Share This Episode
Connect with Skip Heitzig Skip Heitzig Logo

The Deacon-Possessed Church-Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig
The Truth Network Radio
February 26, 2022 2:00 am

The Deacon-Possessed Church-Part A

Connect with Skip Heitzig / Skip Heitzig

On-Demand Podcasts NEW!

This broadcaster has 1293 podcast archives available on-demand.

Broadcaster's Links

Keep up-to-date with this broadcaster on social media and their website.

February 26, 2022 2:00 am

Yes, this message's title is a play on the words demon-possessed. Deacons were among the church's earliest leaders and so were elders. Leadership is needed in every sphere of life from governing a nation, managing a business, growing a marriage, and superintending a church. Jesus called the church His church, so no single person or denomination can lay claim to it. But how is the church to operate as an organization? And how is it that some deacons and elders stop being helpful and humble and become downright hurtful?

This teaching is from the series Church? Who Needs It.




This week's DevoMail:

Running to Win
Erwin Lutzer
The Verdict
John Munro
Cross Reference Radio
Pastor Rick Gaston

The church, as we've said before, is basically a living organism. It's more than an organization. It's much more than an institution. It's a living organism where human beings, forgiven, gather together and church life begins. It's an organism. But we must also state that as the organism grows, it requires organization. Because after all, an organism that grows without organization is a blob.

And welcome to Connect with Skip Hightake weekend edition, as we pick back up on our series Church, Who Needs It?, and a message about the importance of organization in the church. Have you watched kids play soccer? It's barely controlled chaos and mayhem.

A pack of kids running around a field chasing after a ball. Well, compare that with professional soccer, like a match in the World Cup where everyone understands their position, their role, and how things are supposed to be organized. As a church, we need to be more like a pro soccer team than a little league team if we want to grow. And that means we need to get organized. Skip Hightake will explain more in today's study.

But first, we have a great offer for you this month at Imagine the challenge we faced. Skip Hightake has taught over 3,500 through the Bible messages, and we had to pick the top 10 for a special resource offer.

So here's a sample of what we chose. Are we in the last days? Yes, but we've been in the last days for 2,000 years.

The time between the first coming of Christ and the second coming of Christ falls under the designation, the last days. This power-packed set of Skip's top 10 teachings are messages you will want to hear and share. And one of the things I love about God is he's not complicated.

Most truth you will discover is simple truth, not simplistic truth, simple truth. When you give $35 or more today, we'll also include Lenya Hightake's book, Reload Love, the history of a ministry that's been helping children victimized by terror on the front lines. Get Skip's top 10 messages on CD plus your copy of Reload Love by Lenya Hightake today.

Call 800-922-1888 to give or visit The title of our teaching today is The Deacon Possessed Church, and we'll be in the book of Acts starting in chapter six. So let's join Pastor Skip as he starts this message with a little warning today. There were four church leaders who were all at a conference together, and one afternoon these four leaders who were all incidentally from the same town as each other were having a cup of coffee and getting real honest with each other. They decided to talk about their personal failures in life.

So the first guy decided to open up and he said, let me just tell you guys something. I hit the bottle from time to time. I'm not proud of it.

I know my congregation wouldn't approve. I even preach against drinking, but from time to time I just can't help it. I have a sip.

The second leader said, well, I guess it's my turn. I have a gambling problem. Drinking isn't my problem, but whenever I travel out of town, I gamble.

In fact, I usually lose a lot of money. The third leader spoke up and he said, neither of those have ever been my issue, but I do have a problem with being honest in my income tax. You see, there's extra money I make on the side and I don't report it.

It's just that I need the money and I know it's not right, but I cheat on my income tax. Well, the fourth leader was just sitting there, arms folded, listening the whole time and he finally spoke up. He said, guys, first of all, I just want to thank you for being so honest and second, I want to announce to you that I don't have a drinking problem and I don't have a gambling problem and I am honest with my income tax, but, he said, I do have one vice.

He said, I love to gossip and I can't wait to leave here and tell everyone about you three guys. Well, no leader is perfect, just like no church is perfect, and I know you've heard it before, that if you ever find a perfect church, don't join it because you'll ruin it. And I also know that people will leave churches because of leadership abuses.

I've heard of it and I've seen it before. It's also true, however, that pastors will leave churches as well. In fact, 1600 ministers per month leave the ministry.

1600 per month. Why? Well, it can be anything from moral failure to personal burnout. But you might be interested to know that 85% in a recent poll said the greatest problem they face, they said, is they're sick and tired of dealing with problem people. Disgruntled elders, deacons, worship leaders, board members, and assistant pastors. One confessed and said the trouble with being a leader is you can't be sure whether people are following you or chasing you. The title of today's message is a very different title. It's called The Deacon-Possessed Church.

I couldn't resist. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine a few years back and he came up with this. He was talking about his own church and the leadership problems and he said, I think I belong to a deacon-possessed church. And I laughed and I said, boy, that's a great title for a book.

It certainly could work for a message. So that is the name of this message, The Deacon-Possessed Church. And what I mean is that it is possible at any level of leadership, any level, pastor, elder, deacon, board member, home leader, whatever it is, usher to get the focus off Christ and off of God's people and onto yourself and your agenda and your little coup or group.

