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OTHER VOICES: John Mark Hicks

Some voices stir us to action. Some voices soothe us and comfort us. Other voices provoke us to think – and for some, this really does provoke them. One of the traits of the false prophets in Israel was that they said, “Peace! Peace!” – when there was no peace. The people preferred to hear that message than to confront how they had disappointed God and moved away from him.

John Mark Hicks is a man who provokes us to think. He takes familiar subjects and makes us look at them with fresh eyes. Three of his books deal with the Lord’s Supper, with Baptism, and with the Church. All are familiar subjects. Yet, he provokes us to think about what the Scripture really says about them. Granted, to some this is anathama. But before you dismiss what he says, you need to do two things: (1) understand what he is saying and (2) compare it carefully with the Scripture.

What he says is rooted in the Word of God. What he does with all of these subjects is to lead us deeper into them than we like to go. We do not like to go that deep because it challenges us to become real in our service to God instead of just going through the right motions.

Here is a sample of his blog. Read it and be challenged by it. You can see it here. His website is johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/

The Church Has Left the Building

I like the idea.  It is a wonderful point to emphasize. Continue reading

The Prodigal God: Part 5 – The Feast of the Father

The Parable of the Two Sons ends with a feast in progress – but with the older son refusing to come join the festivities.

Near the end of Revelation, we read:

“…. For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) – Revelation 19:7-8

Revelation 21:9-11 adds Continue reading

Christ and the Church – Ephesians 5:22-33

Most Bibles have “Husbands and Wives” above Ephesians 5:22-31. It is a good text to discuss with husbands and wives – but Paul said at the end of it that he was talking about Christ and His bride, the church.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, Continue reading


Which church is the more likely to be a growing church: A church with a broad-range of programs that have appeal to all ages or a church with few programs but with a Continue reading

Leadership (12) Leadership in the Home

Family leadership may be the most important leadership of all. It has always been so. Even before the flood, the Bible reflects the need for good leadership in the family. Eve led Adam into sin – and he let it happen. Cain’s influence lived on in his descendant, Lamech (Genesis 4:19-24). Who knows how much faithful Noah was influenced by the memory of his great grandfather Enoch who “…did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5; see also Genesis 5:21-24, 32) ?

