Sunday, July 14, 2019

Sermon Starters: Moments of Choice

Date: July 14, 2019
Location: Silver Lake Wesleyan Camp

  • The movie Casablanca. The writers themselves didn't know how it was going to end. Will Rick go off with Ilsa? (probably not because of the censors) Will he get arrested by Renault? 
  • [I've dabbled enough with novel writing to recognize that story lines end up taking on a life of their own. The characters--if they are created well--take o.n a life of their own. It's almost as if they come to have free will.]
  • We get to the critical moment. Rick has killed a Nazi. What will Renault do?
  • Life is full of moments of choice, and it is then that the strength of our faith is most demonstrated. Sometimes we ourselves don't know if we will make the right choice, but God is ever faithful--we can! And there is forgiveness if we truly repent of any failure.
  • Text: Joshua 24:1-7, 11, 13-15
  • Israel has not always made the right choice. There was that calf thing. There was that forty years in the desert thing. But they have finally made it into the Promised Land. They have conquered Jericho and possessed the land.
  • Who will they serve? Joshua isn't optimistic, but he makes his choice clear. They also make the right choice. "We will serve the LORD!"
1. We all have a lifetime decision to make.
  • Have you ever really thought about what a God is? Not like Loki in Avengers. I've been treated very nicely this week. What if Justin Trudeau was visiting here? Even if you don't like him, how would he be treated if he visited camp? In the States, what if President Trump came to your church (he did one in Virginia)? They treated him with respect regardless of their politics.
  • God is beyond anything we can compare. He is not someone we can be neutral about. At some point, we pick a side. Are we going to live for ourselves or for something greater? Are we going to live for good and others or for ourselves? Are we going to live for truth or for what suits me?
  • Most of us here have already made a declaration of our allegiance to God over all else--over ourselves, over our countries, over our families. And of course this choice benefits us, our countries, and our families. We often declare this choice at our baptism.
  • Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail - "It's time to decide what you believe."
  • Perhaps there are some who at some moment come to realize they have passed from death to life but they cannot tell you exactly when it happened (Wesley used the analogy of dying for this). But your allegiance to God is clear enough now.
  • Are there individuals who are committed to God but don't fully understand? God knows.
  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son makes it clear that you can always come back if you have gone astray in your allegiance. The Father will welcome you back with open arms, running out to meet you.
2. We have a daily decision to make.
  • Our choice for God is an eternal choice. Imagine if you got married and then said to your spouse, "Well, that was a nice ceremony. See ya!" Choosing God is like marrying Christ. He'd like to see you every once and a while!
  • Hebrews 3:13; 4:1, 7, 11 - we need to enter into the promised land every day called today
  • Running - you don't run a race if you haven't been training
  • Creating paths in our psyches - deciding where the sidewalks should go at IWU
  • "Motion brings emotion."
  • Ways to create paths - daily prayer, daily Scripture, weekly worship, communion...
  • Don't think of these as duties (Amy Farrah Fowler and God taking attendance) but as part of our marriage relationship with Christ
3. We have moment by moment decisions to make.
  • What really sparked this message. Twix commercial. Sometimes I rehearse conversations. It's not always pretty. (Beware of Matthew 5) Emails you receive. Maybe something on Facebook. Maybe watching media in some form.
  • We are often faced with a choice--how are we going to react to something?
  • James 1:13-15 - temptation is not yet sin
  • Harry Potter and Sedrick Diggery - "For a moment there I thought you weren't going to save me." "For I moment there I didn't think so either."
Some suggestions when you are tempted to make the wrong choice:
  • press pause - don't respond immediately (delay on email, come back to Facebook later (a soft answer turns away wrath)
  • remove yourself from the situation (WS, KD)
  • pray
  • listen to that gnawing feeling inside (JD)
  • Seek the counsel of others (and don't be like Ahab) 
  • Train for that moment
  • Are you going to show up when the moment comes?
  • Illustration

Monday, June 24, 2019

Craig Keener's Galatians Introduction

I don't usually read commentaries from beginning to end, but it could happen with Craig Keener's new Galatians commentary. Here are thoughts on the introduction.

