Bart Barber praised deacons in his chapel message at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary but quipped first that his sermon could have been filled with jokes or complaints. When it comes to deacons, Southern Baptists have supplied plenty of both, said Barber, president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Instead, Barber expressed heartfelt appreciation for deacons and urged listeners to do the same.
“All through my ministry, from the first church I pastored when I was 17 years old, all the way through to today … at every point along the way, God has blessed me with the help of people who have truly been gifts to the church, deacons who have served well,” Barber said.
Barber told listeners that as seminary students preparing for ministry they are “Southern Baptists’ future and hope” and reminded them that many give “sacrificially” through the Cooperative Program because they believe the work of the seminaries is important.
“You are God’s gift to the churches, but you are not the only gift that God gives to churches,” Barber said during the Oct. 20 chapel service. “When you arrive at a church, new for the first time, there will be people already there whom God has given as a gift to the churches.”
Helping the church ‘succeed’
Barber pointed to a “profound truth” he said should sustain pastors throughout ministry.
“God cares about churches …,” Barber said. “You are never having to do it all by yourself. God cares about His church more than you ever will. God is committed to the long-term success of churches.”
Drawing from Acts 6:1–2, Barber explained that deacons in the early church were servants who helped solve problems in ministry, took up the task of ministry, and served as peacemakers within the church.
Barber pointed out that early deacons served widows in need, those whom Jesus identified as a ministry “priority.” Because the same needs exist today, deacons can help the church and the pastor succeed, Barber said.
Barber shared from his personal experience of deacons who cared for his family and supported him in ministry.
“I’m here to thank God for deacons who have helped us, as our church has grown and developed, to be far more successful than I could possibly have been on my own,” Barber said.
Deacons were first
Barber pointed out that the first martyr of the church, Stephen, was not a pastor but a deacon. Barber pointed also to Philip to say that a deacon, rather than a pastor, was the first to share the gospel internationally.
“Deacons are a gift of God to the church,” Barber said. “They’re a gift of God to your ministry.”
Barber urged listeners to “think differently” about deacons and rather than limit deacons, pray that God would “light their fire” for ministry and “[then] stand back and see what God does when the Spirit of God moves upon His people.”
Two offices — pastors and deacons — are recognized by the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Barber noted, adding that his prayer is that they would pray for, encourage and serve with each other.
“I believe your ability to form a team with the leaders God has given you through the local church will impact the cause of the gospel more than anything else,” Barber said. “The church is the vehicle Jesus has chosen to share the gospel with the world and He cares about His churches. Peace there matters more than anywhere else.”