There are numerous reasons why pastors should garner support from among their congregations, but one of the most important is because they alone cannot physically carry the burden of the load placed upon them. Biblically, the pastor’s main focus should be on studying the Scripture so he can assist in the spiritual growth of his flock (Acts 6:2). Then, as with all Christians, he should witness to the unbelieving world. These two duties, studying and witnessing, done with exactitude will occupy most of his time, therefore if the widows, orphans, sick and needy, and additional ministries of the church are going to be fulfilled he will certainly need assistance. That’s why the apostles, who were among the pastors of their day, initiated the choosing of the first seven deacons. These deacons were ordained, or set aside, for the precise purpose of assisting their pastors in ministry. Their job was never to supervise or lord over their pastors, but to minister to the saints and those in need, and to share the gospel whenever possible. With these additional godly men assisting the apostles/pastors, the gospel was spread much more readily. These seven godly deacons became pillars of the early church and examples for all future deacons and Christians to follow.
A number of years ago I wrote a book manuscript titled, Deacons Who Really Deck. It was based upon a New Testament deacon ministry developed by Dr. Jim Austin, who at that time was senior pastor of Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Georgia. Dr. Austin’s deacons weren’t lords over Blackshear Place, but its servants. Each time a new deacon was elected, he was given a spiritual gifts inventory test. After learning his spiritual gift, this new church servant was assigned to assist other deacons who were already working in that specific area of service. For example, if it was discovered that his gift was evangelism, he was appointed to help older deacons working in the area of church evangelism. If his gift was service, he was assigned a role in the area of church service. He would be a “Timothy” or young minister/deacon in training and in time would be turned lose to train others. Since God graciously gifted his people with a variety of spiritual gifts, Dr. Austin’s church had no lack of qualified and dedicated servant leaders, each working where their specific gifts were best highlighted. An additional benefit of this type of deacon ministry is that it weeds out the tares who so eagerly seek the traditional “rule over” deacon position because they have no desire to actually serve God.
As a result of this program, Dr. Austin’s deacons were too busy conducting church ministry to argue among themselves about details that should have been handled by others. What a beautiful tribute Dr. Austin’s program was to the first seven deacons of the New Testament times, all of whom gave their lives in martyrdom for the sake of the gospel.