to find joy in serving the Lord. Delegate anything inhibiting you from your core concern: carrying the poor, sick, and lonely in the body.

12. Manage Your Household Well

“For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:5). “But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided” (1 Cor. 7:33–34).

Giving yourself to Christ’s church is not at the expense of your family. You set an example to the congregation of family life. It will not go unnoticed.

13. Humble Yourself

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:1–2).

Deacons, like elders, are to be examples of humility, “not domineering over those in your charge” (1 Pet. 5:3). Study the humility of Christ, who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7). Be open to advice and correction from your pastor and elders—and congregation.

14. Pray for Your Pastor

“[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19).

All saints should pray for their pastor, deacons doubly so. Let your pastor know how you are praying for him.

15. Sit at the Master’s Feet

“But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41–42).

Do not let the business of diaconal labors distract you from the worship of God. Be diligent in your private, family, and public worship. Hide God’s word in your heart and meditate on it.

“We are to prepare our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.” (Larger Catechism 117)

Endnotes

[1] This article is based on a presentation given to the presbytery at Heritage OPC in Wilmington, North Carolina, on January 30, 2022.

[2] R. C. Reed, “The Deacon,” The Union Seminary Magazine 15.2 (1903): 215–24.

Timothy D. Hopper is a deacon in Shiloh OPC in Raleigh, North Carolina, chairman of the Presbytery of the Southeast Diaconal Committee, and a member of the Committee on Diaconal Ministry. Ordained Servant Online, May 2022.

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Ordained Servant: May 2022

Pastoral Care

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The Value of a Study Break for Pastors

Commentary on the Form of Government of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Chapters 28–29

The Pastor: His Call, Character, and Work by Faculty and Friends of Old Princeton

Augustine’s Theology of Preaching by Peter T. Sanlon

The Ministry of Angels

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