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Scripture Memory: Looking Unto Jesus.

VERSE: Hebrews 12:2 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

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O Worship the LORD in the Beauty of Holiness

14 May 2017

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Quek Keng Khwang (The Wise Woman Builds Her House, Proverbs 14:1)

6:00 pm Evening Service

Eld Khoo Peng Kiat (Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow Me, Psalm 23)

21 May 2017

8am & 11am: Worship Service

Rev Calvin Loh (The Prayer of a Righteous Man, Daniel 9:1-19 )

6:00 pm Evening Service

Rev Quek Keng Khwang (You are my Hiding Place, Psalm 32)

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DEACONS: THE COMPASSIONATE WAITERS OF THE CHURCH

By Rev Mark Chen

 

The office of the deacon is often misunderstood and severely undervalued, not only by the church member, but also at times by the office-bearer himself. A pastor I know, who used to be a deacon in his previous church, told me that when he was first elected into that office, he was informed that his role consisted of handing out the weekly bulletins as well as collecting and counting the offerings.

 

Is this the role of the deacon? Many might think so, because this could be all they see on a Sunday morning – that, and the efficient direction of traffic. And though these are the roles of the deacon, there’s more – MUCH more. The diaconal role is far more involved, as many of our deacons and their families and close friends will attest, requiring much prayer, careful decision, and compassionate labour.

 

The Meaning of “Deacon”

In the Scriptures, the word “deacon” appears several times to refer to a particular office of the church. This is true in Philippians 1:1, where we are shown the established nature of such an office; and in 1 Timothy 3:8-13, where Paul gave the qualifications of a deacon. However, the word “deacon” existed long before those letters were written. The word “deacon” is from the Greek word diakonos, which means “servant.” That would be a good but cursory understanding of the word. Let’s go deeper.

 

Waiter: The word diakonos had its origin and concept long before New Testament times. In classical literature, the word “deacon” was used to refer to a waiter; and of course, a waiter serves customers at their tables. This word then came to be used of a servant, someone who tended to the needs of a household. And subsequently, this word was used to describe someone who served others in a more general capacity. But primarily, the diakonos was a waiter.

 

Spiritual Service: This word was subsequently used in New Testament times in a spiritually significant sense. Christ used the word “deacon” in Mark 10:44-45, where He said, “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” The words “servant” and “minister” are the words for “deacon.” So in this sense, the Christian is to follow Christ’s example to minister and serve others.

 

And so, this word was also used to describe the ministry of the Apostles, as the followers of Christ. We read in Acts 6:4 that they (and subsequently, the elders) were to give themselves “continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” And another form of the word “deacon” was used to describe the ministry of every Christian. In 1 Corinthians 12:5 we are told that the Holy Spirit gifts Christians for service, that “there are differences of administrations.” And we are members of one body, having different gifts so that we can serve one another.

 

And although the word was used in the sense of spiritual servanthood, the idea of service as a waiter had not been lost. Our Lord also used it in Luke 22:27, where He said, “For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? Is not he that sitteth at meat? But I am among you as he that serveth.”

 

The Jobs of the First Deacons

In the Acts of the Apostles we see a glimpse of the early Christian church. Everyone had everything in common and they shared everything; they even broke bread from house to house – that is, they ate with one another and shared each other’s food. But when the number of Christians grew larger, there were soon administrative and spiritual problems.

 

We see in Acts 6 that the Greek-speaking Christian widows were being neglected in the “daily ministration” and began to complain. And so the Apostles asked the members of the church to choose seven honest men to take over the work of “serving tables.” The word “daily ministration” refers to distribution, and the meaning of “serving tables” is to wait (as in a waiter). Hence, the job of the first deacons was to distribute food and to tend to the physical needs of the Christians.

 

And what a task it was! It’s no mean feat to distribute food to so many people and to be attentive to their needs. The best waiters are usually those who give you what you need before you have to ask for it, and will always find out how you’re doing. Customers always forget good service, but will always remember bad service and exceptional service.

 

But to say that the first deacons were only waiters would be to miss the entire point. They were far more than that. The “daily ministration” also refers to daily financial aid. When the members of the early church sold their possessions, the money they earned was brought to the Apostles to be distributed to those who had need (Acts 4:35). And when they could no longer do this, they called for the ordination of deacons.

 

So the deacons were to take over the work of distributing the funds. They were to “serve tables” – not just the dinner table, but the banker’s table. They became the bankers and treasurers of the church, managing the vast financial resources. And they did it especially in view of meeting the needs of the poor in the church.