The family is the training and proving ground for leadership in the church. Both elders and deacons are to demonstrate in their leadership at home that they are capable of guiding the church. The family is not a “mini-church,” but the church is the family of God (1 Timothy 3:15; See also Ephesians 3:14-15). How a man does as a husband and father will show a lot about how he will do as an elder or deacon. Experience in the household will prepare for work in the church. So, it is fair to say that without good leadership in our homes we are not likely to have good leadership in our churches either.
Leadership is essential, not only for strong churches, but also for strong families. Lack of family leadership led to disaster in the homes of otherwise great men – and to tragic consequences for the people of God.
David was guilty of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. This sin led to terrible results in David’s own family. When Nathan, the prophet, confronted him with a story of a rich man who stole a poor man’s only ewe lamb, David exploded with wrath. He wanted to kill the man, but he said, “He must pay for that lamb four times over.” When Nathan said, “You are the man,” David repented of his sin – but he still paid the consequences in his family. The child of the adulterous union died. David’s oldest son, Amnon, raped his half-sister, Tamar, and was then murdered by Absalom, David’s next son and full sister of Tamar. Later, Absalom led a rebellion against his father, David, and was killed in the battle. The next son, Adonijah, was handsome and gracious – but “His father had never interfered with him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” When David was on his deathbed, Adonijah tried to make himself king. Nathan and Bathsheba thwarted this move – but after David’s death and Solomon was king, Adonijah tried again to take the throne by trickery. So, Solomon had him put to death. Four of David’s sons died tragic deaths; David paid for Bathsheba four times over. [The story of the adultery and murder is in 2 Samuel 11. Chapter 12 tells of Nathan’s confrontation and the death of the child. Chapter 13 tells of the rape of Tamar and murder of Amnon. Chapters 14 – 20 tell of Absolam’s rebellion and death. 1 Kings 1:1-52 tells of Adonijah’s attempted coup while 1 Kings 2:13-25 relates his later treachery against Solomon and his death.]
Eli, the priest and judge in Israel and mentor of the great prophet Samuel, did not give leadership to his own sons. They used their priesthood as an opportunity for extortion and adultery. When Eli mildly rebuked them, they refused to listen because “they had no regard for the Lord.” An unnamed prophet accused Eli himself: “Why do you honor your sons more than [the LORD] by fattening yourselves on the choice parts?” (1 Samuel 2:12ff).
David and Eli both erred in leading their families. Both of them were negligent in giving guidance to their progeny – and the nation paid the price for their neglect. The church and the nation today are paying a similar price.
Before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses charged them:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. – Deuteronomy 6:6-7.
Leadership in the home was crucial to Israel’s continued well being in the land as God’s chosen people. Is it any less crucial in our age of disintegrating families and soaring crime?
Parents are responsible for their children – not only to feed, clothe and school them, but also to “bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4) This speaks specifically to fathers, but godly mothers also plan an important part in the Christian leading of their children, as we observe in the way Eunice and Lois reared Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5).
Unfortunately, many homes have abdicated parental and grandparental leadership. Many children are brought up “in the instruction and training of the TV programmers” with little concern for Christian guidance. Frequently, Christian parents put schoolwork, sports, entertainment and social affairs ahead of worship, Bible class, home devotions, moral training and church activities.
Every preacher, elder and Bible class teacher can tell of parents who want “somebody to do something” about their children. Unfortunately, in many of these cases, the parents have wasted the most opportune years by stressing everything else to the neglect of the child’s spiritual training and discipline.
Even activities that are good can become detrimental when life is filled with things that do not contribute to godliness. Little League can crowd out Bible Class, and homework can take the place of family devotionals. As a child grows older, flipping hamburgers at McDonalds can make it harder to find time for worship. It seems that children, even at a very early age, are under as much time pressure as their parents. It is up to parents to help make those choices that will begin to put first things first from the time of their youth. After all, that is when we are to remember our Creator (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Jesus had balanced growth “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He was “well-rounded” with intellectual, physical, spiritual and social growth. Many youths from Christian homes are short-changed when it comes to the spiritual side of things. They receive scarcely more godly training that the young people of the world. The world will not give religious training (nor should we expect it to!). The church cannot give all that is needed. The “prime provider” for the moral training and Christian education of our children must be the home and the leadership of Christian parents.
Single Parent Homes
This is true whether it is a traditional “father, mother and the kids” family or a single-parent home. While single parents face increased difficulties, these are not greater than those faced by one Christian parent with a non-Christian mate. Timothy’s father was a Greek – yet his godly mother and grandmother communicated their faith to him. This was at least as difficult (if not more so) than for a single parent to communicate faith today. My observation has been that single parents who are faithful do a credible job of rearing their children. Where this is true, it is because those parents have exercised real leadership.
God gives leadership in the home to the husband (Ephesians 5:22-29). This is not a popular position in this age of unisex equality in all things, but Scripture gives some special reasons for it. One reason is that the husband- wife relationship is supposed to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church, his bride. When husbands do not take their God-given place in the home, we have lost a powerful example of how we are to relate to our heavenly bridegroom.
Unfortunately, many men read Ephesians 5:22 (which is addressed to their wives) without reading verses 25-29 (which is addressed to them).

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. – Verse 22

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church…. – Verses 25-29

They want their wives to be submissive, but do not want to be responsible for loving their wives sacrificially.
Our standard of loving leadership is that of Christ for his church. Just as Jesus loved and gave himself for the church to make it holy and pure, so also the husband is to love his wife and give himself for her. He is to feed and care for her – not only physically, but also spiritually.
Submission to such leadership is not a burden; it is a blessing in the home. A preacher was teaching a class in which he referred to 1 Peter 3:6 where Peter speaks of Sarah obeying Abraham. He commented that we needed more women like Sarah. A wise woman in the class replied, “If we had more men like Abraham, we would have more women like Sarah.”
Most wives have little difficulty in accepting the leadership of a godly man. If your wife is restive under your guidance, dear husband, perhaps you ought to examine yourself!
Unfortunately, many husbands are more concerned with following their assorted hobbies than in seeing to the spiritual nourishing of their families. Many spend more time in either playing or watching sports than they do with their families. The time they do spend with the family is more devoted to recreation than to “new creation.” An egocentric pursuit of pleasure and/or possessions motivates much of what they do.
The families of such men are robbed of the spiritual leadership God expects them to give. Even the world recognizes “workaholic” men and “golf-widow” women – and knows that these conditions are not healthy. When Christian husbands neglect their God-given role as spiritual providers in the family, homes are in deep trouble.
Let’s not forget the Christian leadership of godly wives either. Remember that Christian leadership comes through service. Who can read Paul’s description of godly women who are to be recognized in special ways, and not recognize the leadership of these women?
No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. – 1 Timothy 5:9-10
This leadership role is emphasized a few verses later in the chapter (v. 14) where younger widows are counseled to marry, have children, and “manage their homes.” The kind of home management in view here is the kind described in Proverbs 31:10-31 where the “worthy woman” is described. That woman was certainly a leader in her home in every way!
Such women even lead their husbands. Peter indicates that godly purity and subjection can even lead unbelieving husbands to receive the Word of God .

Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. – 1 Peter 3:1-6

Even Christian men are led into greater service by the godly character and inspiration of their wives. Truly, a home where husband and wife complement and encourage one another in their Christian lives will be a great source of Christian leadership at home and in the community.
The key to such leadership in the home is found in Paul’s words to the Corinthians: “I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:35, Emphasis added). The key phrase is “undivided devotion to the Lord.” Parents who put first things first will teach their children to do the same. Christ will teach husbands who love him how to love their wives. Wives who serve God will, by that service, become leaders in their homes.
Sadly, our world today tends to distract us from that undivided devotion. The ever-present blare of TV and stereo; the clamor of sports, school and socializing; along with the demands of work for both parents and ever-younger teens – all combine to make “undivided devotion” difficult. We need to remember the Parable of the Sower, though and reflect on the fact that the seed among the thorns was unfruitful (Luke 8:24). Let’s not let the thorns of our world today distract us from our devotion to the Lord. Otherwise, our families may end like those of Eli, Samuel and David.
Christian leadership in the home will inevitably spill over into the church and the community. The church looks to its homes to find its elders and deacons, its teachers and preachers. The community will turn to solid families to find stability in time of crisis. Christian leadership in the home is not an after-thought with God. It is the source of virtually all Christian leadership anywhere.
  1. Why do otherwise great men often show poor leadership in their own families?
  2. How can parents and the church cooperate in the spiritual training of children?
  3. Should Deuteronomy 6:6-7 be followed today in spiritual Israel? If so, discuss some practical applications of it for today’s families.
  4. Discuss the husband’s role as spiritual leader in the home. What can the modern man do to fulfill this responsibility? Can he do so without being a Neanderthal?
  5. How can a godly wife be a leader in her home and be in subjection to her husband at the same time?
  6. How can a wife lead her unbelieving husband to the Lord?
  7. How can we lead our families in “undivided devotion to the Lord?” Do we have to take ourselves out of the world to do this?
  8. How can we set priorities for life that will give our children the well-rounded balance Jesus had in growing up?

– (12a) More on the Family – Developing Boys into Men Who Lead

PREVIOUS – (11) The Gospel Preacher

Leadership (12a) More on the Home: Developing Boys Into Men Who Lead

Andy n OpieWay back in the late 1970’s I wrote an article for our church bulletin called, “Where Have All the Fathers Gone?” This was one of a series of articles I wrote analysing the results of a survey we had done on congregational attitudes toward our Bible School program. The survey was passed out in morning worship, done on the spot anonymously, and handed in.

As I began examining the results, I divided them by demographics (sex and age group). In the group of 25 – 45 year-olds, there were very few men. Women were present in good numbers, but there were few men. Hence, the question: “Where Have All the Fathers Gone?”

In the late 1980’s, I read a book on Leadership by Ian Fair, then the Dean of Abilene Christian University’s Graduate School of Religion. He made the observation that our nation had never had a president from my generation – whose fathers went off to WWII. He also said that we probably never would. John McCain was the last great opportunity for someone from this generation to win the presidency. Ian’s prediction is holding true.

I had also noticed previously that most congregations, during the period from 1975 – 1995 had difficulty finding men to serve as elders. The elders in that period were mostly those who were of age during WWII, and few men were willing to serve other than these until the “baby boomer” generation moved into church leadership.

In other words, we missed a generation of leaders, both in the nation and in the church.


I have developed a theory (technically, probably only a hypothesis) about this.

When boys do not have a strong male influence in their early formative years, they do not develop the qualities of leadership needed in Christian men.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this. Biblically we might think of Timothy. Yet, even Timothy was Paul’s “son in the faith” – and Paul’s admonition to him that “God did not give us a spirit of timidity,” (2 Timothy 1:7) might suggest Timothy tended toward shyness.

Some boys, in the absence of a father in the home, find some other man to fill that void. In my young boyhood (preschool, from 3-5 years), my father was away (1943-1945), but we lived near my grandfather. I still believe there were some things I missed during those early childhood years, but there was a fairly strong male influence in my life.

Looking Ahead

With all of that said, what does this portend for the future – in the nation and in the church – if my hypothesis is correct, which I hope it is not?

Today there are more single family homes led by women than at any time in our history as a nation. This is also true in the church.

Where there are fathers in the home, many times they are effectively “absent” due to work or being absorbed in their sports or hobbies. Sometime, they are able to involve their sons in these things as well, but many times they do not. As a result the young men miss out on the potential leadership training they should be getting from their fathers.

In the past, there were many avenues for boys to have strong male influence. Their school was more than likely led by a male principal who had influence with the students, who was not just an administrator whom they barely knew. If they were in sports, there was a coach who more than likely was more interested in his team than he was at “winning” at any cost. There were neighbors who would take an interest in boys for their good, not as someone to exploit for their own selfish, unholy purposes.