And church history has been littered with that kind of stuff. Now Jesus said he would build his church. In fact, it could be said the only organization that Jesus ever said that he himself would build would be the church.

I will build my church. And he wants to build it with servant leaders, those who will serve one another. The church, as we've said before, is basically a living organism. It's more than an organization.

It's much more than an institution. It's a living organism where human beings forgiven gather together and church life begins. It's an organism. But we must also state that as the organism grows, it requires organization. Because after all, an organism that grows without organization is a blob. So organisms, as they grow, need organization. But they must be organized with servant leaders.

Otherwise, people will be so turned off, they will leave in droves. Perhaps the saddest example that I can think of is that of Mark Twain, raised in the church, raised by a godly mother, and even married a Christian wife. But he said that he had seen too many elders and too many deacons who were slave owners and abused their slaves and were foul-mouthed. And though they acted so pious on Sundays, they were so unscrupulous in business the rest of the week that he said, I got turned off to God, turned off to the Bible, turned off to the church, and embittered. And if you've read many of his writings, Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain, you know that to be true.

Turned off by it. He would say, church, who needs it? So the church can be spirit-led if the leaders are spirit-led, but it can also become, as the title suggests, deacon-possessed. Now today, I'm going to take you to two places, Acts 20, but first Acts chapter 6, and we're going to look at three things. That servants should be helpful, but servants can be hurtful, and finally, servants must be humble. The first are two conditions, and the third really is the antidote to the problem, and that is humility.

Let's begin with the first. In Acts chapter 6, let's read the first few verses together. Now in those days when the number of the disciples was multiplying, notice the organism is growing, there was a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the 12, these are the apostles, summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, it's not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

But we will give ourselves continually to prayer into the ministry of the word, and the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timmon, Parmenas, and Nicholas, a proselyte from Antioch, whom they set before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. And then the word of God spread and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith. We have an internal conflict, a spiritual problem in the first church at Jerusalem, and the spiritual problem is met by spiritual people who keep spiritual priorities. One of the tests of leadership is to spot problems before they become full-blown emergencies, and the apostles did that. Now I believe that Luke, who's the writer of this book, one of the reasons Luke includes this paragraph of information, in fact I'll say one of the reasons the Holy Spirit, I believe, chose to preserve it, is to show why a leadership change was necessary in the early church of Jerusalem. And it was indeed, and it does change here. Now the problem, according to the text, developed in the women's ministry.

One group of gals pitted against another group, and there was division, and I think you know one of the devil's favorite and most predictable tools in ruining churches is dissension. That brings division. Somebody once said there's four main bones of every organization. There's the wish bones. They wish someone else would fix this problem. There's the jaw bones.

They just talk about the problem, never do anything to help it. Number three, the knuckle bones. They just knock everything. And number four, the backbones.

They carry the brunt of the load and they do the work. I think we see that here. The problem is basically this. There were Greek-speaking Jewish women who felt that the Hebrew-speaking Jewish women were getting preferential treatment. After all, this was Jerusalem.

Here's a little background. Now the Hebrews were a group of people born in Israel. They were native. They spoke Aramaic. They read the Hebrew scriptures. It's sort of like those who would say, we read the King James only.

If it was good enough for Paul, it's good enough for us. That kind of mentality. The Hellenists were Greek speakers born outside of Israel, and their version of the Bible was the Septuagint, culturally miles apart. And historically, there was an animosity between both of them.

Now get this. In their Jewish days, they met in separate synagogues in Jerusalem. They didn't even fellowship together. But now they're Christians, and now they are gathered together. But they're still people. And they bring all of their baggage and all of that history to bear, and it creates problems. It's not unlike years ago in this church, I remember having some Vietnam vets, and there were also some Vietnamese believers as a part of our church, and those groups did not get along well.

Or if you went back in our history to World War II, and there were American soldiers fellowshipping with German believers, it'd be something to get past, something to work out. Something to work out. So the wishbones want someone to fix it here, and the jawbones are talking about it. And thus the backbones, the apostles, come to fix it. Now something I want you to notice. In chapter six, this is the very first time in the book of Acts the term disciples is used.

It's used 28 times. This is the first. Disciples are mentioned and apostles are mentioned. And what I'd like you to see is that was the simple earliest division of the church. There were disciples and there were apostles. There were followers of Christ and there were apostles, those 12 who walked and talked and lived with Jesus Christ. And the followers, the disciples, were led by the apostles.

But that couldn't last long. The apostles would one day die and other leadership would have to arise. So along with the 12, here come the seven, the table servers, those who are going to help in the daily distribution. So now the church can both passionately preach and compassionately care for the needs in the community. A few lessons emerge immediately.

Lesson number one, everybody can't do everything, but everybody can do something. And lesson number two, God calls and equips different people to do different tasks and it's all facilitated by leadership as we see here. Now one of the things I'd like you to see in Acts six before we move on to the next point is Acts chapter six is where the concept of deacons in a church come from.