I really liked his introduction and found myself in agreement with almost everything. Here are some notes:
  • "Ancient authors did not always follow hierarchical outlines" (xlvii). I actually think Galatians has a pretty clear outline, but I take his point.
  • Some argue that Galatians was more about "staying in" than "getting in." Not sure I agree with that.
  • "Paul envisions gentile believers as spiritual proselytes." but not physical ones. Yes
  • "Most scholars in Luther's day thought that Galatians abridged Paul's earlier argument in Romans, whereas most scholars today deem Romans the later, more mature work." (4) Interesting. I did not know this and the contrary seems so obvious today.
  • Themes in Galatians: gospel, law, promise, Spirit. (6)
  • A common median for the dating of Galatians is 51. (7) So Keener also dates it to about 50-52 (13, perhaps from Corinth then?). 
  • He dates it to after the Jerusalem Council because he thinks the similarities between Galatians 2 and Acts 15 are too many for them to be different events. I agree in general. (e.g., 11)
  • However, he fairly treats the theory that Galatians 2 relates to the famine trip of Acts 11. I agree with him and others like Lightfoot that the timing would be too scrunched for that.
  • I personally prefer a date while Paul was at Ephesus, around the time of 1 Corinthians, ca. 54ish.
  • Paul's audience is Gentile. His opponents probably Jewish. Keener favors a group of people connected with Jerusalem. (e.g., 25-26)
  • He favors south Galatia. I came to agree between the first and second editions of my New Testament Survey book. Older commentators thought it was north Galatia because they only knew the classical references and early Christian commentators weren't aware of the Roman boundaries of a previous day. A large majority agree today. What clinched it for me was the common sense that Acts talks a lot about south Galatia.
  • Interesting that Galatians would have filled up about half a standard papyrus roll. Two copies would have cost about 6.56 denarii or today $722.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Canon of Western Philosophy: Ancient and Medieval

I have a fair sense of the key works in Western philosophy. If a person wanted to read these key works, what would they be? This and two more posts are my attempt. What am I missing?

Ancient Greco-Roman Philosophy
The Pre-Socratic Philosophers (fragments, here is a possible source)

One can of course read all of Plato's surviving dialogs. However, here is a selection I might suggest:
  • Start with the trio: Apology, Crito, Phaedo (the first is the account of Socrates' trial, the second about justice as he is in jail, the third speaks of the immortality of the soul as Socrates dies)
  • Euthyphro
    (just prior to the Apology, Socrates addresses whether good is good because the gods say so or whether the gods say things are good because they are good independent of them)
  • The Republic
    (perhaps his most important work, giving the myths of the cave and Gyges' ring)
  • The Symposium
    (Plato's dialog on eros, love, giving insights into Greek banquets and sexuality)
  • The Timaeus
    (Plato's best known dialog on cosmology)
  • Meno
    (Plato's theory of knowledge as remembrance)
  • Phaedrus
    (gives Plato's opinions of writing)
Here is the standard two volume collection of Aristotle's surviving writings: volume 1 and volume 2.
  • I suppose for me the Nicomachean Ethics is the most important work, especially book X.
  • A second work of interest are his Metaphysics, so named because they came after the Physics. It begins with Aristotle's sense of the pre-socratics.
  • His Politics are of interest for me especially as background to the household codes of the New Testament. "Man is a political animal."
  • His Rhetoric is important background for understanding ancient rhetoric. His Poetics is perhaps the oldest surviving work of literary criticism.
  • Another work of interest to me are the Categories, in which he sets up a system for categorizing everything. His Prior Analytics presents the syllogism.
  • De Anima gives Aristotle's view of the soul.
The Stoics and Middle Platonists
I suggest two secondary works to get a sense of these thinkers:
Other Stoics
  • Cicero (Roman, mid-first century BC): On Friendship, On Old Age, On DutiesOn the Nature of the Gods 
  • Epictetus (Greek, late first, early second AD): Enchiridion 
  • Marcus Aurelius (Roman, late 100s AD): Meditations
Lucretius (Roman Epicurean, first century BC) - On the Nature of Things
Plotinus (Neo-Platonist, 200s AD) - Enneads

