Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. (1 Timothy 3:8-10)
Most of the characteristics outlined by Paul for the role of Deacon have been covered in our study of the elder role. Once again, I refer you to the Titus one devotions in previous posts at www.storiesofvalue.com.
The concept of being “tested”, however, is newly stated. One would assume any leader would undergo an evaluation before being asked to serve, but the word “tested” suggests a defined, formal process. We aren’t told how the test was conducted. Was it an interrogation before a council with witnesses giving testimony? Was a name presented to the church family as a “trial balloon” to see if there were any problems in one’s character? Were specific tasks given to a Deacon candidate as a test to see how well they were performed?
One possible insight into this process is found in Acts six where seven men were chosen to wait on Grecian widows in the church. Although the tasks given to these men sound simple, the apostles specified they were to be men “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” Here is how the apostles framed the selection process: “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” (Acts 6:3) The phrase that jumps out to me here is “who are known to be”. It is possible the test for Deacons, as well as these men in Acts six, was nothing more than a survey of those who knew them to assess their reputation in light of given criteria.
Some churches have designed more thorough tests, including written doctrinal exams, probationary seasons of service, and interviews by other leaders. None of these are unbiblical, but I sense the system in the early church was less formal.
Regardless, it strikes me that Deacons, who were not charged with the shepherding of the flock as elders were, were viewed with no less scrutiny. I think this is because leadership in the church, regardless of one’s role, always involves people and truth. The word Deacon means “servant”, and in most congregations those who lead in this way tend to be generalists (a team of people who are gifted in many areas and capable of meeting a variety of challenges). But all leadership in the Lord’s body, specific and general, is relational and spiritual in nature.
We should test Deacons in all of the areas referenced by Paul. They are to “be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience.” When you are a generalist, you never know what you might be called to do, but it is important to know how you are called to do it, and why. This is why many professions have oaths that define the character that is expected in their given vocation.
And I should add, the same is true of every believer. Whether we lead or not, can any of us expect any less of ourselves than we do of our leaders?
Dear God, help me be ready for whatever You call me to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.