At least that's what has been historically taught. And that is because of verse two. Notice the last two words of verse two, serve tables. You see the word serve? Diakonine, deaconing.

Diakonine. They're serving deaconing tables. That's the word. However, don't make too much of that word because the term, the official term deacon, does not appear at all in the book of Acts, not even once.

It will be developed later on. In fact, look at verse four. But we, this is the apostles now speaking, we will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.

Diakonia tu logu. The deaconing of the word. So do you see that the word deacon is simply a word for general service of any kind, of any kind. Whether you're serving tables or serving in the word.

You're a table servant or you're a word servant, but you're all servants and all servants should be helpful. In fact, let me tell you this. Romans chapter 13. How many of you are familiar with Romans chapter 13? So four, five.

Okay, we got to do better than that. Romans 13 is all about how Christians relate to civil government, civil authorities, the government of the state. And it says in Romans 13 that the government, magistrates, police officers, etc., are ministers of God. Same word, deacon, diakonia. They are servants of God. It's the same term applied to elders or to official deacons or to leaders of any kind. So the point I want to make is that church government at first is very flexible and morphed and grew and changed to meet the needs of a growing congregation. So in the very earliest days there were disciples and apostles and now the seven and the seven are the servants who come to assist the needs of the flock. Now this brings up a question and it's a very common question.

I'm only going to touch on it. What is the proper form of church government? Which is the form that the church today ought to follow? Well, now we have a problem because though Jesus said that he would build his church, he never said exactly how he would build his church.

He never left the policy manual. He never left a book, here's how to build a church Jesus way. In fact, did you know that Jesus said nothing at all about the organization of the church he would build? In fact, what he focused on is the character and the attitude of the leadership not how the leadership would be structured. As an example, Matthew 20 Jesus said, the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and those who are great exercise authority over them but it shall not be so among you.

For whoever desires to become great among you let him be your servant and whoever desires to be first among you let him be your slave. The organizational information at best in the New Testament is very nebulous and that's why there are different views on church government. Let me give you three main views.

There are four or five or even six others or six total but I'll just give you the three main ones that are used today. Number one, congregational church government. That's where every congregation member votes. It's a democracy.

We vote on everything all the time. Second form of church government, presbyterian. That's where you have a group of elders making the decision and finally episcopalian or episcopal. From the Greek word episkopos, the bishops and you have a leader or a few leaders in an area that call the shots. Well, each one of those groups will draw from and find scriptural support for each of those three views. So I simply appeal to the Nelson Bible dictionary that I read this week. One sentence only sums it up. Quote, no single pattern of government in the early church can be discovered by reading the New Testament. Close quote. Because Jesus left no rules and things seem to change as they went.

There's one other source of government. There's one other source I want to quote to you and that is from Philip Schaff and if you're a Bible student that rings a bell. Schaff's church history, all eight volumes, is the definitive source for most all Bible scholars. So I pulled my eight volumes out and read volume one, not all of it but part of it this week.

This is what he says. Christ laid down no minute arrangements but only the simple and necessary element of an organization wisely leaving the details to be shaped by the growing and changing wants of the church in different ages and in different countries. Now listen, it doesn't matter which form of church government a church holds to. If the focus of the people or the leadership is the same focus as that of Christ having the heart of a servant doesn't matter what the structure is. All the structures can be good and all of them can be bad. You can have good leaders and you can have carnal leaders just like you can have good congregations and you can have carnal congregations. As C.S.

Lewis used to say, no clever arrangement of bad eggs ever made a good omelet. So at first it was apostles and disciples then it was apostles plus the seven plus the congregation and eventually it will become elders and deacons in the pastoral epistles. But one of the the most important things before we jump into chapter 20 is this church was spirit-led. It was not fleshly driven. It was not deacon possessed.

It was spirit-led. It wasn't about Peter or wasn't about John or it wasn't about the deacons. It was about the Lord's glory and the people of God. It was deity obsessed not deacon possessed.

Now let's go to Acts chapter 20 for the second point this morning and that is that servants can be hurtful and whenever there are hurtful servants they are no longer servants. You know as kids grow older and learn the importance of organization and structure something like the game of soccer can go from being mass confusion to an impressive display of skill and teamwork and so it is with the church once we understand how to properly organize it. We'll look at that more next time but as we close our time for today we wanted to share this invitation from Pastor Skip. Going to Israel is a unique experience but by far the most life-changing part of it is the spiritual aspect. That's why I'm excited to announce our next trip there in 2022. You'll have the opportunity to worship and study God's Word in some of the most significant biblical sites in the country. Find out more at slash c-a-b-q. Well thanks Skip and don't forget you can also order a copy of today's teaching The Deacon Possessed Church for just four dollars plus shipping when you call us at 1-800-922-1888 or when you visit and come back next time as Skip Heitzig talks more about the organization of the church when we resume the message The Deacon Possessed Church here in Connect with Skip weekend edition. A presentation of Connection Communications. Connecting you to God's never-changing truth in ever-changing times.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-29 17:46:02 / 2023-05-29 17:54:33 / 9

Get The Truth Mobile App and Listen to your Favorite Station Anytime