1 John 2:6 – “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
One of the things I learned in my years as a Youth Minister is that peer pressure is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, positive peer pressure is an essential ingredient when it comes to the growth of any youth program because, like yeast in bread, for a youth ministry to be healthy you need healthy peer influence. The more teens we had in our groups over the years who were sincerely striving to become like Jesus, the healthier the entire group was. The more positive peer influence we had the easier it was to steer the entire group in a positive direction. Healthy peer pressure is one of the benefits of camps like Centrifuge, and we went almost every year, because it gave our group an entire week of exposure to good peers-hundred of other teens who worshiped and studied the Bible together every day-not to mention the interaction our kids were able to have with a large magnetic Centrifuge staff made up of 15 to 20 amazing college students like our own Graham Davis, who loved the Lord and were passionate about their daily walk with Him. Our teens feel in love with these Centrifuge staffers and wanted to emulate them, and I was so thankful for this because their positive Christ like influence during this one week went a long way toward steering our teens in the right direction all year long.
Charge to New Deacons
I bring this up because anyone who would serve as a deacon must know that they are tasked with being good adult peers. You see, a deacon’s influence-their Christ-like example-helps steer an entire church in the direction of health and growth. Sharon and Pat, this morning we are charging you with this responsibility. Today the members of Redland Baptist Church are setting you apart to serve as “little Christs” in our midst, as you continue to live in ways make us all want to strive to be more and more like Jesus.
In my words to you I want to briefly spell out what this means by citing three qualities we expect you to display as you serve this body as deacons, three qualities that all Christ-followers should embrace.
(1) First, we expect you to display a Christ-like encouragement.
In 1Thessalonians 5:11 God’s Word commands us to, “. encourage one another and build each other up.” This kind of attitude is indeed one of the ways that we follow Christ’s example because during His earthly ministry He was constantly encouraging others. Remember? He told wishy-washy Simon that he would become Peter-the rock. He invited Matthew, to leave his life as a tax collector who took from the people and instead live out his days giving to others as he shared the love of Jesus with them. He led James and John to retire from their careers of fishing for fish to become fishers of men.
Pat and Sharon, we need our deacons to follow Jesus’ example in this because we all need to be encouraged to fulfill our potential in God’s kingdom. This is not to mention the fact that we all need a place where we can go to be EN-couraged because the world is such a DIS-couraging place!
A few months ago I was watching the news and saw the effects of encouragement on a young man, a high school senior named Jason McElwain who served as the manager of his high school basketball team. Jason is autistic and he had served as the basketball team manager for three seasons, diligently fetching water, catching rebounds, and mopping up sweat. However, for the last game of the season, Jason’s coach decided to reward the young man’s efforts by encouraging him to suit up, not necessarily to play but to at least feel what it was like to be on the team. Then, with the team ahead by 20 points and only four minutes to go, the coach put Jason in the game. Jason badly missed his first two shots, but his third was a charm-a 3-point swish. As soon as the ball went through the net, the entire gymnasium erupted with encouraging applause. This was especially true of Jason’s peers-his classmates. But Jason wasn’t done yet. He went on to hit a total of six 3-pointers-a Greece Athena High School record. He scored 20 points in just over four minutes. With each basket, the crowd became more enthusiastic. By the time Jason hit his last shot, everyone was jumping up and down in a frenzy of excitement, happiness, and disbelief. As soon as the game ended, the bleachers emptied onto the court as the crowd gathered around Jason, and his teammates hoisted him onto their shoulders. Speaking after the game, Jason’s mother said: “This is the first moment Jason has ever succeeded and could be proud of himself. I look at autism as a Berlin Wall, and he cracked it.” The newscaster who shared the story on CBS said, “Jason has always known what it was like to feel weird, but at this game, thanks to his coach and his peers in the stands, thanks to this game Jason knew what it felt like to feel wonderful.”
