Jump Start # 2202
1 Timothy 3:10 “And let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.”
A congregation looks to appoint some new deacons. There is work to be done. Within the church there are several young family men who attend regularly and seem to be nice guys. Names are submitted. The preacher presents a lesson about deacon qualifications and a couple of weeks later, more deacons are added. This is a common picture in many congregations. Most times it flows smoothly. What is sometimes overlooked is the “pre-deacon” requirement. This is our verse today.
Within our verse is a priority statement. The word “first,” tells us that there is an order. We know this word in other places. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” He also said to first, remove the plank out of your eye before you help someone who has a speck in their eye. First.
Let them first be tested or proven. This is not some challenge that the elders think of and if they pass this “test” then they can be deacons. This is not like a “pre-med” or a “pre-law” entrance exam. Paul is referring to what we already know about these men that we want to be deacons. They have already shown themselves to be worthy.
This tells us that there are tasks to be done by folks who do not carry the title of elder or deacon. Help was needed, and these men proved themselves. They showed that they were faithful, dependable and capable of doing what needed to be done. It didn’t go to their heads and they thought that they could now run the place. No one runs the place other than Christ.
The test factor is important. Some get the idea that if a guy isn’t really on the ball and doesn’t come like he ought to, making him a deacon will help him step it up spiritually. The responsibility will force him to turn it up a notch. Grand idea, but it usually bombs. More often, that becomes a deacon that doesn’t show up very much. Everyone wonders why he is a deacon and no one is certain what he does. He had never proven himself before he was appointed. He wasn’t doing much before he was a deacon and now, he’s not doing much after he is a deacon. For his sake and the church, he ought to resign until he develops the heart of a servant which is the description of a deacon.
All of this filters down to how have any of us shown ourselves to each other and the Lord? Have we demonstrated that the kingdom is important to us? Have we proven that we can do something without complaining or messing things up? Can the church count on us? Do we have to have a title before we will do anything?
Although nothing here carries over to the preacher, I wonder if this would be a good idea as well. Many a man can stand behind the pulpit, and with confidence and great speaking ability, deliver a passionate sermon. But what’s he like out of the pulpit? What is his work ethic? What’s he doing the rest of the week?
The common model that most congregations use to hire a new preacher is to bring the preacher and his family over for a weekend. The preacher will preach his best sermons. At a pitch-in, everyone spends a little time basically asking the same questions, where did you go to school, how old are your children, where do you now live? It’s awkward and usually doesn’t accomplish much. Another sermon in the evening, a quick meeting with the elders about finances, time table when he could move and a couple of common doctrinal questions, his views on divorce, and whether or not his wife will work and with that the preacher and his family head home and await a phone call. By the next Sunday the elders have gotten a feel from the congregation, and a phone call is made and an offer is presented and the preacher is happy and it’s full steam ahead. That’s the typical way preachers are hired. Been there and done that. Very stressful. Very incomplete.
No one really knows what the new preacher does during the week. No one knows how hard he works of if he golfs every day. And, far too often, within five years the congregation will be going through this again because they will have become disappointed in the current preacher. He doesn’t work, some will say. He doesn’t do anything outside the pulpit, others say. And, it seems that everyone is shocked by this. No one gave this any consideration. And, worse of all, the church will repeat the same process again with the next preacher, hoping that this time they have found a “good one.”
Tested and proven. That’s essential before a man can be a deacon. Shouldn’t something similar be said concerning the preacher? Here are some ideas about finding a new preacher:
Rather than bring him over to preach, go to him and observe how he interacts with a place he is familiar with. Instead of immediately putting him in the pulpit to “try out,” bring him over for some intense meetings with the elders. Find out why he wants to move. Find out what he has accomplished. Find out what a typical week looks like, in detail. Talk about what plans, goals he has in his life. Where does he want to be in five years. Share what concepts you have for the congregation. Many meetings. Discussions. Insights. You will be able to tell if everyone is on the same page. You can see how he communicates. Does he listen. Does he have ideas. Is he motivated. Who does he look up to spiritually. Who trained him. How long has he been at each place he has preached. What challenges has he faced. Has he ever worked with elders. What was that like. Detailed discussions, before anyone else knows and before he preaches to the congregation. You are seeing and deciding if he is a good fit for the church. It may be after these intense meetings, that you decide to pass on him. Maybe he’s not what you are looking for. You have saved a lot of heartache by coming to this decision before he ever stood behind the pulpit.
I’ve heard of preachers trying out and not even using their own sermons. They used someone else’s work. That got unnoticed because no one dared to ask or checked to find out.
First, proven. Great concept. It will eliminate a lot of heartache and trouble. Unproven, untested opens the door for trouble. We test drive cars before we purchase. Drugs are tested before they come on the market. Most electronics have been inspected before they are sold. To be a pilot, doctor, nurse, teacher, lawyer there are tests that first have to be passed.
The revivalist Wesley once said that some men are so grand in the pulpit that they should never leave. But once they leave they are so wicked that they should never get back in the pulpit.
Proven. It’s a good thought to remember.