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Class Notes

LESSON 9 The Ministry of the Diaconate

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e have talked about the spiritual qualifications for the diaconate as well as the development of this important office in the church. In this lesson we will deal, not so much with what a deacon or deaconess is, but rather what the diaconate should be doing. The goals of this lesson are: •

To understand from Scripture the ministry of the diaconate in the local church.

To understand what is entailed in being a part of the diaconate in a church of The Christian and Missionary Alliance.

To evaluate the ministry of the diaconate in your local church.

To discover what areas of ministry in which you can be most effective.

Generally speaking, the elders have oversight of the spiritual life of the church. The diaconate is generally given the responsibility of overseeing more of the social aspects of the church life, like ministries of benevolence. Read Acts 6:1-6. 1. What was the original responsibility of the deacons? 2. They were given this responsibility so that the Apostles could do what? 3. Were their responsibilities limited to the distribution of food?

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Lesson 9 – The Ministry of the Diaconate

In this passage we see the division of responsibility. The Apostles’ ministry was to be in the Word and in prayer (spiritual in nature), while the deacons were to attend to the physical and social needs of the membership of the church.

Class Notes

While the church of today may not have an extensive ministry of feeding widows, there are other ministries of a benevolent nature that the church needs to address and minister to people.

Benevolence The New Testament does not give us a detailed job description for the diaconate. Rather it gives us an example of what the deacons did in the First Century. The diaconate’s ministry is usually associated with the word “benevolence.” This is a broad term, which includes helping people in tangible ways when they have a need. It could include monetary help, or assistance with food, or ministering to physical or material needs. These ministries should be done with love, compassion, sensitivity, diligence, and confidentiality. The church is a magnet for people who are in need, some of whom have a genuine need and others are simply con artists, looking for an easy living. The pastoral staff should not have to deal with these situations, but they should be referred to the diaconate, who should deal with the matter compassionately, but wisely. 4. Why should the pastoral staff not deal with people who come to the church with material needs?

There are also needs in the church family for food or other physical ministrations. Some are short-term needs. 5. When a parent of a young family is hospitalized, what are some of the concerns that the other family members would have?

6. How can the church family help the family of the hospitalized parent?

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Preparing to Lead God’s People

The diaconate is usually responsible for coordinating this kind of shortterm assistance. 7. When a member of the church family dies, what are the needs of the bereaved family?

8. How can the church help the bereaved family?

In most churches the diaconate is responsible for coordinating the assistance that the church provides for a bereaved family. This is another instance of short-term assistance. There are also long-term physical needs such as helping to care for invalids or elderly people in the congregation. 9. What are some of the needs of invalids or elderly people?

10. How can the diaconate coordinate the church’s responsibility to help people with long-term physical needs?

Scripture is clear that the church should not overlook taking care of the needs of people who have no one else to care for them. Read 1 Timothy 5:3-16. 11. Who should the church be responsible for helping?

12. What were some of the limitations for helping these people?

Usually the diaconate has been given the responsibility for coordinating the long-term assistance that some of the church family needs.

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Class Notes


Lesson 9 – The Ministry of the Diaconate

Social Gatherings

Class Notes

The church should attend to the spiritual and physical needs of the congregation. The church community also has social needs. People like to get together to fellowship: talk, eat and enjoy each other’s company. 13. In Acts 2:42, what social activities are mentioned that were commonplace in the Early Church?

14. What do you understand these two activities to mean? a. Fellowship b. Breaking of bread (see also verse 46)

15. Why would it be necessary to program and coordinate meals in which the church family shares?

Some churches give the diaconate the responsibility for planning social occasions for the church: church suppers, picnics, an Easter breakfast, etc. This does not mean that the diaconate prepares all the food, but rather that they plan and coordinate these events.

Helping with the Ordinances The church not only celebrates fellowship meals, but also celebrates the spiritual meal, the Lord’s Supper. Although the elders have their responsibility in assisting the pastor with serving Communion, the diaconate also has responsibilities to help with preparing the elements for the Lord’s Supper. 16. What preparations should the diaconate make for the Lord’s Supper?

