Basic Tools 8: A Vision of a Deacon’s Mission

A vision of your mission as a deacon

Among Episcopalians, we have said deacons are to have a key role in the recovery of the ministry of the laity in the world.  Deacons are to be the animators of the missionaries.  That word “animator” has cognates in Latin and Greek – even Old Irish, Norse, Gothic and Sanskrit.  All of them are about breath, about breathing life into people – about breathing life into the missionaries.

Deacons implementing member mission will need the support that comes from the rest of the congregation being clear about their function.  Imagine that your vestry has asked for you to give them a job description of what you are trying to do.  Beware of being vague.  For example: “To know Christ and to make him known” – just what does that mean?  A workable job description built around developing the members as missionaries will include – or, at least, imply:

1. God’s victory over evil, sin, and death in Jesus Christ
2. Jesus Christ’s ongoing struggle with evil, sin, and death in today’s world
3. Jesus’ call to us to join him in that struggle
4. Join his mission in baptism and be fed for it at Jesus’ table
5. Teaching each member to be a missionary

Assume the vestry has asked you to write your vision of your mission as a deacon in the congregation. Write out your vision guided by the list from 1 – 5 above.

Now share them in trios.  Again form your trio with people you know less well.  As each shares, the other two function as friends whom you have asked to help you.  They listen for specifics and to offer suggestions to sharpen the vision.

In a plenary session for all, ask for at least two to be shared.  The rest of us act as friends who have been called in by the one who shares for help in sharpening what has been written.  First, we listen for each of the five notes listed above to be present – or, at least, implied.  All need to be rigorous in listening for the last of the five about teaching, in particular.  The ordained – both priests and deacons – can easily fall into the error of putting a huge emphasis on being an example to others of how a Christian lives. Actually, is that not true of every one of the baptized? Rather, help the writer to focus on training the baptized to live as missionaries wherever they are all the time.