March 17, 2023


Installation Message ❧ Part 1 of 1

1 Timothy 3:8-13, & Other Scriptures ❧ March 17, 2024

Not long ago we as a church family voted into office a number of people to serve in the office of trustee or deacon.  This morning we want to formally recognize and honor them, as well as join together in pray for them.

I’m going to be speaking to two groups of people this morning.  First, to our church family as a whole and second to our trustees and deacons.   

First to our church family. There are only two offices given in the New Testament for church leaders: Elders and Deacons.  Both are primarily described in 1 Timothy 3.  Both share a number of important similarities.  Both elders and deacons emphasize proven Christ-like character as nonnegotiable requirements for serving.  Both character qualifications are nearly identical – except when it comes to preaching and teaching, which is a requirement of elders.  Both are character based, not gift based. No gifts are required to be an elder or deacon.  Both must have a deep-rooted faith true to Scripture.  Both serve God’s people in complimentary roles like the right hand working with the left.  

But there are some differences as well.  The office of Elder is reserved for men only, while the office of deacon can be held by both men and women.  As well, God uniquely appointed elders to serve in leading while He appointed deacons to serve in helping.  To put it another way, the office of elder in the Bible has a clear job description, while the office of deacon doesn’t.  This may surprise us, but when it comes to deacons, there is no set-in-stone job description in the Bible outside of the fact they are God’s servants serving God’s people.  The clearest job description the Bible gives them is in their title – deacon, which is a transliteration of the Greek word for “servant.”  Their primary role then is to be God’s servants serving God’s people.  In the Bible we see deacons assisting the elders helping to meet the general needs of the church family while freeing the elders to focus on the ministry of the word, prayer, and spiritual oversight. 

You might ask, where does the title Trustee fit in? Trustee is in essence another term for servant. Both deacons and trustees are God’s servants serving God’s people. Deacons have an emphasis on serving the needs of God’s people, while trustees have an emphasis of serving the needs of God’s property.  There is an invisible line between people and property.  Both are God’s and both are important.  Either way, both are God’s servants serving God’s people following God’s will for God’s glory.  Now, I want to switch the aim of my message to our trustees and deacons. 

  1. A servant’s characterThe character qualities of deacons (and trustees) are listed in 1 

Timothy 3:8-13. Let me read them for you (Read 1 Tim. 3:8-13, NAS).  Depending on how you look at them, there are roughly four to eleven proven character qualities listed (some overlap).  Notice, they are all proven character qualities.  No gifts are mentioned.  Being a deacon is not about spiritual gifting. Lets briefly unpack four of them. 

One – Paul says they must be men of dignity.  The same is said of women in verse eleven. Deacons must likewise must be men of dignity…women must likewise be dignified… (1 Timothy 3:8,11).  That is, men and women who are worthy of respect, whose Christian character is worth imitating.  This qualification is like an umbrella over not being double tongued – not a gossip. Not addicted to much wine – a person who drinks to excess.  Not fond of sordid gain– not greedy, they can be trusted with money in taking care of the needs of the church.  

Sadly, there is a great deal of dispute whether a woman can be a deacon.  The debate centers around whether Paul was speaking of the wives of deacons or women who served as deacons whether their husbands are deacons or not.  The word Paul uses for women in verse eleven can mean wife or woman.  We have to look at how the rest of the Bible addresses this to have a clear sense.  For the sake of time, let me say two things: 1) First, Paul seems to have both men and women in mind as deacons by the word “likewise” in verse eleven where he lists four qualifications of women that are the same that apply to men.  2) If this verse only applies to the wives of deacons, then why are there no requirements for the wives of elders? It doesn’t make sense that a higher standard would be held for male deacon than elder who holds the highest position in the church (Breshears, p. 76). 

Two –  they need to be Biblically grounded in their convictions. holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience(v. 9). Deacons and trustees need to know the Word of God and how to obey it.  The word “holding” has the idea they never let go of God’s Word.  It is their constant authoritative guide; the anchor of their convictions.  The roots of their faith never stop growing in the riches and depth of God’s wisdom contained in His Word. 