Medieval Philosophy
Augustine (late 300s, early 400s)
  • The Confessions (story of his conversion)
  • On Christian Doctrine (gives his hermeneutic)
  • City of God (his philosophy of history, political philosophy)
Boethius (late 400s, early 500s) - Consolation of Philosophy
Thomas Aquinas (1200s) - Summa Theologica
Duns Scotus (late 1200s) - Ordinatio
     (his commentary on Peter Lombard's Sentences, the standard theological work for four centuries)
William of Ockham (early 1300s, nominalism) - Summa Logicae

Through the Bible: Gospel of Mark

These are posts of my work on the Gospel of Mark as part of my project, "Through the Bible in Ten Years." Each Sunday I hope to put out a podcast and a video for a chapter.

I'm trying to keep up with explanatory notes, which I post for my patrons on Patreon as they ask for them. Then I'll likely self-publish these as they are ready.

Here are the podcasts and videos for Mark:

1.1 Introduction to Mark
1.2 Mark 1
1.3 Mark 2
1.4 Mark 3
1.5 Mark 4
1.6 Mark 5
1.7 Mark 6
1.8. Mark 7
1.9 Mark 8
1.10 Mark 9
1.11 Mark 10
1.12 Mark 11
1.13 Mark 12
1.17 Mark 16:1-8
1.18 Mark 16:9-20

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Sermon Starters: Fill Her Up

Title: Fill Her Up
Location: Lakeview Wesleyan Church
Date: Father's Day, 2019 (June 16)
Text: Acts 4:23-31

  • Happy Father's Day
  • Scripture/Prayer
  • My father would never have run out of gas... [insert story on running out of gas or fuel of some kind]
  • Keep your spiritual tank full!
I. We need spiritual gas.
  • Ephesians 5:18 (present tense - ongoing command)
  • Growing up - thought of the Holy Spirit mainly in terms of entire sanctification, of a check off moment in your spiritual life.
  • Like turbo boosters in some movie - Batman, Fast and Furious...
  • The Holy Spirit is part of the entire life of a believer... He's the Spirit that gives us spiritual life.
  • Romans 7 was not about Christian life. It was about a person without the Spirit (a not-yet Christian).
  • Sin is not like a mass removed by divine surgery. It's not something to be removed. It's a power shortage fixed by plugging in.
  • Holy Spirit is what makes us a Christian - 2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14. An "earnest" (downpayment and guarantee), a seal (of God's ownership).
  • When? How do we know? Usually there's a moment when you invite God in. In Acts often associated with baptism. Prayer is key. Usually there is a peace, although sometimes we have to speak peace to someone (especially melancholics like me).
II. Don't run out.
  • Insert story about running out of steam. Mine was a marathon story. 
  • Sometimes you don't know you're on empty--why it's important to go to church, to be part of Christian fellowship, to be "under the spout where the glory comes out." Means of grace.
  • The trials come unexpectedly, and there isn't always a gas station around. If you're on empty, it might tank you.
  • Parable of the Soils in Mark 4 - the weeds choke out the good news.
  • Parable of the Bridesmaids in Matthew 25 - they didn't have oil ready
III. Sometimes you need a boost.
  • The story in Acts 4.
  • Turbo-boost
  • What are you facing? God is up to the challenge!
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13.
IV. Conclusion with prayer

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Sea Fever by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Old Testament Theology Podcasts

For this season I've been doing a set of verses relating to Old Testament theology each week. On Monday and Friday I look at the Hebrew of some key verses. On Wednesday I've been doing podcasts related to the theological topic of the week.

Here are the podcasts:

Theology of God
Sin and Atonement

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Through the Bible in Ten Years

Last weekend I began what I hope will be a ten year journey: "Through the Bible in Ten Years." Each Sunday I hope to put out a podcast and a video for a chapter. By summer the plan is a podcast/video on Sundays and Wednesdays.

I began last Saturday with an intro to the Gospel of Mark and then last Sunday gave a podcast for Mark 1. I'm trying to keep up with explanatory notes, which will be available to my patrons on Patreon. Then I'll self-publish these as they are ready.

Here is the page for Mark.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Lectures on Philosophy

My intention is to slowly accumulate video lectures introducing philosophy from one Christian point of view. Here is the introduction to philosophy that I wrote.

