To be honest, I’m almost embarrassed to write this post, as I’ve heard many horror stories of battles between pastors and deacons. That’s not been my experience, though. Here are some of the reasons these men have been my best friends:
- They’ve seen their role as servants walking with their pastor. They haven’t been a board of directors; they’ve been partners in ministry. We’ve never been opponents.
- They’ve prayed with me and for me. I can’t tell you how many times a deacon has put his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me as his pastor. These prayers have been life-saving at times.
- They’ve stood by me when I’ve made mistakes. Big ones, even. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in 40 years of ministry, but my deacon friends have always forgiven and loved me.
- They’ve been unafraid to confront me lovingly when needed. When I first entered ministry, they treated me as a son they loved and wanted to help. Now, they respect my willingness as a pastor and seminary professor to hear their critiques.
- They’ve let me be me. I’ve vacationed with deacons and their families. Spent time in their homes when I was a single pastor. Played softball with them. Golfed with them (well, at least once each time, since I’m terrible at this game. . . ). I’ve never felt I needed to play any role around them.
- They’ve always been there when I’ve grieved. More than once, ministry pain has resulted in my tears. Almost every time, though, a deacon friend has picked me up and encouraged me to press on.
- They’ve taught me about Christian living. In particular, they’ve modeled godly marriages for me – an important need for a pastor raised in a non-Christian home who didn’t marry until later in life. I’ve needed their examples.
- They and their families warmly welcomed Pam into our church when we married. I had already pastored for ten years prior to getting married, so both the church and I had settled into routines that marriage would change — but no one complained. I’m sure Pam would affirm all that I’ve written in this post.
- They pushed me to continue my education — and challenged the church to support me in this task. In both churches I pastored, the deacons encouraged me to study, led the church to provide funds, and regularly checked to see how I was doing.
When I consider these reasons, I realize that the deacons I’ve served with over the years have been instrumental in my serving where I serve today. I pray that all my young students will have similar friendships with deacons.
And, if you’re a deacon, I challenge you to consider your influence on young pastors. Help them start well, walk well, and end well.