Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Simply Meeting Needs


Many people refer to my position as minister. This is true, but it is not a position, as much as a description. The other two particular functions that Paul describes to Timothy that he is to fulfill are…to evangelize – share the Good News and to preach – literally herald the Word of God. For the purpose of this message, we consider the first word – minister. The funny, but not so funny, part is that in some places, “the minister” is the only one. The reality is that we are all ministers, according to the definition of the word. Even though it is a title given to those in my position, it is but one of the many functions that "ministers" perform.

Diakonos – can mean deacon, minister or servant…the same Greek word is used for all three English words. Diakonos, as well as doulos (slave), represents one who is not at his own disposal, but is the property of his master. This is an individual who has been purchased to serve the needs of his master…and he is to be ready at all times. So, for Christians...the meaning is easily understood isn’t it? We are bondservants, ministers of our Lord (Master) and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul begins many of his letters this way. The way that we serve our Master is by ministering to, serving our fellow-servants and being willing to do literally anything in order to help them. This is the love demonstrated by Jesus at the Last Supper when he played the part of the servant, slave and washed the disciples’ feet. When the NT speaks of ministering to the saints, it does not primarily mean teaching, preaching, or holding to an office of some sort. It is devoting time, energy and substance to giving others all of the practical help that we can possibly give. Only the Holy Spirit can help us to experience this kind of love…a servant’s heart is only born out in a heart that is submitted to the will of the Master.

In Acts 6, the church is experiencing growing pains, making it difficult for the apostles to minister to everyone. The apostles select seven diakonos'. There is no official title given to these individuals, which as I have said, is the way it should be in many respects. They are servants…the word diakonos is used in vv.1-2, so some have called these men “proto-deacons”. Diakonos is mentioned in Phil 1:1 and the qualities inherent in deacons found in 1 Timothy 3:8-13; in addition, the word is used to describe Phoebe in Romans 16:1ff.

We must not "be waiting at the airport waiting for our ship to come in" on this subject. I think that, at times, we have been so caught up in “qualifications” for some “office,” that we have practically missed the point of what the church needs…servants. We need to be certain that we have quality people according to 1 Timothy, but little is said in the pastoral epistles about what a deacon actually does in serving. We do see examples of it here, in principle, and in some of the other passages mentioned. And what we see…are people who are already living it, doing it; these are the ones appointed to the task. What congregations need are participants…servants. Our churches have too many "bosses" wanting to call the shots and not enough "servants". This is, at least in part, why so many churches struggle. Elders, preachers, deacons and other ministry leaders must be servants, first and foremost! Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28).

Often, in ministry, “necessity is the mother of invention”…it was 1904 and Charles Menches was one of 50 vendors serving saucers of ice cream at an exposition in St. Louis. Business was booming on a hot, August day when he ran out of clean saucers. Menches turned to a stand next door operated by a Syrian named Hamwi, who had come to the fair from Damascus to sell zalabia. Hamwi had been rolling his soft wafer-like pastry baked in a waffle iron into cone shapes…hmmm. Menches took some and filled them with ice cream. The ice cream cone was born out of necessity and success was instantaneous. Ministry is much like this. Blessings,


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