Consecration of Deacons

Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Glen Arm, Maryland USA

Service A

Would our deacons please come forward.

            When God calls persons to a task, "interesting" things happen. Take the story of the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness, after being being set free from Pharaoh. Their needs were many, beyond what Moses could handle as their leader. After listening to Moses complain about the situation, the Lord instructed him to "gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel." When they were all together in the tent of meeting (as recorded in the 11th chapter of Numbers) the Lord came down in a cloud upon them and spoke, and then took some of the spirit that was on Moses and put it on the 70 elders.

            Now, whatís really "interesting" is that some of these elders didnít stay put in one particular mold, doing only the task to which they had been called. Two of them, Eldad and Medad, became prophets, speaking for God - something expected only from Moses. Joshua son of Nun was upset by this behavior and asked Moses to stop them. "But Moses said to (Joshua), ĎAre you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!í" (Numbers 11:29)

            Fast forward 1200 or so years, and recall the story of the Lord doing just that. On the day of Pentecost, Godís Spirit spilled out everywhere. It didnít just blow through a select few. Something new happened. The church of Jesus Christ was born, and all the people in it were set on fire with the Holy Spirit. Even so, their needs were just as pressing then as they were in Mosesí day. It was more than the team of 12 apostles could handle. So, as recorded in the 6th chapter of Acts, seven servants were chosen to help. These were the first "deacons."

            As I said, when God calls persons to a task, "interesting" things happen. One of those original deacons was a fellow named Stephen. Like Eldad and Medad, Stephen didnít stay "on task," only making sure the widows were fed. No, he "did great wonders and signs among the people." (6:8) In fact, he couldnít shut up. His preaching was effective. It also cost him his life. Stephen became the first follower of Jesus to be killed for his faith.

            Again, fast forward a bit less than 2,000 years. The story continues. The Holy Spirit still blows, fulfilling the promise of the prophet Joel that God would "pour out (His) Spirit upon all flesh" (2:28ff, recalled in Acts 2:17ff) Even so, the needs of Godís people are just as pressing in this day as in days long ago. And God continues to call out and empower servants to meet the challenge. Of course, let me repeat, when God calls persons to a task, "interesting" things happen.

            Now, today, we want to consecrate our deacons for another year of service. _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, and _____, this is not a new calling for you. May the Lord bless your service this fresh new year. I challenge you, first of all, to grow more deep in your relationship with Christ Jesus, to regularly read Godís Word, and to rely ever more so upon the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, I challenge you to be faithful to your calling, to deeply care for and reach out to those in our fellowship we have asked you to oversee. There is no "one way" of being a caregiver. Continue to discover the way God is giving to you, remembering that when God calls persons to a task, "interesting" things happen... If you are up to this challenge, would you respond by saying, "With Godís help I will."

            Would the rest of you please stand. My challenge to you is similar. Remember that Godís Spirit doesnít just rest upon these persons up front. We are not just passive recipients of Godís grace, we are co-workers in Christ, seeking to continue the work of Jesus, peacefully, simply, together. Will you commit to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ, to regularly read Godís Word, to rely on the Holy Spirit which has been poured out upon all? Will you support these deacons by praying for them, and letting them (and myself) know of needs you or others have which we can address? If you are up to this challenge, would you respond by saying, "With Godís help I will." Letís pray.

Loving God,
        We thank you for the ways you call us to do the work of Jesus.
        We thank you for your guidance in every stage of our lives.
        We give you special thanks today for those who stand before us.
                    Lead them, guide them, along the path of service.
                    Give them encouragement when they encounter disappointment.
                    Give them joy in their ministry.
                    Be for them a sure rock on which to stand.
                    May your "interesting" things happen through them.
                    We pray this in the name of the One who came, not to be served, but to serve,
                                            Jesus Our Lord. Amen.

(this last prayer adapted from one by Kenneth L. Gibble, p. 76, Deacon Manual for Caring Ministries,
©1998, Association Of Brethren Caregivers)


Service B
(follows reading of Psalm 19:7-14)

            "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

            Before I stand to preach, those words are my prayer - spoken or quietly running through my mind. Words can easily cross these lips which are not in tune with what God desires. The thought processes which lead to them or from them, within me as I preach, or you as you take my all-too-inadequate words and connect them with whatís happening in your life - my/our prayer is that somehow God will be pleased with it all.

            I prefer the translations which use the word "pleasing" instead of merely "acceptable," because the latter for me paints a picture of a distant deity who, with royal disdain, determines what is "acceptable" and what is not. The Lord I love, however, the God who first loved me, cares so passionately about us that he sent his Son, not merely to make us "acceptable," but to make us his own. I want my words and thoughts to "please" God. Itís a whole lot better than trying to please everybody else.