0. Is Philosophy Christian? (18 minutes)
1. The Questions of Philosophy (25 minutes)

2. Thinking Clearly (logic)
3. The Existence of God (philosophy of religion)
4. The Question of Evil (37 minutes, philosophy of religion)

5. What is a Person? (philosophical psychology)
6. Perspectives on Ethics
7. Perspectives on Society
8. Perspectives on Truth
9. Philosophy of Language
10. Philosophy of Science
11. Philosophy of History
12. Philosophy of Art

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sermon Starters: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Date: 3/31/19
Location: Three Rivers Wesleyan Church
Text: Luke 7:36-50

I. Introduction
  • Family dinners can be awkward
  • I hadn't seen the movie, so I looked it up...
  • I don't mean to suggest that Jesus is an annoying dinner companion. Let's just say he sees right through us. 
  • And I don't mean to reinforce those personalities among us that think they are being like Jesus when they are as annoying as possible.
  • It's no use trying to be on your best behavior when Jesus comes to dinner. You just have to submit and let him reveal you to yourself. 
  • Dinners with Jesus can be like a house call from a doctor (e.g., my father, my friend).
  • You can't afford not to invite Jesus to dinner.
II. The Body of the Sermon
     A. The Pharisee asks Jesus to dinner.
  • Seems odd. Why would he do that?
  • Not all Pharisees were bad. Luke aligns them with "the righteous" and "the healthy" (e.g, Luke 5:31-32). At the starting line, they were much closer to the kingdom than the "sinners."
  • One big take away: Let people surprise you. Leave room for change.
     B. We live by stereotypes.
  • They help simplify the world for us--but they also skew the world.
  • The immediate context in Luke 7 - John the Baptist is demon-possessed, Jesus is a drunk.
  • We skew "out-group" individuals toward the bad.
  • All Baptists are... All Catholics are... All Democrats are... All Republicans are... All illegal immigrants are...
  • Jesus defies our stereotypes.
  • There is hope for a Pharisee. Who is your Pharisee--the religious person you think is not on the same page with God? The liberal? The conservative?
     C. There is hope for a sinner.
  • She is one. 
  • [We should ignore the parallels. Luke does not identify this woman with Mary nor a woman just before Jesus' arrest.]
  • Luke does not use "sinner" in the way we do ("We're all sinners.").
  • Luke neither justifies sin nor expects it of God's people. 
  • We all come with a debt, but we all must leave righteous--Jesus' words to the Pharisee.
  • Always leave room for a sinner to change. (Hitler?)
     D. Jesus sees things about ourselves we don't see.
  • The Pharisee didn't realize he was a debtor.
  • He didn't realize Jesus was his king. He didn't wash his feet.
  • He didn't realize Jesus was his family. He didn't kiss him.
  • So often we think we have everything figured out when we don't.
  • Harry Potter and Snape, my social media temptations
     E. Submission brings freedom.
  • She finds forgiveness.
  • They didn't realize he could forgive sins. 
  • They got stuck speck hunting--looking for the specks in the woman's eyes. They didn't see the logs in their own. 
  • Jesus always blows up our boxes and stereotypes.
  • Her faith saved her. It is the strange combination of Jesus' power and our submission.
III. Conclusion
  • Have you invited Jesus to dinner lately?
  • Who are the Pharisees and sinners in your life? Have you given them room to change?
  • What has Jesus been trying to show you, but you haven't been listening? It's often right below our conscious mind. It's like a gnawing that we don't acknowledge. It makes us lash out. It makes us angry. 
  • Submit to the doctor's prescription!

Friday, March 29, 2019

Self-Published: A Horse Strangely Warmed

I decided to try to write a crowd sourced novella of about 100 pages over spring break. One thing led to another and, voila, here it is: A Horse Strangely Warmed: The Life of John Wesley as Told by His Horses. A. J. Thomas had the winning idea and I ran with it.

Here are some quotes:
  • "If your hoof is as my hoof, then give me some hoof."
  • "The best of all is, God likes horses."
  • "You have nothing to do but save soles."
And the lost verse of All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name
     Horses and cows and tiny cats
          In holey triumph join!
     Saved is the horse that doth believe
          From glue and bows of twine.

