If you’re like me, you can look back over your life and see special days that stand out above others. I’m talking about those days that kind of “glow” in your memory because they were days when life-changing things happened. For me days like this include August 14, 1979—the day I married Sue and June 23, 1983, August 19, 1988 and April 19, 1990…the days that each of our children were born. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about—in fact, I imagine that even now you’re thinking of the “stand out days” in your own life. Well, another one of the days that stands out in my memory is May 21, 1982. That was the day I graduated from Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Here’s a picture we took on the lawn in front of the chapel after the graduation service.
There were about 200 in my graduating class and on that special day we were all packed into the chapel along with the faculty and a several hundred family and friends. Back then the chapel at Southern wasn’t air conditioned and it was hot that day—so we were all more than a little uncomfortable in our caps and gowns. I remember being thankful that my last name began with an “A” because that meant I was first in line, which put me on the end of the side aisle—right next to an open window. But the more I think about it I also remember the air that day was not just hot—it was also charged with excitement and emotion…because each of us knew we were about to go out in the world to serve our God—fulfilling His special call in our lives.
And—after all the degrees had been awarded, and all the speeches had been made, we concluded our service by standing and singing a hymn whose words have always stuck with me because they expressed so beautifully how we each felt that day. The hymn was written by Charles Wesley and it goes like this:
“A CHARGE to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill;
O may it all my pow’rs engage
To do my Master’s will!
Arm me with watchful care
As in Thy sight to live
And now Thy servant, Lord prepare
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And still on Thee rely
O let me not Thy trust betray,
But press to realms on High.”
Well, we sang that song with a lot of passion and gusto. When we finished all eyes were glistening because we felt as if those words had been written just for us. After all, we had answered God’s call to ministry and then gone to seminary to prepare for that call…and on that special day, after three years of studies we were about to walk out those doors and fulfill that CHARGE that had been given us by God.
Now—If you’re wondering why I was inspired to take this walk down the road known as “Adams memory lane…”— well it is because Amy, Paul, & John, you TOO have answered God’s call—the call to serve Him as a deacon in this church—and because you have, you also have a CHARGE to fulfill. I’ll expect you to learn this hymn and sing it well!
All kidding aside, this morning I want to take a few minutes to remind you of those tasks you are CHARGED with as a deacon.
(1) First, you are charged to love JESUS.
In fact we expect you to show your love for Jesus by striving every day to be more an more like Him in your thoughts…in your words…in your actions. The great missionary, Adoniram Judson, was once asked by reporters if it were true that people were comparing him to the Apostle Paul. He replied, “If that be true, I am sorry that is being said: I don’t want to be like Paul; I want to be like Jesus.” We you need to have Judson’s mind set—because to fulfill your calling as a deacon you will need to be like Jesus—you will need to strive every day for spiritual maturity & Christlikeness. So, I encourage you to arrange your life around those tried but true spiritual disciplines that enable us to become more and more like Jesus. Devote yourselves to daily prayer and Bible study—to private and public worship. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:11, “…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.”
You will need to grow in Christlikeness—you will need to become spiritually strong—because you have been given a job that is impossible to do without the power of God. You see, in the years to come, not only will you be lifted up as an example of spiritual maturity that others can follow…and you certainly will…you will also be asked to help the hurting, minister to the sick, and counsel those who need direction in life. In short, challenging and often difficult ministry awaits you in coming years.
In fact I would say that this morning you are being charged with SUPERNATURAL tasks—things that will be impossible for you to complete on your own strength. Let me put it this way—you can no more be an effective deacon on your own than Peter could walk on water on his own. So, like Peter, you must learn to keep your eyes on Jesus—to instinctively look to Him for strength and insight and wisdom every single day.
As your pastor I have discovered the hard way how important it is that I rely on God’s power rather than my own. Anytime I’ve tried to do this job on my own ability I’ve fallen flat on my face. So whenever I am preparing a message or visiting in the hospital, or counseling someone, or dealing with a difficult decision—I am constantly praying, “Help me God…Help me..” because I’ve learned that without His help and strength and perspective I am lost and ineffective.
You’ll need to learn this simple prayer as well—you’ll need to train yourself to say, “God I need Your help and insight. Help me to minister to this person’s need.” In the New Testament, there is a lot of information about deacons. But, I want you to note that the EMPHASIS in all these verses is on what deacons are to BE rather than on what they are to DO. This is because BEING always comes before DOING. DEACONS are to BE men and women of Christian maturity; they are to BE right with God, their family, and their fellow men in every way before they can DO their jobs. So, I charge you to make it your goal to BE all you can BE for Jesus. Show your love for Him by striving to be more and more like Him. Make it your goal to grow spiritually.
(2) And then, you are also charged to love His CHURCH.
We expect you to love and cherish the Redland family so much that as a deacon you constantly strive to keep it healthy and strong. In other words, you are charged with doing all you can to keep our fellowship sweet. You may remember the book of Acts tells us that the incident in the early church that led to the formation of deacons in the first place was the ABSENCE of unity…caused by the grumbling and complaining of the Grecian widows who felt they were being overlooked and even shortchanged in the daily distribution of food. Well, the office of deacon was God’s answer to that problem. With the help of the first seven deacons, peace was restored and the church in Jerusalem resumed and even increased its growth.
Just like those first seven deacons, you are charged with preserving the unity we enjoy here in this church. Now, Amy, Paul, and John, I want you to understand that this may very well be the most important thing you do as a deacon…because harmony in a church is still one of the KEYS to health and growth. It is one of the “foundational pillars” on which our church is built.
