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On Sunday, we installed the first deacons of Austin City Life, 5 months after they completed training! Church planting! We introduced them as lead servants in our church who have demonstrated a commitment to the character, theology, and service of deacon. It was a sweet time to reflect on the gospel growth in our church, and to celebrate our deacons commitment.

As I introduced each person, I asked them the following question: “Do you pledge, by God’s grace, to serve this church with the character, faith, and service fitting of a deacon? If so, say ‘I do’”. This question simulateously called each person to sober commitment and to God’s all-sufficient grace in serving the church. I am thrilled to have such fine deacons dedicated to the good of our church, the good of the city, and the glory of God!

Here are the Deacon Resources we used and developed along the way. The newest contribution is the manuscript and outline of what I said during the installment. Hope it helps.

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I am finally getting around to some overdue Deacon candidate interviews. After three sessions of training (I, II, & III), I am meeting with each candidate. In preparation I am praying for each candidate, re-reading their reflection papers, and formulating candidate specific questions. During the interview I am looking for their understanding and commitment to Gospel, Community, and Mission.

In general, I begin by catching up with them and asking them the following questions:

  1. Communion with God: Describe your walk with the Lord. How is it going?
  2. Office of Deacon: From what you have learned about the office of deacon, what are you concerned and excited about in potentially serving the church in this way?
  3. Purity of Life: Are there any areas in your life that are out of step with the character of a deacon? Do you struggle with impurity in any particular area?
  4. The Gospel: Describe how the gospel is shaping your life and decision-making.
  5. Mission: How are you currently living out the mission of Christ?

These have been influenced by Tim Keller.

As we continue the process of developing deacons, our most recent meeting focused on The Practice of Deacons. A previous post lists resources for A Theology of Deacons, the focus of our first meeting. In attempting to work out the practice of deacons, we found it helpful to make a distinction between two areas of service—community and mission-focused deacons.

There are two main areas of service—community-focused and mission-focused service. Mission-focused deacons serve in ways that change over time. For example, the Early Church probably didn’t have Media or Arts Deacons but they did have deacons that served widows and orphans. As the church expands and contracts throughout history, moving from continent to continent, culture to culture, the expression of the church varies. As a result, there are some areas of service that remain the same and others that change. Consequently, the cultural and historical expression of the church requires deacons that serve the mission of the church and deacons that serve a church of mission.

There are deacon ministries that are pretty standard, transcultural and transhistorical such as: mission/social justice, community/benevolence, financial. These ministries have historical and biblical precedent, focusing not so much on outward mission but more on inward ministry to the community of faith. In summary, there are community-focused and mission-focused areas of ministry for deacons, ministries that serve the mission of the church and ministries that serve the church of mission.

Tonight we had our first of three sessions on deacon training. I was moved by the number of quality of potential deacons sitting in our house. God has been so kind to Austin City Life! In preparation for training our deacons, I did the following:

Then I wrote and mailed a letter of invitation to potential deacons, gave them a copy of Driscoll’s booklet, and developed a teaching outline for our three session Deacon Training. In all of this I borrowed heavily from Bob Thune and David Fairchild. Thanks guys! Here’s the list of topics we are covering each month:

October 5, 2008 – 1st training meeting @ Dodson’s house

Discussion topic: A Theology of Deacons

Assignment: One Page Reflection Paper on 1 Tim 3:8-13

November 2, 2008 – 2nd training meeting @ Dodson’s house

Discussion topic: The Practice of Deacons

Assignment: One Page “Dream” Ministry Description

December 7, 2008 – 3rd training meeting @ Dodson’s house

Discussion topic: Holding to the Mystery of Faith

Next Assignment: One Page Summary of the Gospel

December 8-14, 2008Interviews and Installation

Mark Driscoll has written a series of booklets called A Book You Will Actually Read. The one on Church Leadership is a gem–concise, biblical, informative. We ordered a bunch for our leaders and will distribute them at our next leadership training.

Topics

  • Elders
  • Deacons
  • Members
  • Jesus in the Church
  • Women in leadership
  • Organizing the Church
  • Air war and ground war

I meet with two guys every two weeks for pastoral accountability. I hesitate to use the word “accountability” given all its negative connotations. I have written on those here, charting a more gospel-grounded approach to accountability. We read through a book of the Bible every two weeks and then meet to do “Text-Theology-Life”. Currently we are reading through 1 Timothy.

Chapter three is about the qualifications of an overseer/elder. These are easy to read with a view to cultivating more elders/pastors, but the Spirit slowed me down enough to consider, not assume, my own status in practicing these qualifications. The string of adjectives can be intimidating: “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” In particular, I have been lingering over “manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” One way to get at what Paul means is to consider the opposite.

If your house is in disorder, with kids managing the parents based on their incessant wants and unruly behavior, then chances are the household is not well managed. If kids schedules and pleadings are constantly caved into, its the kids that run the home, not the parents.

Some planters/pastors abdicate this responsibility in pursuit of “nobler church ministry,” but the logic of Paul is exactly the opposite: “If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” Some are so busy managing their churches, that they neglect their own families. This is a disqualification for pastoral ministry. It puts the cart before the horse, church before family. Some of us need to repent both privately and publicly over this sin.

However, we can’t mistake generally problem free households for well-managed households. My kids have a pretty good tempermants, but am I managing—protectively and caringly leading—my family practically and spiritually? Am I modeling and cultivating tenderness, respect, and obedience? Or am I just coasting on good kid temperament? Do I take time to instruct my children with patience and love? Do I pray with them and teach them about Jesus? Do I spend time with my wife away from the kids discussing family life and just delighting in her? These are questions I am asking myself.

For some helpful audio and notes on the qualifications of pastors/elders, check out Darrin Patrick’s talk “Developing Elders, Deacons, and Members.