In my mind this shows the incredible power of encouragement. This coach came alongside this young man and encouraged him. His peers in the stands encouraged him, and the result was amazing, inspiring. He was invited to meet the President. I believe they are even making a movie about this young man’s life.
This church is-and must always be-a place where people are encouraged like this. I will testify that it has been that kind of place for me and hundreds of others. This is a place where we are cheered. And Pat and Sharon, we’re asking you to help us to continue to be this way. As you serve, set the example for us by obeying the instruction of 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and, “.encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
(2) And then Pat and Sharon, we also expect you to live lives of Christ-like self-denial.
In that familiar passage from Philippians 2 Paul writes, “If you have . any tenderness and compassion then, your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing. ” Jesus commands His followers to emulate Him in this. As He said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would follow Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily.” So, if we are to reflect Jesus in our actions and interactions, then the needs of others must become more important to us than our own needs. Pat and Sharon, as deacons you are being called to join with the rest of our deacon servants in setting the example for us in this. You are all the standard setters when it comes to servanthood. You see, if we have 30 deacons practicing Christ-like selflessness, our entire church will be a more selfless, other-centered place.
This week I read a story about the owner of a drive-through coffee business in southwest Portland, Oregon. Apparently one morning a compassionate customer decided to pay not only for her own mocha but also for the mocha of the person in the car behind her. She drove away and the next customer pulled up and handed the owner her money and was then told that the person in front of her had paid for her java. The second customer was so pleased that someone else had purchased her coffee, that she bought coffee for the next person. Well, this string of kindness-one stranger paying for the mocha of the next customer-continued like falling dominoes for over two hours-twenty-seven customers.
That’s the way it is with selflessness, it’s catching. The more selfless peer pressure you have, the more selfless your entire church will become. So Pat and Sharon, “push the dominoes over!” Help us all to be more Christ-like in the way we serve one another.
(3) Finally, we expect you to be people of Christ-like compassion.
Now, of course, our Lord’s compassion is seen throughout the Gospel record. This fact that they knew He cared about their pain is one of the things that drew people to Him.
- Referring to Jesus, Matthew 9:36 says, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”
- When our Lord arrived at Lazarus’ home four days after His death and saw the sorrow that Mary and Martha were enduring, He wept openly. (John 11:35)
- And do you remember what He said when He looked out over the city of Jerusalem? In Matthew 23:37, He said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”
Can you sense the heart-break in those words? Our Lord felt sorrow for the sufferings of others-felt it as if it were His own, and this is part of the positive peer influence we expect from our deacons. We expect them to set the example for us all in the way they compassionately minister to hurting people. This is very important because if we are to draw lost people to Jesus we must be a church that is known for its compassion.
While working as a journalist for the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel was assigned to report on the struggles of an impoverished, inner-city family during the weeks leading up to Christmas. A devout atheist at the time, Strobel was mildly surprised by the family’s attitude in spite of their circumstances. He writes:
“The Delgados-60-year-old Perfecta and her granddaughters, Lydia and Jenny-had been burned out of their roach-infested tenement, and were now living in a tiny, two-room apartment on the West Side. As I walked in, I couldn’t believe how empty it was. There was no furniture, no rugs, nothing on the walls-only a small kitchen table and one handful of rice. That’s it. They were virtually devoid of possessions. In fact, 11-year-old Lydia and 13-year-old Jenny owned only one short-sleeved dress each, plus one thin, gray sweater between them. When they walked the half-mile to school through the biting cold, Lydia would wear the sweater for part of the distance, and then hand it to her shivering sister, who would wear it the rest of the way. But despite their poverty and the painful arthritis that kept Perfecta from working, she still talked confidently about her faith in Jesus. She was convinced He had not abandoned them. I never sensed despair or self-pity in her home; instead, there was a gentle feeling of hope and peace.”
