Friday, January 06, 2017

Exemplars: Deacons as Servants and Spiritual Leaders—A Review

My friend is chair of the Deacon body in her Baptist church in a neighboring state.  She shared with me the struggle they were experiencing over clarifying the role of deacons in the church.  Is it one of administration and authority or service and spiritual guidance?  I recommended that she obtain a copy of Exemplars:  Deacons as Servants and Spiritual Leaders.  I think she will find it a valuable resource for illumination and discussion.

Although described in the introductory chapter as a “workbook,” I would rather call this book a resource for personal and group development.  The content is rich in information and each chapter includes questions for individual reflection and group conversation.

The book is built upon three pillars.  First, who do deacons need to be?  Deacons—like all believers--are unique creations of God, recipients of God’s grace, and spiritually gifted servants.  These chapters are a reminder of one’s identity and calling.

Second, what do deacons need to know?  The content here deals with the appreciation and interpretation of scripture, understanding Christian history, and thinking theologically.  The writing style is interesting and engaging even for those who habitually avoid these topics.

Third, what do deacons need to do?  This section deals with public and private worship, being part of God’s mission in the world, and practicing creative and generous stewardship.

Like most volumes written by committee, the reader must get used to the various styles of the authors, but there is value in bringing multiple perspectives to the work. 

The most important feature of the book is its broad appeal to various expressions of Baptist church life.  The writers have adopted what I call a “generous” perspective, recognizing that each church will do certain things in its own way, but appealing to the things we hold in common.

Moderate Baptists have needed this type of gender-inclusive, flexible resource for some time. 
Thanks to those who undertook this project at “a labor of love” for their fellow Baptists.

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