Where is a young boy without a father in his life to find these things today? His school principal is likely a woman, and there may not be any men at all working in his school. If there are, the principal is likely an administrator whom the students barely know because the schools are so large, AND many schools are by their policies trying to teach boys to act like little girls. The most likely close contact with a man in the school context is with a coach. Again, the size of the schools means that sports are available only for those talented – and the pressure to win is enormous, even at the high school and junior high school level. Also, parents are understandably skeptical of any neighbors who take an interest in their young boys!

Replacing What Is Missing

What all of this means is that churches need to pay special attention to their boys and young men if they want to have effective leadership in the future. Church-based scout troops, men in Sunday school classes for children, and Lads to Leader programs are some of the formal ways churches can address this issue.

However, nothing will beat a dedicated Christian family with both mother and father taking a single Mom under their wing to help her in giving healthy male leadership to her sons. When this can be sustained over a period of time, the results, I believe, will prove to be impressive.

NEXT (13) Discipline: The Basis of Leadership
PREVIOUS (12) Christian Leadership in the Home

LEADERSHIP (11): The Gospel Preacher

Preacher_small1For most people, the most visible leadership role in the church is that of the preacher. He is the person that the casual visitor sees most prominently. If we are honest with ourselves, he is the person most people in the average congregation relate to most readily. This is the man “out front” as a spokesman for the church and to the church.

As such, he tends to get most of the credit or blame for what happens in the church. Like most people, most preachers do not mind accepting credit; they prefer not to confess to blame. Probably, most of them do not deserve as much of either as they receive.

Most church members tend to focus their concept of the success or failure of the congregation on the preacher. In fact, more people are uneasy not having a regular preacher than about not having elders in the local church. New congregations work diligently to secure two things: a preacher and a building. Neither of these is absolutely essential to the existence of a church, though each of them may be useful. Let’s be careful, though, to put the preacher (and the building) in the proper Biblical perspective.


We do not use the expression “gospel preacher” as widely as we once did. This is unfortunate, for it is an easily understood, accurate translation of the Greek word usually translated evangelist. The Greek family of words includes words for the act of preaching good news, the good news itself, and the one who proclaims the good news. Respectively, these are euaggelizomi, euaggelion and euaggelisths (euangelizomi, euangelion and euangelistas). The emphasis in the word-family is on the message, its proclamation and its spokesman. The continued use of evangelist tends to obscure the real nature of this work, just as the continued use of the word baptize tends to obscure the fact that to baptize is to immerse. Evangelist is not a translation, but a transliteration. That is, it is a Greek word with an English spelling.

Likewise, the use of the word Minister (notice the capital letter?) applied exclusively to the preacher tends to obscure the fact that in the New Testament church all of its members are ministers or servants. See the previous post in this series for a fuller discussion of this word.

What is an evangelist? The popular mind associates this word only with the tel-evangelists who have gained much notoriety in recent years. To most people, an evangelist is one who conducts huge crusades or preaches in the media – and frequently does so with little or no accountability to any one. The very word, to many, has become synonymous with hypocrisy and venality. There is little in this view of the evangelist to connect this word and its work with the local church.

The Biblical picture of the evangelist is very different from this “pop-religion” view. The word itself, as noted above, simply means gospel preacher. The noun evangelist appears only 3 times in the Bible, but the word for to preach the gospel is there 55 times. The noun gospel appears an additional 77 times. The Biblical emphasis is more on the activity of preaching and the message proclaimed than on the person of the preacher.

Modern usage has moved a long way from this. If you do not believe it, just open the newspaper to the religious advertisements and witness the focus on the preachers rather than on the Lord or on his saving gospel. If you still doubt it, look at a collection of advertisements for gospel meetings or revivals and note the same phenomenon. Churches today tend to put more emphasis on the preacher than on his work or his message.

Only two men in Scripture are specifically identified as evangelists. Philip, chosen as one of “the seven” in Acts 6, was later referred to as “Philip the evangelist” When the Jerusalem church was scattered, he had preached in Samaria, to the man of Ethiopia, and to the villages along the Mediterranean Sea from Azotus to Caesarea. Some twenty years later, Paul and his companions visited him in Caesarea when he seems to have been a resident evangelist (see Acts 8 & 21:8).

This is also the role Timothy apparently had in Ephesus when Paul charged him to “do the word of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

The only other use of the word is in Ephesians 4:11 where this office (or work) is included among those given for the maturing and edifying of the church.

Thus, all occurrences of the word evangelist are in the context of a local congregation: Philip in Caesarea, Timothy in Ephesus, and the “gifts” to the church in Ephesians. The work of the evangelist is to preach the gospel, whether to those lost in the world or to those saved in the church. He may travel from city to city as Philip did for a time, but this is not inherent in the word, as some have mistakenly insisted.


