History’s first deacon assignment was an all-out widow war that threatened the future of the Jerusalem church. Without these first seven deacons, the very first local church would have split in two and the apostles would have eventually burned themselves out.
The Jerusalem church started growing again as the pastors re-devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Pastors and deacons have been serving side-by-side imperfectly for two millennia for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom ever since.
Pastor, if you are interested in embracing your original call to partner with deacons and/or elders, I want to suggest four ways they can protect you.
1. A deacon can help protect you from your fans.
The crowds that followed Jesus often asked more from Him than was reasonable. Immediately after He fed the 5,000, that crowd tried to “take Him by force to make Him king” (John 6:15). By the end of that same chapter, Jesus’ teachings got so tough that “many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him” (John 6:66).
Fans are fickle.
Friends are faithful.
Fans chase pastors down in stores and restaurants. They text pastors at any time and for any reason, then complain because he didn’t reply fast enough. Friends, on the other hand, will protect pastors from their fickle fans. Friends walk in and clean up the mess the fans left on their way out of the church.
Pastors don’t need fans—they need friends. Local churches need their deacons and/or elders to become faithful friends to their pastors.
2. A deacon can help protect you from your critics.
Early in his ministry, a handful of deacons from First Baptist Orlando came to Pastor Jim Henry’s home to pray for him. They told him, “Anybody who comes after you has to come through us first.” Henry later said, “Those guys kept their word. Deacons have had my back for over 50 years.”
Church critics see themselves as the pastor police who are protecting the church, but they are nothing less than schoolyard bullies. Is your church a safe place to pastor? If not, deputize your deacons to wage peace in the hallways of your church.
3. A deacon can help protect you from the enemy.
The devil is a terrorist who strategically targets pastors. A simple way to let your leaders protect you is to ask them to pray for you before each worship service or at whatever time is most convenient. Selectively recruit one or two intercessors, or a rotation, and ask one of them to be the time keeper so that this doesn’t devolve into a distracting chat time.
4. A deacon can help protect you from yourself.
The pastor in the mirror is much more dangerous than his fans, critics, or even the devil. We need to surround ourselves with trusted leaders who love us enough to protect us from ourselves.
Initiating accountability is much less intrusive than waiting for it to be assigned to you. Deacons won’t hold this sacred assignment lightly, especially if you use it as a preventive measure. Make sure they understand the biblical ground rules: privately, respectfully, and in love (Matthew 18:15; Ephesians 4:15).
If you are a deacon or church leader and your pastor is drowning, don’t yell advice from the shore. Jump in and help him.
If you are a pastor—let your deacons help you. In doing so, you will allow them the privilege of fulfilling their biblical call to protect their pastor.