Welcome to Season 1 Episode 39 of the Your Church Matters podcast. In this episode I answered a listener question.
Greg sent me an email that contained more than just this particular issue, but I asked (and received) his permission to share this portion and my answer.
“One of the major points of criticism I’ve received from a very vocal minority is, ‘The Deacons have faded into the woodwork’ and this structure ‘isn’t biblical’ because the Leadership Team ‘holds all the power.’ In reality and practice, the influence of these groups has been diffused where no one group can exist without the accountability of the other. Our church was deacon controlled for a long time, so the small voices here have that reference, but’s it’s been nearly impossible to communicate and convince them that they hold as much responsibility as ever, if not more.”
Here are a couple of ideas that occur to me:
I am assuming that, since you put three different phrases in quotes, these are things that have been said to you by this vocal minority. You mentioned difficulty in communicating and convincing. One thing I have found to be helpful is to make sure that we are all speaking the same language. This does not guarantee that agreement will come, but at least you have the opportunity to hear what they are really saying and acknowledge the fears that they have over the changes taking place. What you see as the beginning of a positive cultural shift, they see as losing their church.
Questions are usually more powerful than statements in these scenarios, so here are some things I would want to ask:
- “Help me understand what you mean by ‘faded into the woodwork.’”
- “What are some ways that Deacons have effectively ministered before that you believe we are missing now?”
- “What is your understanding of the Biblical role of a Deacon?”
- “Where in Scripture do you see that model?”
- “What does ‘power’ look like to you?”
- “Who should hold power in a New Testament church?”
- “How does the Bible describe how decisions should be made in a New Testament church?”
- “What is the difference between power, authority, and responsibility?”
- “What is it that you believe you need, but are not receiving, in our current structure, that helps you to fulfill the purpose God has for you.”
There is nothing magic about any of those questions. The real power may be in the follow up questions that you can ask in response to their answers. Don’t be too quick to defend your position or to try to convince. You have the pulpit for teaching Biblical truth and principles. Let conversations be opportunities for everyone, including you, to learn how to navigate this journey together.
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*Special thanks to Keith Cooper (Guitar Music)