There’s an old legend about the parcel of ground upon which Solomon’s temple was built in Jerusalem. Perhaps you’ve heard it. According to the tale, two brothers had farms that joined on the very place where the temple was eventually built. One of the brothers was married and had a family but the other was single. At harvest time one year, the married brother thought how lonely his single sibling must be without a family to keep him company. He thought, “His life must be a lonely one, I will take some of my sheaves from my harvest and add them to his harvest. I cannot give him a wife and children, but I can make his life more pleasant by giving him some of the good things I have.” Well, at the same time, the other brother thought to himself, “My married brother has a family to support and his harvest may not be sufficient to care for his wife and children. I will share with him out of my abundant harvest.” When harvest time rolled around, after the brothers returned from the fields to their respective homes, each gathered up an armload of sheaves, took them to the other’s barn, and stacked the sheaves with those already there. In the morning, each brother looked at his larger stack of sheaves and wondered why they had increased during the night. Then one night, when the moon was full, the truth came out. The brothers happened to meet on the road, with full arms, going to the other’s house to deposit his load of sheaves. And according to the legend, on that place, where love was shown so beautifully, Solomon built his temple.
Of course this is only a legend but there is a lesson here. You see, when members of a church love each other, and express that love in sacrificial acts—peace and joy grow in that fellowship and all are blessed. One of the reasons our church continues to attract new members is because of the sweet, sweet spirit of fellowship that pervades our midst. When visitors walk through these doors they feel our harmony and are drawn to it. Members of my 101 class repeatedly tell me this. They sense that we love each other here in a Christlike fashion and they keep coming back because they want to be loved like that.
But you know, unity and harmony is a fragile thing—it can easily be damaged or destroyed by an idle word of gossip or by quarreling and grumbling and complaining. This is one of the devil’s favorite tools and you are to be on your guard to help thwart these kinds of attacks. Paul Powell once received a letter from a pastor in Africa whom he had met on a mission trip. The pastor wrote, “We need prayers very badly in this area. The devil is working mightily for the first people to work in this station left the gospel and started quarreling. And you know where there is quarreling, the devil is there.” We all need to remember that quarreling and grumbling are not spiritual gifts. It doesn’t take any musical ability to always be “harping” on something behind someone’s back. So, Amy, John, and Paul, deacons like yourselves are charged to be out among the people, preserving harmony…squashing gossip and rumors. You are to support one another and our church staff both publically and privately. You are to do all you can to guard and protect unity—like a soldier guards the gold at Ft. Knox.
The truth is, when a person becomes a deacon—or a pastor for that matter—they forfeit the right to promote a division in the life of the church in any fashion. When things arise that are divisive it is time for the deacon who believes that Jesus is his or her Lord and that the Bible is his or her authority in life…to stand up and say, “We must have harmony and peace if we are to honor and obey Christ.” It is in times like these that a deacon should remind the church that the Bible teaches that “the peace of Christ is to rule in our hearts since as members of one body we are called to peace.”
So…you are charged with loving Jesus…loving this church…
(3) And, finally, you are charged to love your FAMILIES.
As you learned this weekend on our retreat deacons are given several tasks like serving communion, distributing benevolence, counseling people who make decisions, etc. But the most important task you will be given is to serve the families that are assigned to you. Well, get to know these families. Make yourself available to help them when necessary. Do your best to make sure no one falls through the cracks. I would remind you that the word “deacon” literally means “servant” so constantly look for ways to SERVE the families that are entrusted to your care. As Paul says in Galatians 5:13 “Through love, SERVE one another.”
Remember, Jesus said that when we serve others—it is as if we are serving Him. This week I read that the homeless people of Portland, Oregon, gather under the Burnside Bridge and everyone in Portland knows this. Well, for more than three years, carloads of Christians from an organization called Bridgetown Ministries have shown up on Friday nights and ministered to these needy men and women. In addition to providing hot meals, shaves, and haircuts, some of the volunteers even wash the homeless people’s feet. Tom Krattenmaker, a writer for USA Today, was stunned by the display. In an article he wrote in 2006 entitled, “A Witness to What Faith Can be” he called it, “…one of the most audacious acts of compassion and humility I have ever witnessed.” This group of society’s outcasts had their bare feet immersed in warm water, scrubbed, dried, powdered, and placed in clean socks. One man reported with a smile, “I can’t find the words to describe how good that felt.” Krattenmaker commented on the significance of this foot washing, saying, “Washing someone’s feet is an act best performed while kneeling. Given the washer’s position, and the unpleasant appearance and odor of a homeless person’s feet, it’s hard to imagine an act more humbling.” In preparation for their outreach, the leader of Bridgetown Ministries offered these words: “When you go out there tonight, I want you to look for Jesus. You might see Him in the eyes of a drunk person, or a homeless person…but remember….we’re just out there to love on people…to love on them in His name.”
John, and Amy and Paul—you are charged to LOVE on people. As I said, we’ll assign you specific families to love. Do that! Serve them as if you were serving Jesus Himself.
Now will you stand as we read responsively.
ORDINATION PRAYER — Doug Ringler
And now John, Paul, & Amy, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the authority committed to me as Pastor of this wonderful congregation, I now declare you to be set apart and commissioned for the work of a Deacon, and duly called and installed to that ministry in this church. You may be seated.
We close now with a song of commitment…to encourage us ALL to follow Jesus’ example and to work to keep our church healthy and strong. But if you have another commitment to make…we invite you to make it public at this time. Perhaps you need to respond by giving your life to Jesus…professing publically that you have asked Him to forgive you and take control of your heart and life. Or…you may feel led to commit to become a part of this church…moving your membership here to this place. Whatever decision you have to make, I invite you to walk this aisle and share it with me right now as we stand and sing.
Let the PEACE OF CHRIST rule in your hearts
since as members of one body you were called to peace.
Let the WORD OF CHRIST dwell in you richly
and whatever you do…in word or in deed
Do it all in the NAME OF CHRIST giving thanks to God the Father