Paul describes the work of the evangelist in his letters to Timothy and Titus. An excellent summary follows from 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Preach the Word

Evangelistic ministry is first of all a ministry of the Word of God. It is proclamation of Jesus Christ crucified. The focus is on the gospel with all of its ramifications and implications for the lives of men. Hence, the evangelist must be a man of The Book. He must feed on the Word so he can feed others. He must never forget that the primary testimony of Scripture is to Jesus Christ (see John 5:39).

His task is not to sermonize, but to Christianize. God called him to proclaim Christ, not to prepare sermons. Morality lectures are not the same as gospel preaching. His task is to focus the life and work of Jesus through the Word of God so it sets the hearts of men on fire with the love of God.

Paul declared to the Corinthians, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). To argue about whether we should preach “the man or the plan” is futile. In Scripture, the man is the plan. Jesus himself stated, “I am the way” (John 14:6). Peter and John affirmed, “Salvation is found in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Yet, there are “gospel preachers” who seldom mention the Word of God – either the written word or the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. Any sermon that does not exalt Jesus is not truly a “Gospel Sermon.” It may contain truth, but not The Truth (cf. John 14:6). It may even contain much Scripture – but it will still have missed the whole point of the Scriptures, for Jesus said, “These are the Scriptures that testify of me” (John 5:39). Charles Spurgeon once said,

I have heard of ministers who can preach a sermon without mentioning the Name of Jesus from beginning to end.

If you ever hear a sermon of that kind mind that you never hear another from that man. If a baker once made a loaf of bread without any flour in it, I would take good care that he should never do so again; and I say the same of a man who can preach a Christless gospel. Let those go and hear him who do not value their souls; but dear friends, your soul and mine are too precious to be placed at the mercy of such a preacher. (As cited by Walter B. Knight, Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956), p. 328.)

Set An Example

You cannot separate the messenger from his message. He must not only preach Christ; he must live Christ. It is as essential to “walk the walk” as it is to “talk the talk.” This is why Paul stressed the importance of example in his instructions to Timothy and Titus.

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both your self and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16)

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

Paul not only taught his sons in the faith to “practice what they preached.” That is how he lived himself.

For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church. (1 Corinthians 4:17)

It is as important for a preacher to have a “sound life” as it is for him to have “sound doctrine.” In fact, the various descriptions of false teachers found in the New Testament have more to say about the false, hypocritical lives of the teachers than about the false, erroneous doctrines they teach.

Develop Leadership

As God’s gift to the church for its maturing, the evangelist is to train and develop leaders. He must commit the Word he has received to faithful men who will teach others 2 Timothy 2:2). He is to train and appoint elders (Titus 1:5). When a church has gone for years without developing godly elders, at least part of the blame is on its preacher(s). Even when elders are present, he is to rebuke them when necessary, but not harshly (1 Timothy 5:1, 19-20).

The gospel preacher is not to be a hireling, simply “hired” by the elders to do their biding. The preacher and elders are partners, “laborers together” in the Lord’s vineyard. When power struggles mar their relationship, something is wrong. Yes, bishops have the oversight of the congregation. But evangelists are also charged to rebuke sinful elders. Thus, there is mutual accountability: the preacher is accountable to the elders and the elders are accountable to the preacher. Neither of them is to “nit-pick” the other, for “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). This is in a context speaking of intra-church relationships. Peter goes on to point out that there are different ways of serving, but all are working to the praise and glory of God. If this is true of the church as a whole, how much more should it be true of the preacher and the elders.

The evangelist is not to be the errand boy for the congregation but is to minister the Word of God to it. He is not to preach what their itching ears want to hear but what their Lord wants them to hear. He is not an administrator, but a herald. He is not the focal point of the congregation, but a glass through which the church should be able to see Jesus.

Though he may work within a local church, he must never forget that the field is the world (see Matthew 13:38 and its context). His ministry is not only to the church, but also to the community, the county, the country, the continent, and even to the cosmos. He must be a man of vision, and his vision must include Christ for the nations. This is a vision he must share with the congregation.


What sort of man does this take? What “qualifications” should the preacher have? Here is at least a partial list:

  • Personal integrity of life and character.
  • Knowledge of God’s Word.
  • Ability to communicate.
  • Vision of Man’s need and God’s remedy.
  • Understanding of people and the dynamic of their relationships to one another
  • “A sense of urgency, a sense of balance, and a sense of humor.” (The quote is from Johnny Ramsey.)

This sort of man will be able to communicate, nay he cannot be prevented from communicating, the love of God to those whose lives need to be touched by it so desperately. A church may support such a man to preach, or he may support himself while preaching. He may preach from a pulpit or he may preach where he finds people to listen – but preach he will because he can do no other! He says with Paul, “Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).