 

Key Points in Understanding the Diaconal Office

There are key points that we can glean for the diaconal office today from the meaning of the word “deacon” and the roles of the first deacons in the Bible. And what we learn is that the diaconal office is for the practical administration of the church, with particular emphasis on mercy.

 

1. A Merciful Office: The deacon would be looking out for the material needs of the members, especially to meet them. As with the elders, this would require a good knowledge and acquaintance of the members of the church. There are poor members, sick members, struggling members, and lonely members.

 

It would not be incorrect to insist that deacons would be heavily involved in the mercy ministry of the church. Now, this does not mean that they must be involved in the committee of the church that looks into the financial troubles and needs of the members. But they should be concerned with the material needs of members. Whereas the elder might lean toward the question, “How are you doing spiritually?” the deacon would lean toward the question, “How are you doing physically?” And he would be quick to respond with something practical.

 

2. An Administrative Office: This task was assumed by the Apostles at the start of the New Testament church. However, there was a point where the Apostles could no longer continue in the task of administration, because it was taking them away from their responsibilities of praying for the flock and labouring in the Word (studying, preaching, admonishing, counselling, comforting, etc).

 

And so deacons were chosen to take these administrative works away. The main task of the deacon was to serve, and to assist the under-shepherds of the church by taking on the burden of managing the church’s material resources. Hence, there was a division of labour. This is seen especially in Philippians 1:1, where Paul addresses the bishops (overseers) of the church and the deacons. The main task of the elder was to oversee the spiritual lives of the members – to rule and shepherd. The deacons were to serve under the direction of the elders.

 

And though there is a hierarchical structure, yet the deacon is not an ecclesiastical errand boy or a hand extension of the elders. A great waiter and maitre d’ knows how to run the show; from the management of the till, satisfaction of the customers, organization of the menu, etc. There’s expertise in economics, (human) resource management, and other areas with newfangled names. But simply put in Biblical categories, the waiters of the church would be excellent stewards of God’s kingdom and store.

 

Conclusion

Just how much do we understand the diaconal function in the church? Just how much do we appreciate our deacons? To minister grace to others is not easy – it goes against the nature of the sinful human heart – we often want to be ministered unto. However, as Christ was servant above all, those who would serve Him as deacons need His heart.

 

And let us in the church spare a thought for them as well, and stop our murmurings, resolving instead to pray for them; and think what it would be like to hand out a weekly bulletin at 7.30 a.m. with a smile on our faces, maintain composure in front of a severely dissatisfied church member (while feeling the disappointment of not meeting that person’s need), organize the transport for church camp, fix the church roof, coordinate the Easter breakfast, allocate the Sunday School classrooms for 300 kids, oversee the student care ministry, plead for wisdom in disbursing funds to the needy, etc. The list goes on. Let us then add these things to our prayer list for our deacons, pleading with God to use them and bless them. Amen.  

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1) SGsecure Medical Team: If you are a doctor/nurse/pharmacist/paramedic, please consider joining the SGsecure Medical Team to provide medical assistance during contingencies. Please contact Dn Ian Tay if you are able and willing to serve in this area.

2) Biblical Discipleship Seminar on 10 June 2017, 2.30 pm at Beulah MPH. Please register by filling up the form (obtainable at the reception counter) or online at: http://lifebpc.com/combined-seminar

3) Life B-P Church Camp 2017 has officially closed. Camp fee collection will be over 3 Sundays (14 May, 21 May & 28 May) between 0930-1030hrs & for one hour after second service. Location will be at Church Office Level 3 Beulah Centre. Love gifts to defray the cost are welcome.

4) Test Run of Downtown Line 3. The Newton MRT station will open later than usual at about 7.30 am for 16 Sundays, from today till 27 August. The station Tel no. is 6718 7500.

5) Catechism Class for Anniversary Baptism on 15 Oct 2017 commences on 9 Jul 2017 at Beulah Centre Rm 2-1, 9.40am. Please pre-register by emailing Doris Chik or filling up the form available at the front counter. Those seeking baptism, reaffirmation of faith and transfer of membership must attend the catechism class. Closing date: 2 Jul 2017.

6) Sister Lynda Kwan and family would like to thank the pastoral team, Session members and church for their condolences, presence and prayers during the homegoing of Mr Kwan Meng Wah.

7) Our condolences to Sister Tan Bee Choo and her family on the homegoing of her beloved mother, Mdm Eng Kim Hoy, on 12 May 2017. Funeral today at 2.30 pm at Blk 46 Toa Payoh Lor 5 S(310046). The Cortege will leave at 3.15 pm for Choa Chu Kang Christian Cemetery.

Preaching appointment: Rev Khoo on mission trip (14-26 May 2017).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10