I read a couple books while doing research:

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Leadership: Evangelists 11

See bottom for posts in this series thus far.

6. Evangelists and Teachers
1. Three times in the New Testament we hear of a role called an "evangelist." Philip, one of the seven appointed in Acts 6, is called an evangelist in 21:8. 2 Timothy 4:5 tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist. Finally, Ephesians 4:11 mentions evangelist as a role of ministry leadership in the early church. We would argue that an evangelist was something like an apostle who had not seen the risen Christ.

The fact that Timothy can be both a minister (diakonos) and an evangelist (euangelistēs) once again suggests that the leadership roles within the early church were not all mutually exclusive. Philip is never called a diakonos, so "evangelist" is the only role Acts ever assigns him. His daughters, as we have seen, were prophetesses.

What was an evangelist? Although it is dangerous to construct the meaning of a word from its root, we do note that the word gospel is at the root of this word. Given the form of the word, it would be natural to see an evangelist as someone who proclaims the gospel.

2. What was the gospel? It was good news. It was particularly the good news that Jesus is king. Paul speaks of the "good news concerning God's Son, who descended from the seed of David according to the flesh and was appointed Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:3-4). The core of the New Testament gospel is thus the good news that Jesus reigns as the enthroned Son of God, with all that it entails.

We may see these overtones in 2 Timothy 4:5, for the context is the return of King Jesus to judge the living and the dead (2 Tim. 4:1). The surrounding verses suggest a good deal of warning, for judgment is the corollary of the good news of salvation. At that point the role of evangelist blurs into that of the prophet.

3. With Philip especially, we see that an evangelist could be mobile. That is to say, we think of evangelists moving around to proclaim the good news in various locations more than being situated in a single place. Timothy certainly ministered in more locations than simply Ephesus, although we do not know about the latter part of his life's ministry.

What then was the difference between an evangelist and an apostle? The most obvious difference, it seems to me, is that the apostles were all direct witnesses of the resurrection, while evangelists were not. Paul was an apostle because the risen Lord appeared directly to him. Timothy never received such a visit. Peter was an apostle because the risen Lord appeared directly to him. Philip never saw the risen Lord.

Although the New Testament does not use the word frequently, Ephesians 4:11 includes evangelists among those who ministered in the earliest church. Clearly many individuals fill this role today as well. I grew up in a church world where evangelists would go around preaching in revivals across America. Billy Graham was known as a great evangelist. Evangelists are individuals who go from place to place preaching the good news that Jesus is king, in hope that as many as possible will be saved.

1. Leadership Before Christ
2. An Apostle in Town
3. House Church Leadership
4. Prophecy in the Church
5. Ministers and Pastors

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Books I've Published

I wanted to have a post up of the books I've written and published the normal way (here are books I've self-published).

Academic Books 
Books for the Church
Devotional Books on the New Testament

Books I've Self-Published

I've published around 30 books the normal way with a publisher. I've also self-published a number of pieces, especially pieces that I've blogged into existence. Here is a list of them (not in chronological order):

My Three Novellas
Two more to come and then I'll self-publish the whole series in a single volume. These cover these key events in salvation history from Gabriel's point of view.
Biblical Studies
Theology and Philosophy
Various forays into theology:
Reflections on Founding of Wesley Seminary

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Leadership: Pastors 10

See bottom for the whole series
3. On one occasion, the New Testament uses the word "pastor" or "shepherd" in relation to a leadership role in the early church: Ephesians 4:11. It is unlikely that such a "pastor" was a minister like we have today. Rather, this is probably another way of referring to an elder or overseer in a church.

1 Peter 2:25 pushes us in this direction. "You were straying like sheep but you have returned now to the shepherd and overseer of your lives." Jesus is of course the good shepherd (John 10:14). He is the great shepherd (Heb. 13:20), the one that God brought up from the dead.

Although we might think today of a pastor being soothing or being a minister in the role of a counselor, the image is clearly one of keeping the sheep safe and in the right place. A shepherd brings errant sheep back to the fold. A shepherd guards the sheep from enemies and hostile forces. So a shepherd is not a passive or soothing role but the role of one who is ready to fight for the sheep and discipline them if necessary to keep them on track.