  1. Where is the focus of the preacher’s life and message? Why
  2. What is the work of the evangelist or gospel preacher?
  3. What “philosophy of preaching” would you encourage a young preacher to develop?
  4. Why must an evangelist be a “Man of the Book?”
  5. “Sound doctrine” literally means “healthy or balanced teaching.” Why is a sense of balance essential to a preacher?
  6. In what way does the life of the messenger enhance or damage the gospel message he brings?
  7. When a church supports an evangelist, should it treat him as a hired hand? Why or why not?
  8. If you were writing a job description for a new preacher in your congregation, what would it contain?

– (12) Christian Leadership in the Home

– (10) Deacons As Leaders in the Church

LEADERSHIP (10) – Deacons

Good Samaritan: Example of Serving

Good Samaritan: Example of Serving

The word deacon comes from the Greek word diakonos as a transliteration, not a translation. This means deacon is a Greek word spelled out in English, in the same way baptize is a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo. Diakonos appears in the New Testament thirty times. It is in the KJV 27 times as servant or minister and transliterated three times as deacon at Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8 & 12.

The related words, diakonia (literally service or ministry) and diakoneo (literally to serve or to minister), are there an additional thirty-five and thirty-six times respectively. Yet, the New Testament has very little that is expressly about the office of the deacon.


This word family is widely used of many things. After his temptation, angels ministered to Jesus. (Matthew 4:11). Peter’s mother-in-law ministered to those in her home after Jesus raised her up from her sick bed (Matthew 8:15).

These, and many similar usages, simply mean, “to take care of another’s needs.” This seems to flow from the frequent use of these words for servants in general and household servants in particular. For instances of this, see Matthew 22:18 and John 2:5 & 9. The Greek idea of the diakonos included personal service lovingly given. The diakonos was usually considered inferior to the one he served.

Jesus, however, had no compunction about using this word of Himself. He declared, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28 – Italics indicate the diakonos word-group.) After asking, “Who is greater? The one at the table or the one who serves?” He went on to say, “But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27.

The life of Jesus was that of the ideal servant. His ultimate service was the voluntary sacrifice of Himself on the cross. Yet, all His life was that of a servant. He served the sick, the lame, the demon-possessed, the blind, the lepers – and even the dead. He healed, gave strength, sight, cleansing, life and meaning to life. He served by teaching. He served by caring, by reaching out to those in need. He served by forgiving. It is in their acts of service like His own that He ultimately judges His disciples. In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus said service “to the least of these, My brethren,” is service “to Me.”

This use of servant by Jesus led to an expanded meaning of service and ministry in the church, a meaning that includes spiritual ministry. Paul spoke of himself and Apollos as “only servants through whom you came to believe” (1 Corinthians 3:5). He charged his associate, Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5). In these passages, both servants and ministry are from the diakonos family of words. These follow the usage of the apostles as they said they would devote themselves to prayer and to the “ministry of the word of God” (Acts 6:4).

Paul frequently speaks of a ministry he has in the sense of a special commission or responsibility. For example, he expressed thanks to Christ for “appointing me to His service” in spite of a history of persecuting the church (1 Timothy 2:12-13). This could simply refer to the fact the Lord accepted him, but it likely goes beyond mere acceptance to Paul’s place of partnership with Jesus.

This is certainly in view when he spoke of “God, who reconciled us to Himself in Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” What God did in Christ, He made Paul His minister to finish through the message of reconciliation he received (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Thus he declared, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me” (Ephesians 3:7-8).

In this sense, ministry is a gift of God to which He calls us and empowers us. Every Christian has one or more gifts, which he is to use to the glory of God. In this, we need to remember two things.

First, “There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men” (1 Corinthians 12:5-6). Whatever a person’s gift in ministry, there is but one Lord to be served and glorified.

Second, we need to remember the admonition from Peter:

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Ministry is not for self, but for others and for the glory of God. It is only when each person in the church sees himself as a minister (servant) with a gift from for the benefit of the church that the church will be able to grow and develop as it should. Ephesians 4:11-16 and Romans 12:3-8 discuss this in some detail.

Any Christian not serving is not truly following Jesus. Yet, we should quickly add that Christian service is willingly given. It is never onerous labor. When Ananias and Saphira sold their property to give to the apostles, their sin was not in withholding a part of the price. Peter asked, “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” (Acts 5:4). The sin was in lying about the gift they gave. The represented a gift of part as a gift of the whole.

It is the same way with our service. Our sin, many times, is not that we refuse to serve – but that we lie about the service we offer. We claim this is all we can do when what we mean is that it is all we are willing to do. When we represent less than our best as our best, we also lie to the Holy Spirit.


Because of the wide-ranging general use of the word diakonos, some wonder if there really is a specific office of deacon. They believe all Christians are deacons because all are servants.

