On Sunday at our Deacon Training we discussed how be a deacon that doesn’t just do ministry. We don’t want to have deacons (or volunteers) that serve out of sheer duty. Rather, we want to cultivate disciples and deacons that serve from the strength that God provides in the gospel, thru the Spirit. Joyful deacons, not jaded deacons.
As Neil Cole points out, mundane service such as setting up or tearing down, can be disconnected from both the gospel and the mission of the church. It is unfortunate that mundane tasks are viewed as lesser, when in fact, they are frequently the greater task, requiring greater servants.
Service in the local church doesn’t have to kill her. In order to promote a gospel-centered approach to service in the church, we discussed what it looks like to connect the gospel to web design, media work, and traffic direction (and these are just Sunday examples; the church is much, much more). To cut to the chase, we concluded that publishing the gospel on the web has a remarkable impact on people who read manuscripts and listen to podcasts. For those that direct traffic, they are actually pointing people to Jesus, and some of these people have never really understood who Jesus is. Both traffic direction and media work contribute significant to the gospel-centered mission of the church, so deacons take heart.
But what keeps us from duty-driven service that leads to weariness and bitterness? The gospel. We spent some time considering how the three perspectives on the gospel ground us in Jesus and call us to mission. We also discussed the idea of leaning away from the gospel into people pleasing (not Christ pleasing) service or leaning into “screw the responsibility,” self-pleasing service. We were reminded that serving in the strength that God provides is essential to church-edifying, Christ-honoring work.
Instead of working to please pastors, we work because God is already pleased with us in Jesus. We don’t need the approval of pastors (though encouragement is important). The path of irresponsibility is also deceptively dangerous. Abandoning service to the people of God is an abandoning of the gospel, a gospel that has remade us to serve, that has wonderfully enslaved us in love to one another. Of course, seasons of rest are important, and one of our deacon candidates is in that season. In the end, we serve not to be spiritual but becase we are spiritual; we are new creatures who live out the new life we have received from the Spirit.