            Long ago, the apostles were sent forth by God to speak their words of good news to a world hungry for God, to proclaim Christ crucified, to preach about the Kingdom of God. They soon discovered, as the church was born, that it was a huge task to which God had called them. And so, they spread the responsibility. Thus, the office of "deacon" came into existence.

            From the beginning, deacons have been detail persons, caring for those easily forgotten in the ebb and flow of church life, beyond the preaching and worship and teaching of the faith. Deacons often work behind the scenes, you know, reaching out in a variety of ways to those in need, preparing the for Love Feast and Communion, shepherding the process of baptism, remembering things and people the Pastor (i.e. me) sometimes (often?) loses track of. They are also charged with peacemaking responsibilities in the church.

            In the "old days," Brethren deacons would visit every household before Love Feast to check up on the spiritual health of the church. "Are you still in the faith of your baptism," theyíd ask. "Are you at peace with others in our fellowship?" In other words, is there need for forgiveness and reconciliation? Can we help? At their best, deacons were less concerned with making sure that the Lordís commandments were perfectly obeyed, and more involved in helping the souls of believers to be revived by them.

            "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

            Thatís not just a preacherís prayer. It lies at the heart of being a deacon, as well. Words and thoughts need hands to put them into action. They need to be lived. Maybe thatís why the desire is for them to be "pleasing in (Godís) sight." Yes, deacons often work behind the scenes, out of sight of most eyes. But God - the Rock upon whom we build our lives, the One who redeems us, who takes broken situations and persons and makes them whole - God sees! May God be pleased.

            In this congregation, we are blessed with an awesome team of deacons. This morning, weíd like to consecrate them for another year of service. In the "old days" (again) to be a deacon was a lifetime appointment. Nowadays they are called for a 3-year term. However, unlike other leadership positions in this church, deacons can serve for an unlimited number of terms. Some of them have been deacons here longer than I have been pastor, and thatís good. They are were God needs them to be. Just now, would our deacon team place stand as I read your names.

[_____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, _____, and _____]

            This is not a new calling for you. May the Lord bless this new year of service. I challenge you to continue to grow more deep in your relationship with Christ Jesus, to regularly read Godís Word, and to rely ever more so upon the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit. I challenge you to be faithful to your calling, to deeply care for and reach out to those in our fellowship we have asked you to oversee. There is no "one way" of being a caregiver. Continue to discover the way God is giving to you, remembering that when God calls persons to a task, exciting things happen... If you are up to this challenge, would you respond by saying, "With Godís help I will."

            Would the rest of you please stand. My challenge to you is similar. Remember that Godís Spirit doesnít just rest upon these persons up front. We are not just passive recipients of Godís grace, we are co-workers in Christ, seeking to continue the work of Jesus, peacefully, simply, together. Will you commit to grow deeper in your relationship with Christ, to regularly read Godís Word, to rely on the Holy Spirit which has been poured out upon all? Will you support these deacons by praying for them, and letting them (and myself) know of needs you or others have which we can address? If you are up to this challenge, would you respond by saying, "With Godís help I will." Letís pray.

O God who works in and through persons like us,
                              imperfect but seeking to reflect your glory,
                                                            and marvel in your grace;
              May the words they speak,
                                and the thoughts which lie behind them,
                                       as well as how they put all this into action,
                         be pleasing in your sight, O Lord.
      For you are their firm foundation, and ours as well;
             you are their redeemer and ours.
We consecrate these deacons again this day.
         Revive them, and us, to a new year of service
                                              in Jesusí name. Amen.
   

Service C
(from Deacon's Manual)

PASTOR: As God has acted through his people to give you a responsibility in this church, and as this congregation now vests its confidence in you to endeavor to do the will of God in your office, it is right that you be consecrated in holy worship. Therefore you will make your promise to God and to this congregation.

 

DEACONS: Though we may have weaknesses, we shall call upon the strength of God to help us. With God's help we shall be creative, diligent, and faithful in performing our call. We will remember that all persons in this congregation are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will give ourselves to this promise we make before God and the people.

 

PASTOR: God has acted through this people to choose each of you. We need you to help us work through the pain and joy of learning, growing, celebrating and witnessing to the faith. But we also have a responsibility to you. The congregation will please stand.

 

CONGREGATION: These persons whom we have chosen are our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have not chosen them to work alone. We will work with them in the way of Christ. We pledge our support. We accept their leadership. We will stand with them in the duties and mission of the Church when gathered together or scattered in the world.

 

UNISON: Together we are God's people. We shall be true to one another and to God. This communion we have together is the Body of Christ in the world. We will not break the Body of Christ by breaking the words and spirit of this pledge.

