The word deacon, or the New Testament word diakonos simply means “servant.”1 Deacons are the individuals who faithfully and practically serve the tangible needs of the Church. According to 1 Timothy 3:8 (ESV), deacons are individuals in the church who “must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, [and]not greedy for dishonest gain.” God also gives us an example of deacons in action in Acts 6. In this passage of scripture, readers witness the selection of deacons and the deacons’ faith in action as they meet the practical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-6). The Christ-followers chosen as the first deacons were individuals of good repute, full of the Spirit and full of wisdom. Their appointment was strategic delegation of responsibility executed in the very early days of the first century Church. Acts 6 models the healthy practice of sharing the load concerning the needs of the church. Through these two passages of Scripture (1 Timothy and Acts 6), God sets-out his criteria for those who are called to servant leadership in the Church while giving a practical example of how and why delegation and service is essential.
Susan Bynum serves as a deacon at Restoration Church. She exemplifies the characteristics of a deacon laid out in Scripture. She is dignified, true in her speech, committed and self-controlled. She diligently prays for our church and regularly serves in various capacities. Susan practically serves the church in tangible ways. I asked Susan about her role as deacon at Restoration Church and she graciously shared her thoughts and feelings. I hope you are as encouraged by her words as I was.
How do you understand the role of a deacon in the Church?
To me the role of deacon is that of a servant. To serve, pray for, and encourage the church.
Why do you feel called to the role of deacon?
I have been a pastor's wife for many years. To serve, pray for, and encourage the church are things I had already been doing. When we moved to Adel and became a part of Restoration my role changed. I felt as if I had, in a sense, lost my identity. The Lord opened the door to becoming a deacon and the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that this is what I need to do. I admit at first, I struggled with the title of "deacon.” I have always been in very traditional churches where women do not take on that title. I had to pray through that. And, well, here I am!
What are your responsibilities as a deacon?
My responsibilities as a deacon are to serve, pray for, and encourage the church. I try to be attentive to any needs that may arise and plan how we can meet that need. Also, as a deacon I come alongside the elders for the purpose of supporting, encouraging, and praying for them. Much like I did when my husband was pastoring. I also prepare the communion table each week.
What was the process of becoming a deacon?
After being approached to consider taking on the role as a deacon, I had to fill out a detailed questionnaire. I was then presented before the church as a candidate. The church had several weeks to question me. After that process, I was then presented as a deacon. My church prayed over me and presented me with a basin and towel (symbolizing my work as a servant). It was a very emotional experience. Servanthood is a privilege and not to be taken lightly.
Describe your quiet time with the Lord.
My everyday quiet time is reading God's word. That could be a single verse or a chapter. I try to be intentional in taking in what scripture means and how it applies to me. Prayer is a big part of my quiet time. I use scripture in my prayers. Sometimes I use a devotional that gives me a very specific thought to meditate and pray on. I usually have a study that I'm working on. I don't do that every day because I don't want to be restricted in time. Right now, I'm studying Leviticus (The Hard and the Holy).
What does spiritual warfare look like in your life and how do you battle against it?
Spiritual warfare in my life usually comes in the form of discouragement, an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy, fear, and anxiousness. I'm an emotional person so Satan hits me hard emotionally. I battle it with God's word and prayer. Ephesians 6 is one of my go-to passages. Those are my strongest weapons against warfare. I remind myself who I am in Christ. Jesus is the One who defines me. There have been a few times where spiritual warfare was a heavy feeling of darkness. Sometimes warfare has been when normal life hindrances/frustrations have been overwhelming. Anytime I intentionally place myself "in the gap" on behalf of someone I can anticipate warfare. When the battle is exceptionally hard, I bring my prayer warrior friends to pray with me.
In what ways do you care for the people in your congregation?
I try to be intentional in speaking with those who I know are facing a difficulty or a challenge. I pray for and over them in person. If there's a need I can personally meet, I try to do that. If I can’t, I reach out to see who can help. I like to send cards. I personally like cards because they are something I can keep and go back to for encouragement. I text to check up on those who I know are having a hard time. I have dropped off "goodie bags" to meet a specific need. I have visited in the hospital. I hug. One of the things my husband and I are trying to do is intentionally bless someone different each month. God has been faithful in leading us to that person or family. It's not anything big, just something to encourage. I'm always thinking and dreaming of how I can serve and encourage others.
1. Matt Smethurst, “Deacons,” thegoseplecoalition.org, TCG, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/deacons/.