This is a needed quality now more than ever before.  Stand firm in God’s Word and wisdom no matte what.  During the early days of the Salvation Army, William Booth and his team were bitterly attacked by the media and the government alike.  Whenever his son, Bramwell, showed Booth a new public attack, the General would reply, “Bramwell, fifty years from now it will matter very little indeed how these people treated us; it will matter a great deal how we dealt with the work of God.”   Fifty years from now it will matter little whether the world agrees with your convictions or not.  What will matter is how firmly you held to the Word of God.  I can say first-hand, this is true of those we are honoring today. 

Three – Tested and proved. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach(v. 10).  Their character is proven over time and experience.  Many of the Bible’s leaders were first tested as servants.  Joseph was a servant in Egypt for thirteen years before God made him second in command over all Egypt.  Moses served his father-in-law as a shepherd for forty years before he shepherded God’s people. Joshua served Moses for years before becoming Moses’ successor.  David took care of his father’s sheep.  Some churches make the mistake of using the office of the church in hopes of getting someone involved.  Let me assure you, that is a recipe for disaster both for the church family and the person not ready or qualified to serve.  The men and women you see here today have demonstrated a proven character. 

Four – Homes that honor God. Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households(12).  The first place of ministry is the home.  This begins with moral purity in marriage and parenting.   

  1. A servant’s calling Both trustees and deacons called to be servants. Being called a servant 

isn’t exactly prestigious; it never has been.  It’s not a title or role that speaks of importance or authority.  In fact, it does anything but that.  It smacks of seeming unimportance.  But the men and women we honor today are not just servants, they’re God’s servants.  And there is a world of difference between the two.  

In the Bible, being a servant is nothing out of the ordinary.  Joseph, Moses, Joshua, were all servants or slaves.  Most of the world’s history has been marked by one form of slavery or another.  Some would say what slavery was in the Bible is what is called employment today!    

We tend to think, if you’re a slave you have no status, no importance.  But that’s not really true.   Joseph, for instance, was the slave of Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s bodyguard.  Joseph wasn’t just any slave; he was Potiphar’s slave!  He was the slave of a very important person.  Not only that, but Joseph the slave in charge of all of Potiphar’s house.  In other words, the greater your owner, the greater your status.  

The point is this: when we say the men and women, we’re honoring today are God’s servants, we’re saying there is no higher status! No greater calling!  In the Psalms, David counsels the kings of this world, with all their pomp and pride, if they were truly wise, they would become servants of the most high God. Let all kings bow down before Him, All nations serve Him(Psalm 72:11, NLT). Jesus said,  If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him (John 12:26, NAS).  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). There is no greater Servant than Jesus.  In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born as a man and became like a servant (Philippians 2:5-7, NCV).   

D.L. Moody, the most famous evangelist in the world in the late 1800s, understood what it means being servant of God.  It is said he shared the Gospel to more than one-hundred-million people! People came from around the world to attend his Bible Conferences in Northfield, Massachusetts. 

One year a large group of pastors from Europe were among the attendees. They were given rooms in the dormitory of the Bible school. As was the custom in Europe, the men put their shoes outside the door of their room, expecting them to be cleaned and polished by servants during the night.

Of course there were no servants in the American dorm, but as Moody was walking through the halls and praying for his guests, he saw the shoes and realized what had happened. He mentioned the problem to a few of his students, but none of them offered to help. Without another word, the great evangelist gathered up the shoes and took them back to his own room where he began to clean and polish each pair. Moody told no one what he had done, but a friend who interrupted him in the middle of shining the shoes and helped him finish the task later told the story of what had happened.

When the foreign visitors opened their doors the next morning, their shoes were shined. They never knew by whom. Moody told no one, but his friend told a few people, and during the rest of the conference, different men volunteered to shine the shoes in secret.  He was a man with a servant’s heart and that was the basis of his true greatness.

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