 

PASTOR: Our Father, consecrate these persons whom you have called to special ministries of leadership. Consecrate the whole people to do the work of ministry in support of those you have chosen. Be merciful to us and change us into the image of your Son. Help us to build up the church and give hope to the world. Amen.

 

by Richard Landrum, from Deacon Manual for Caring Ministries, copyright ©1998 by Association of Brethren Caregivers, p. 75-76.
  


Service D
(follows reading of 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 from The Message)

Sons of Light, daughters of Day, live under Godís wide open skies, even through tough times.
Encourage one another. Build up hope. Leave no one outÖ.  

            Thatís our calling as brothers and sisters in Christ, drawn together to support and challenge one another. Itís a task we all share, though some of us are set apart to pay special attention to such caregiving. The first followers of Jesus quickly realized that Peter, James, John, and the other apostles couldnít do it all, and that in order to truly be the body of Christ they needed to call deacons to help. Thatís still part of the plan, my friends. I may be set aside as your pastor, but I certainly donít do it all. The truth is that the task belongs to all of us. But some of us are called to the special caregiving task of being deacons.

            At this time, I invite all of our deacons who are here today to come forward. I also invite __________ to come and stand with us.

            ďSo speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you'll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you're already doing this; just keep on doing it.Ē Thatís what the apostle Paul wrote to the folks in Thessalonika long ago, a good word of challenge and affirmation for you, who have been serving as deacons to this congregation. On behalf of the rest of us, thank you, and keep on keeping on! Be creative and energetic in how you continue to fulfill your calling.

            A sadness this year has been the loss of our sister ___________. She is now part of that great cloud of witnesses who still shed light upon our way. Here on earth, our deacon body has needed someone to replace her. Searching and praying, we have asked our sister _____ to step forward and answer this calling. However, this call needs to be affirmed by us all. In a few moments I will ask you in the congregation to stand as an act of calling and speak the words printed in the bulletin. However, there are a few things I need to say and ask first.

            _____, there is no way that you can replace _____, nor should you even try to do so. Like every one of us, she was unique and gifted in her own way by the Lord. You have different gifts, and your own personality. God will provide you with the ability and energy to do what we are calling you now to do. Apart from that strength and wisdom, we can accomplish little. With God, however, all things are possible Ė even for someone whose knees are not what they used to be. Because we believe in God, we believe in you.

            Let me now ask five questions of you. After you have responded to each, I will turn to the rest of the deacons, and give you all the opportunity to reaffirm your own vows.

1. Do you declare anew your faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
            If so say, ďYes, I do.Ē  (other deacons?)

2. Will you seek to cultivate more fervently your spiritual life by Bible reading, meditation, prayer, and Christian witnessing?
            If so, say, ďWith God's help, I will.Ē  (other deacons?)

3. Will you encourage and lead the congregation in deepening its spiritual life and its ministries of compassion?
            If so, say, ďI will.Ē  (other deacons?)

4. Will you seek to be a good example in faith and conduct?
            If so, say, ďI will.Ē  (other deacons?)

5. Do you then accept the call to the ministry of deacon in this body of Christ, and promise to perform faithfully all the duties thereof?
            If so, say, ďI do.Ē  (other deacons?)

            To you, who are gathered as the Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren; if you affirm this call of God, would you please stand and join hands with the persons beside you.

(Using a chair instead of kneeling Ė due to previous surgery, ______ is seated and surrounded by the rest of the deacons who lay hands upon her for the following prayer of consecration.)

Eternal God, you have come in Jesus Christ not to be served but to serve.  Now we set apart and consecrate this your servant to this ministry of deacon, that she serve in your name. Grant her, and all our deacons, deep compassion for human needs; fill her and them with tender care and steadfast love for those for whom Christ died. Inspire her and them with devotion to your church. Grant her and them growth in faith that they may lead others by precept and example. Grant to the church the grace to work with them for the increase of faith and caring within the fellowship. Sustain them in their labors. Through Christ we pray. Amen. 

(arise)

In the name of Jesus Christ, you are now set apart in the sacred ministry of deacon.  Serve God and this congregation faithfully and courageously.  And may God bless you in your service.

Congregation:  We, the members of this body of Christ, in the spirit of joy and in renewed loyalty to our Lord, acknowledge and receive you as deacons.  We promise to pray for you and support you in confidence, encouragement, cooperation, and prayers, that together we may increase in the knowledge and the love of God, manifested to us in Jesus Christ.

The five questions, prayer and congregational affirmation are adapted
from
p. 322-324 of  For All Who Minister, ©1993, Brethren Press, Elgin, IL
part of liturgy for November 13, 2011 (RCL year A - 28/ 33/22)
   


©2000, 2011 Peter L. Haynes

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