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    Bible Study - Thread: Who is the Greatest

    1. #1
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      Who is the Greatest

      Years ago, when I worked in a church in Petersburg, Virginia, a deacon came up to me and showed me a chart of the leadership of the church. He had the deacons above everyone else. He was trying to tell me that this was his understanding of church leadership that he was in charge. I replied that the word deacon actually means one who waits tables and is in reference to a servant of others not a lord over others.

      That deacon didn't like my answer and he never really did talk to me much after that. But, the disciples seemed to have the same idea that this deacon did. In Luke 22:24-31, the very night that Jesus would be betrayed, they are arguing over who is the greatest. This has occurred several times since it is mentioned in Matthew 18:1 and also Mark 9:33-34. These disciples had a dispute. The word dispute here is philoneikia which means to love of strife, eagerness to content. This was a heated argument over who was the greatest.

      Jesus' reply is amazingly patient and kind given that his time with them on earth is running out. In fact, later in this passage he tells each of them that they will rule on thrones and eat at the table in the kingdom verse 30. But, he reminds them since he has taught this to them before that they are not judged as great the same way the Gentile rules were. The Gentile rulers were called "Benefactors" this is because they would sometimes reward those who followed them faithfully with tracks of land and other rewards. But, Jesus said that he was among them as one who serves. Here is Luke 22:24-29

      24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
      25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
      26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
      27 For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
      28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.
      29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;
      30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

      This is again how the gospel contradicts our views of greatness and importance in the world. Jesus said you want to be great become like the youngest (the one with the least rights and privileges). You want to be great follow my example and wash feet (John 13:13-20). You want to become great in the kingdom of God then lose your life for my sake and the gospels. It would lead Paul to write in Philippians 2:5-7

      5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
      6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
      7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

    2. #2
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      Quote Originally Posted by jsimms435 View Post
      Years ago, when I worked in a church in Petersburg, Virginia, a deacon came up to me and showed me a chart of the leadership of the church. He had the deacons above everyone else. He was trying to tell me that this was his understanding of church leadership that he was in charge. I replied that the word deacon actually means one who waits tables and is in reference to a servant of others not a lord over others.
      FWIW, the word means a "servant." What the deacons did in the early church (and still do in some today) was to serve as advisors to the bishops, proclaim the Gospel during the worship service, baptize new members, take Communion to the sick and shut-ins who couldn't make it to church, and perform similar spiritual duties. Some historians consider them to have been more important than the elders.

      What your friend meant by saying that deacons are 'above everyone else,' of course I do not know.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Albion View Post
      FWIW, the word means a "servant." What the deacons did in the early church (and still do in some today) was to serve as advisors to the bishops, proclaim the Gospel during the worship service, baptize new members, take Communion to the sick and shut-ins who couldn't make it to church, and perform similar spiritual duties. Some historians consider them to have been more important than the elders.

      What your friend meant by saying that deacons are 'above everyone else,' of course I do not know.
      He was thinking of himself as on a board of trustees. They very much ran the church from a business perspective. The other church I was in when I was ordained as a deacon had a deacon family ministry plan and had members assigned to a deacon who would minister to them and help them in times of need. I had several shut ins on my list that I would go see in the nursing home and if someone was in the hospital on your list. I don't know that every deacon took it seriously but I did.

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      Quote Originally Posted by jsimms435 View Post
      He was thinking of himself as on a board of trustees. They very much ran the church from a business perspective.
      It's true that the position of "Deacon" means different things in different denominations, so he may well be right that he is a member of the governing board. In many denominations, the deacon doesn't have the same duties as in the early church but is, like a trustee, in charge of the finances or policy-making end of things.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Albion View Post
      It's true that the position of "Deacon" means different things in different denominations, so he may well be right that he is a member of the governing board. In many denominations, the deacon doesn't have the same duties as in the early church but is, like a trustee, in charge of the finances or policy-making end of things.
      Every ordaination service I have ever heard in a Baptist church was about being a servant first. the problem isn't that Baptist deacons are a member of a governing board. The problem is that a worldly mentality has crept into the church and that is what it has become. So, the position attracts people who are power hungry instead of servants.

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      I see. When I read your earlier post, I thought that you were criticizing him for thinking he was in charge or that the deacons of his church collectively were in charge. That seemed to be the message in the following--

      Quote Originally Posted by jsimms435 View Post
      Years ago, when I worked in a church in Petersburg, Virginia, a deacon came up to me and showed me a chart of the leadership of the church. He had the deacons above everyone else. He was trying to tell me that this was his understanding of church leadership that he was in charge.

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      Me. I'm the greatest.

    9. #8
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      Quote Originally Posted by Albion View Post
      I see. When I read your earlier post, I thought that you were criticizing him for thinking he was in charge or that the deacons of his church collectively were in charge. That seemed to be the message in the following--
      I am being critical of him. Though he is probably not even alive now. He was old back then and it has been 25 years since then. What I have always heard taught in the Baptist churches I attend is that deacons are servants of God and the church. But, what the Bible says and reality are often two different things as you are surely aware. Many Baptist churches function as if the deacons are trustees and in charge. In many of the small Baptist churches that I know of a person is ordained and put in charge not because they are godly but because of who they are related to.

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      Quote Originally Posted by jsimms435 View Post
      I am being critical of him.
      Yes, I know. But my assumption was that this was more because of the suggestion that a deacon runs the place than the fact that he seemed to be boasting.

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      Quote Originally Posted by jsimms435 View Post
      Every ordaination service I have ever heard in a Baptist church was about being a servant first. the problem isn't that Baptist deacons are a member of a governing board. The problem is that a worldly mentality has crept into the church and that is what it has become. So, the position attracts people who are power hungry instead of servants.
      I do think that people want positions they think are powerful so that others can look upon them with wonder and see how much they're doing for the Lord...which isn't an attitude to have. Usually the best leaders aren't searching for the powerful positions but placed in those positions by others because of their attitude that it's about the people, not their own desires. Christ shows us this when the disciples argue about positioning. Our focus shouldn't be on us and where we're at. Our neighbors are in need all the time so we focus on them and how best we can serve our neighbor. If we get into a position that has any power we shouldn't boast, we shouldn't be arrogant, or proud...all those things that love is not.
      "Christianity does not require more work but more trust." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "Bearing fruit does not make you a branch. A branch is a branch because it grows from the vine." Pr. Jonathan Fisk
      "A Christian's life is not defined by what the Christian does. It is defined by Christ and what He has done for us." Pr. Rolf David Preus

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