In one sense, this is true, as noted above. Yet, there is also a specific office. This is evident, first, from the fact that there are specific qualifications for deacons, one of which is, “They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons” (1 Timothy 3:8-13; note especially v. 10). Not every servant of God serves as a deacon in this special sense, but only those who have first proven themselves.

The New Testament has two definite references to the office, one probable reference to it, and another possible reference to the specific office of deacon.

Specific Reference to Deacons

The first of these references does little but recognize a group of people known as deacons. “To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers [or bishops, JS] and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). Paul greets all the saints, the overseers and the deacons. The overseers and deacons are distinct from “all the saints.” In other words, Paul sends greeting to the church with its elders and deacons.

Earlier, we discussed the second passage with a specific reference to the special group of deacons where we read a list of qualifications of those who serve in this capacity:

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…. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. – 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12

Both of these passages definitely speak of an office of deacon. Each of these also speaks of the “bishops” or “overseers.” Hence, the deacon (or servant) is joined with the overseer. This suggests that the nature of the office is to serve with the oversight of the bishops.

A Probable Reference to Deacons

There is a probable reference to appointing deacons in the Jerusalem church in its early days (Acts 6:1-6). The noun form, deacon, minister or servant, is not in this text, but the verb form to wait on tables is there. Remember the word ministry is from the same word family. Ministry appears twice: once of the daily distribution or ministration, again of “the ministry of the word” of God. In this, there is a significant play on words: “It would not be right for us [the apostles – JS] to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” The ministry of the word contrasts with the ministry of serving tables.

A few think this has nothing to do with the office of a deacon because there is no mention of elders or bishops. This omission has no significance, though, for this original church was still under the “oversight” of the entire body of apostles. Others object that this appointment was without mention of the qualifications given by Paul in his letter to Timothy (see above). However, the men selected were “known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” Years later Paul amplified these in his epistle to Timothy.

I personally believe these men were the first deacons appointed in the church in the New Testament, yet I cannot say that for sure because the Bible does not call them that. Hence, I say only that probably this is a reference to deacons.

Some note that these deacons’ work was benevolent service and conclude that deacons are responsible for physical matters while elders/bishops/pastors are responsible for spiritual matters. This conclusion overlooks several things though.

First, the apostles were taking care of the physical matter of distributing to the necessities of the widows until that work was keeping them from their special calling to the ministry of the word and prayer. If apostles can do this kind of work, certainly elders can also do similar work in the church.

Second, at least one of these deacons was also involved in the spiritual matter of preaching and performing miraculous signs during the time he was a deacon (Acts 6:8-10). These deacons did more than just wait on tables.

Third, later when benevolent gifts were brought from the church in Antioch for the churches of Judea, the elders, not the deacons, received them (Acts 11:29-30). Thus, physical and spiritual works were intermingled. Can elders do physical works of service? Of course! The difference between them is inherent in the words “overseers” and “deacons.” The deacon-servant serves with elder oversight.

A Possible Reference to A Deaconess

Paul mentions Pheobe, a Christian lady from Cenchrea, in his letter to the Romans and calls her “a servant of the church” (Romans 16:1). This quotation is from the New International Version. Some translations say “a deaconess of the church at Cenchrea” (The RSV and others). This adds little to our understanding of the office of a deacon except to suggest (if this really does refer to a specific, appointed office) that the office of deacon is one that a godly woman could perform.

If this does refer to a deaconess, 1 Timothy 3:11 would refer to qualifications of the deaconess, not of the wife of the deacons: “In the same way, their wives [literally, “the women;” ft. nt., deaconesses] are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything” (NIV).

Certainly, if you understand the office as being under the oversight of the elders or bishops, it is not one that has inherent “authority” of the sort a woman is not to have over a man (1 Timothy 2:12).

Some doubt Romans 16:1 refers to a specific office but rather is an example of the general use of the word diakonos. The word, as used in Romans 16:1, is masculine in form, though it is used of Phoebe, a feminine name. This could be because it really is referring to a specific office, not to a woman who just had a servant-heart. Personally, I believe Phoebe was a deaconess of the church in Cenchrea, but there is at least a possibility that she was not.

Whether Phoebe was a deaconess or just a woman who served, every church has faithful women whose service is indispensable – whether they have a specific “office” or not. To recognize them by calling them a deaconess or not is, to me, a matter of expediency.