Strobel completed his article, then moved on to more high-profile assignments. But when Christmas Eve arrived, he found his thoughts drifting back to the Delgados and their unflinching belief in God’s providence. He writes:
“I continued to wrestle with the irony of the situation. Here was a family that had nothing but faith, and yet seemed happy, while I had everything I needed materially, but lacked faith-and inside I felt as empty and barren as their apartment.”
In the middle of a slow news day, Strobel decided to pay a visit to the Delgados. When he arrived, he was amazed at what he saw. Readers of his article had responded to the family’s need in overwhelming fashion, filling the small apartment with donations. Once inside, Strobel encountered new furniture, appliances, and rugs; a large Christmas tree and stacks of wrapped presents; bags of food; and a large selection of warm winter clothing. Readers had even donated a generous amount of cash. But it wasn’t the gifts that shocked Lee Strobel, an atheist confronted with Christmas generosity. It was the family’s compassionate response to those gifts. He writes:
“As surprised as I was by this outpouring, I was even more astonished by what my visit was interrupting. You see, Perfecta and her granddaughters were getting ready to give away much of their newfound wealth. When I asked Perfecta why, she replied in halting English: ‘Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do.’ That blew me away! If I had been in their position at that time in my life, I would have been hoarding everything. I asked Perfecta what she thought about the generosity of the people who had sent all of these goodies, and again her response amazed me. ‘This is wonderful; this is very good,’ she said, gesturing toward the largess. ‘We did nothing to deserve this-it’s a gift from God. But, ‘ she added, ‘It is not His greatest gift. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. That is Jesus.’ To her, this child in the manger was the undeserved gift that meant everything-more than material possessions, more than comfort, more than security. And at that moment, something inside of me wanted desperately to know this Jesus-because, in a sense, I saw Him in Perfecta and her granddaughters. They had peace despite poverty, while I had anxiety despite plenty; they knew the joy of generosity, while I only knew the loneliness of ambition; they looked heavenward for hope, while I only looked out for myself; they experienced the wonder of the spiritual, while I was shackled to the shallowness of the material-and something made me long for what they had-or, more accurately, for the One they knew.”
Pat and Sharon, my charge to you is that you will help this church family always be like the Delgado family. With your example help motivate us all to make this be a place where hurting people see Jesus, as we compassionately minister to each other and this community.
Now will you stand as we read responsively.
Pastor: The New Testament states that deacons must be tested first and found blameless, before being allowed to serve the church. You have passed the test and we gather today to affirm your ordination. What say you?
Candidate: We commit ourselves in personal allegiance to Christ Jesus. We will be high minded, not saying one thing and meaning another, not addicted to any drug, not out for dishonest gain. We will be students of the Word that we might in clear conscience hold the deep truths of the faith.
Pastor: You have the resolve Christ requires. The New Testament records that the purpose of a deacon is to serve the church. How do you respond to this statement?
Candidate: We commit ourselves to the service of the church for which Christ died. We will aid our pastor in the work of the ministry. We vow to visit the sick, care for the needy, tend the families of our flock and pray without ceasing.
Pastor: You have a deep understanding of the duty of deacons. I look forward to sharing the work of ministry with you. Congregation, you have heard these resolves. What say you?
Congregation: We commit ourselves to under gird the servant ministries of our deacons. We pledge to aid you in service when cooperation is needed, to join you in prayer when intercession is needed, and support you in response when input is needed. We will permit you into our homes, share with you our lives, and surround you with our prayers.
Pastor: Truly we are of one mind. As the deacons serve the congregation, the congregation supports the deacons. In mutual ministries we are joined to build the church for which Christ died…for the equipping of the saints.
Congregation: …for the work of ministry.
Candidate: …for the edifying of the body of Christ
All: To the glory of God.
(Based on 1 Timothy 3:8-13, Luke 15:3-7, Philippians 4:12)
And now Pat and Sharon, 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 with our attitudes and actions. Let this be a time when each of us pledges to be more and more like our Lord, more encouraging, more self-less, more compassionate. 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 publicly 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.