“Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 3:13
It seems rare to find someone genuinely excited to serve in church leadership. Many elders and deacons sigh when ‘their turn’ comes around. We all do the work well, but the work can be draining.
Sometimes the primary leaders are responsible (read: pastors). Meetings can go long, communication can be poor, the plot and purpose of the church can get lost in all the details of organizational leadership. In the practice of leading, we can easily forget why we are leading and where we are going.
Sometimes denominational structures are responsible for this lack of excitement. Our meetings become filled with checking items off the required list. We spend more time explaining and defending our in-house acronyms and jargon and less time listening, praying, and leading.
I believe that good structure can facilitate good leadership. I am also called to be a pastor who serves in leadership in the church. I have been responsible for long and poorly led meetings. I have participated in jargon-filled discussions that have seemed to move us away from the Spirit’s work in this community. I believe that all of these things can and should be improved for the sake of the local church and its mission. And much of that starts with me.
But I also believe that Paul offers another angle on the lack of excitement that can be prevalent in church leadership. In writing to Timothy about the roles of elders and deacons in the church he concludes with this remark about the office of deacon: “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.” (3:13).
Serving well is an honor. We gain respect and standing within the church and assurance in our faith in Christ. When was the last time heading to a consistory meeting increased our faith? When was the last time we left a meeting of deacons and felt honored to do the work? If we cannot remember, then maybe we need a reinvigorated sense of our work.
Elders provide spiritual care and direction for the congregation. The spiritual lives of the congregation have been entrusted to their care. It is the elders and ministers who are charge to ask, “How is your walk with God?” They ask this not because they are nosey, but because they genuinely care for the person in front of them. Elders have a ‘noble task’ (3:1). They care for the church, teach the truth of God’s word, and provide the means of grace to the whole body.
Deacons are tasked with mercy and compassion. They visit the sick, care for widows, and steward the resources of the church. Their hearts are to be filled to the brim with love and care of the poor and downtrodden. Out of deep Christian conviction, they pour out the resources God has entrusted to the church for the sake of mercy, mission, and evangelism.
Maybe we lack excitement because we have forgotten what we are called to do. Yes, meetings often lack fireworks, but the true work of elders, ministers, and deacons is worth giving your life to. It is worth pouring out time and energy to see children and adults come to know Christ, to see the poor lifted out of poverty, to teach the truth of God’s word, and to pray with the hurting.
“Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus”
That is a calling worth getting excited about.