Personal Observations about Deacons and Their Work

  • Notice that every possible occurrence of the office of the deacon in New Testament writings is in the context of the local church. Deacons serve in the community of the local congregation. They are not out in a nebulous, amorphous never-never land of individualized service. They help give form to the visible life of the church. Without the active service they render, the church will not be a noticeable influence in any community. How well the deacons in a church are serving is a visible measure of the effectiveness of that church.
  • From the varied use of the root word for deacon, we can infer with confidence that the deacon can serve in a wide variety of ways. He can organize the church for work in any number of ways, or he can himself serve in any capacity to which the elders or the church appoint him.
  • Can there be deacons in a church where there are no elders? There are no examples in the Bible of this, but that does not necessarily mean that it would be sinful. Among churches of Christ, this seldom happens for a reason. The danger of deacons of the church beginning to think of themselves as the rulers over the church when they are not qualified as overseers (elders) is great. Most congregations do not accept this practice. I consider this to be wise, but not demanded by the revealed Word of God.
  • Unfortunate indeed are those churches where preachers do the work of the elders, elders do the work of deacons and deacons wonder what they are to do! Such churches are crippled in serving God in their communities.
  • What “authority” do deacons have as leaders? They have authority only to do the work to which they are appointed. There is no generalized authority that deacons have over the church. That is reserved to the elders in their role as overseers, to evangelists in their ministry of proclaiming the Word of the Lord, and to the Lord Himself, who has all authority.


Deacons who serve well “gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13). In ministering to others, they minister to Christ himself. Whether service is as an “official” servant of the church or as individuals offering service to God, it is to be in his name, for his glory, by his grace and in the strength he supplies.

Just as Jesus is the prototype shepherd, he is also the prototype deacon (or servant) whose example we follow.


  1. Describe the general meaning of the Greek word translated deacon.
  2. How do we know there is a specific office of deacon?
  3. How do the qualifications of a deacon compare with those of an elder?
  4. What relationship do deacons have to the elders? To the church?
  5. Are deacons “Junior Elders” or “Elders in Training”? Explain.
  6. What work can deacons perform?
  7. How is Jesus the “prototype deacon”? How does this affect our view of this office?

– (11) The Preacher

– (9) Elders in the Church

QUESTION: Why Do We Need Preachers?

What Does the Bible Say About Preachers And Why We Need Them?

Actually, the New Testament says quite a lot about preachers and preaching. I did a search of the New Testament (New International Version) on these words: preach, herald, evangelist, preacher, evangelists, preachers, and preaching. They occur 75 times in 72 different verses from Matthew through 2 Peter. In the King James Version, the same words appear 80 times in 77 different verses. I did not include the word “pastor” in the search because the New Testament uses this word of the shepherds of the local congregation, also known as elders or overseers.

John the Baptist, Jesus, and all of the apostles were preachers – as well as many others. In Romans 10:14-17, Paul wrote:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Preaching has an important place in the plan of God. In 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 we read,

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

Yet, there is little in the preaching of those in the early church that is exactly like preachers of today. Today, churches commonly “call” preachers whom they employ to deliver sermons to the church and, in most cases, to manage the affairs of the congregation. He becomes the public face of the church, with most members of the congregation (including its elders and deacons) taking a less public, background role. In the New Testament, preachers sometimes worked directly with a congregation, but more often than not they were on the front-line in church planting and evangelism in “unchurched” areas.

Personally, I believe that the development of a “professional” class of preachers in the church has some blessings, in that these men are usually (not always) more gifted and trained in the Scriptures than most members of the congregation. Yet, there is a down-side as well. The congregation often adopts an attitude that says, “Let the preacher do it.” Many Christians come to act as if they believe that their responsibility as a Christian is to give to pay the preacher – and little else. This generates a lethargic view of their relationship to the church – and to God.

Much more could be said along these lines, but remember: preaching is essential. How preachers are supported is a matter of expediency. Paul sometimes worked as a tent maker, supporting himself in his preaching ministry. At other times, he had support from other churches to continue his ministry on a “full-time” basis. There is nothing “wrong” with paying a man to preach. His work, however, would be much more effective if he were supported, not only financially, but by Christians who view themselves as partners with him in preaching the Word.

Is There A Holiness Denomination?

I understand that denominations are man made but isn’t Holiness also thought of as a denomination as well as the being of one?

Holiness is a characteristic of God. It literally means separate. God is separate from us in that He is different. He is eternal; we are not. He is Creator; we are the created. He has all wisdom; we do not. He is love; we are not.

God created man in His own image, but we fell. God’s plan for redeeming man is that we be restored to that from which we fell. That is, God calls us to share again in His holiness through Jesus Christ. But we will never have holiness apart from God. People and things are holy only because of a relationship to God. Sinai was called the Holy Mount because God made Himself known there. We are holy only because we are the sons of God through faith in Christ, and God gives us His Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:26-27 & 4:6).

Some churches are called Holiness because they stress the need for holy living. Every Christian is called to be Holy (because of his relationship to God, not because it is an inate characteristic of man). Hence, every church should be Holy, since it it made up of holy people who are called of God to be like Him in His holiness.

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