A Deacon on a Deacon’s Reward
From January 2005 to January 2008, I was blessed to serve as “deacon of bookstall” at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.
Blessed to serve is a phrase that rolls off the tongue readily enough, though often with less consideration than it deserves. I must have used the phrase dozens of times while I was a deacon, but it was not until after my term that I actively counted the many ways God had rewarded my service.
ONE DEACON’S REWARD: BEING TAUGHT AND ENCOURAGED
The “bookstall” is what our church calls its bookstore. As deacon of bookstall, my responsibilities included ordering books approved by our elders, preparing them for sale, and maintaining a roster of volunteers to staff the bookstall after services. These are modest tasks that did not require special skill, but they placed very real demands on my time while I was also working to finish law school, prepare for the bar exam, and reenter the workforce.
My service was not always offered joyfully or faithfully, but God incommensurately rewarded my efforts by teaching and encouraging me in a number of ways.
Through Others’ Actions
First, God taught and encouraged me through the actions of many fellow believers. My occasional service often gave me opportunity to see the more demanding and sacrificial efforts of others. When I received a couple of book orders on a Thursday night, I left the church building just as the elders were assembling to spend hours praying for and shepherding our church. When I shelved a few books before the Wednesday night Bible study, there were several single women boxing up 9Marks materials to ship to pastors and others around the globe.
Seeing others’ faithfulness exposed my own heart’s faithlessness and encouraged me to greater selflessness.
Through Others’ Words
Second, God taught and encouraged me through the words of my brothers and sisters. On many occasions, someone would buy a book, and then explain that the book was headed to an unbelieving roommate, or to a country closed to the gospel. At other times, a brother would share how a particular book helped him understand that he was cultivating a sin that was damaging his relationships with others.
One elder’s purchases were usually accompanied by the query “Have you read this?” followed by an explanation of how he or the person who recommended it to him had benefited from it. This openness encouraged me to pray for those sharing their lives with me and to more readily open my life to others.
Through Others’ Writings
Third, God taught and encouraged me through the words and actions of brothers and sisters I have never met. My work with the bookstall placed at hand centuries of Christian wisdom and faithfulness.
In the biography section, I learned of the constancy of Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and others—even to martyrdom. John Murray spoke up from the theology section and provided a greatly needed, Scripture-saturated lesson on redemption. Jerry Bridges uncovered a whole category of unacknowledged sin in my heart.
Dozens of others took me by the hand and generously shared the fruit of their diligent and faithful work in Scripture.
Through Reflecting on God’s Blessings
Fourth, God taught and encouraged me as I reflected on his blessings. Thinking of the way he used the words and actions of his people increased my faith and joy in him.
Even as I write these words, I wonder at the marvelous way the church reflects the glory of God. It strengthens my faith to see the fruit of the Spirit in the life of an older brother or sister who has followed Christ many decades. It fills me with joy to see a new Christian develop a thirst for knowledge of God. And it fills me with desire for eternal communion with the entire body of Christ when I consider the faithfulness of those who have already entered God’s rest.
These abundant rewards that I received were undeserved. They are a testimony not to me, but to God’s faithfulness and to the amazing way he works through us, his people, to benefit one another.
Other deacons may have different responsibilities, but they all are positioned to see God’s people interact with one another. They all have a front row seat to see the faithfulness of others. They can see God use their own imperfect service to encourage other saints. They can learn from other Christians who share their joy in the Lord. The specific rewards may differ, but for all of us it is a joy to serve the living God by serving his people.