Accordingly, Ephesians 4:11 is probably thinking of the role of an elder or overseer when it uses the word pastor. We have argued that this was not likely a role for a single individual in a given church but a group of individuals. They collectively guided the church in the right direction.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Leadership: Ministers/Deacons 9

See bottom for posts in this series thus far.

5. Ministers 
1. We now come to one of the most important roles in the New Testament church, one that I believe has been under-estimated. The word diakonos means "minister." It is often correlated to the modern deacon, but I believe this connection is more misleading than helpful.

When you mention deacons, Acts 6 often comes to mind. In this chapter there is an argument over the distribution of food to Christian widows in Jerusalem, and seven men are appointed. A deacon in a church today is thus a person who helps with the more mundane--rather than spiritual--ministries of the church. The problem is that Acts 6 never calls these individuals "deacons" and everything we know about these particular men shows them as "preachers."

Stephen of course immediately starts proclaiming the gospel in the synagogue. His "evangelizing" is so prophetic that he gets stoned for it. Philip similarly is called Philip "the evangelist" in Acts 21:8, and he spends the better part of Acts 8 proclaiming the good news throughout Judea and Samaria. The bottom line is that Acts 6 is neither a sure indication of what a deacon was in the early church nor are these servants of the church depicted as limited to doing the kinds of things deacons do today.

2. In Philippians 1:2, Paul greets the overseers and deacons of the church at Philippi. This suggests two categories of leadership in that church. The first category are the "overseers," which we have already indicated are elders, a council of individuals providing wisdom and overall guidance to the community of faith. Paul never of course mentions such a group in his other churches--including Corinth--so we have to infer that the other churches had such elders at this stage from Acts 14:23.

What was a diakonos? When we look at Jesus' use of the word, we get a picture of what is sometimes called "servant leadership." "The one who is greatest among you must be your diakonos" (Matt. 23:11). The king in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet calls his servants or attendants, his diakonoi, to bring him the inappropriate guest to throw him out (Matt 22:13). Similarly, at the wedding at Cana, Mary tells the diakonoi to do whatever Jesus tells them to do (John 2:5).

From these instances of servants in the Gospels, you might think that the traditional role of a deacon is looking right. But consider how this word "minister" is used in Paul's letters. Paul calls the emperor a "servant" or "minister" (diakonos) of God for the good of the Romans. In Romans 15:8 he speaks of Christ becoming a "servant" or "minister" of the Jews to confirm the promises to the patriarchs. In several passages he calls himself a "minister" or "deacon" of his churches. [1]

It would thus seem that the role of minister was more significant than merely waiting tables. The diakonoi of the early church were apparently servant leaders who did a good deal of the actual "work of the ministry." As we have seen with words like elder, more than one leadership title might fit the same person. So Peter could be both an apostle and an elder. Paul could be both an apostle and a "minister."

Paul uses the word diakonos of several co-workers in the mission. He calls himself and Apollos diakonoi in 1 Corinthians 3:5. 1 Timothy 4:6 calls Timothy a "minister" of Christ. Tychicus is called a faithful diakonos in Ephesians 6:21. Colossians 1:7 and 4:7 call Epaphras a minister. Although Philippians 2 does not call Epaphroditus a diakonos, he seems to fit into this same general category.

From these examples, it would seem that the deacons of the early church were far from the trustees of many modern churches. They seem much more like the pastors of today. The deacons of the early church seem to be very active. They are traveling on behalf of churches. They are doing the work of the ministry. We might think of elders as a stationary group to whom you go for wisdom. Then the deacons are the ever-moving servants of the church who give feet to the ministry.

We should not leave the topic of such ministers without mentioning Phoebe in Romans 16:1. The same word diakonos is used of her that is used of Epaphras, Tychicus, and Paul. Indeed, it is the same word used of Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:6. The word deaconess is completely inappropriate. The early church had female ministers, and she is even called a "benefactor" or patron of Paul. She was a minister of the church at Cenchraea, one of the port villages of Corinth.

[1] E.g., 1 Cor. 3:5; 2 Cor. 3:6, 6:4, 11:23; Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23, 25;

1. Leadership Before Christ
2. An Apostle in Town
3. House Church Leadership
4. Prophecy in the Church