17. What should the diaconate do after the Lord’s Supper has been celebrated?

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Preparing to Lead God’s People

Baptism is the other ordinance of the church. The elders are to help prepare the candidates to be ready for baptism, and even may help the pastor in the water. 18. What is the role of the diaconate in a baptismal service in your church?

Care of the Church Facilities Some states require a church to have Trustees, who are the legal guardians of church property. But other states do not have this requirement, so the diaconate is often given the responsibility of caring for the church facilities. 19. Does your church have trustees to care for the upkeep of the church building?

20. In your church does the diaconate have any responsibilities for the upkeep of the church building?

There might be many or few responsibilities in this area that are given to the diaconate, depending on the size of the church.

Community Needs The church should not look only inward, to the needs of the church family, but outward to the needs of the community. As we look at the example of deacons Stephen and Philip in Acts 6-8, we see that their ministry extended beyond the physical and social needs of the church membership. They also ministered in the community 21. What was the principal focus of their ministry in the community?

22. What did they do that brought people to Christ? One of the lessons we learned at the beginning of this course is that God does not use everyone in exactly the same way, but each has been given unique gifts, talents and abilities, which God uses to bring people to 70

Class Notes


Lesson 9 – The Ministry of the Diaconate

Himself. God used Stephen and Philip in miraculous ways to do this. He may or may not give you miraculous powers. That is not the point at all. But rather, God uses Spirit-filled people to reach out into the community to bring people to himself.

Class Notes

In this day and age, people may not respond to the message of the gospel unless they have first experienced the love of God’s people. For this reason, a church that wants to have a ministry in the community needs to discover a need or several needs of people in the community. 23. What are some of the felt needs in your community?

24. How can the church meet those needs?

25. What would be the role of the diaconate to meet those needs?

When these needs are being addressed by the church, people are often more open to receive the message that the church proclaims. The diaconate should be sensitive to the needs in the community and address ways that these needs can be met with a view to turning these opportunities into a means of presenting the gospel. Notice that it was not one of the Apostles that went to establish a church among the despised Samaritans, but one of the deacons. Philip was a person who looked for opportunities to lead people to Christ, and was sensitive the leading of the Holy Spirit. Though the New Testament does not give specific instructions about what deacons and deaconesses should do, there is a broad area of ministry open to them, not just of a physical and social nature, but also spiritual.

Having the right attitude In any kind of Christian service, it is necessary to keep the proper attitude or perspective. There are two extremes that must be avoided: serving people rather than God, and serving people which becomes an end in itself.

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If the diaconate forget whom they are serving, they can become discouraged and even bitter, because people are not always appreciative of their ministry. People even complain if they feel they are not served as they think they should be. 26. What was the complaint voiced in Acts 6:1? 27. Was the complaint justified?

28. Did the Apostles defend their actions?

Rather than serve people, the servants of God, whether deacons, elders, or pastors, need to remember that their service is not to people but to God. 29. What is the emphasis of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 25:31-40? 30. Who are Jesus’ brothers, a. according to Luke 8:21? b. according to Hebrews 2:11? 31. How does 1 Corinthians 15:58 help Christ’s servants to keep the right attitude?

Doing acts of kindness to Jesus’ family, in His sight, is like doing them for Jesus Himself. If the diaconate simply serves people, they will be come discouraged because people are not properly appreciative, and this will lead to bitterness. But if the diaconate remembers that they are serving Christ, even as they help the elderly and distribute benevolence to the poor, they will be properly rewarded by Christ himself. The other attitude problem is to minister to physical needs as an end in itself, rather than using the physical ministry as a means to ministering to people’s spiritual needs. We need to keep in mind that people’s physical and material needs are often merely symptoms of deeper spiritual needs. Treating people’s physical needs alone is like treating a toothache with an aspirin. The aspirin may alleviate the pain for a while, but it does not get to the source of the problem of the diseased tooth. As we minister to people’s physical and needs, we need to keep in mind that

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their spiritual needs are far deeper and are usually the source of the other problems. To minister in this way requires a great deal of spiritual sensitivity. It may require some bold action to confront people with their “real” problem, which is spiritual in nature.

Class Notes

32. What is your church doing to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the community?

33. How do you see yourself fitting in with the ministry of the diaconate in your church?

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Lesson 9