Dear <<First Name>> <<Last Name>>,  The Baugh Center for Baptist Leadership seeks to inform and be a resource for Baptist deacons and other lay leaders like you. Following is an article from Center Director Dr. Daniel Vestal that we hope will support you today.

by Daniel Vestal 

If we believe God calls individuals to lead and serve local churches, it is good for us to reflect on the nature and identity of local churches.  Just what constitutes a church?  What makes a church, well a church?  The New Testament has dozens of references and descriptions of both local churches, and the Church that encompasses them, but is bigger than all of them individually.  It offers numerous metaphors, analogies and descriptions.  But I want to offer seven statements that seek to offer a biblical vision of what the New Testament calls a church.
I believe in this vision, although I am aware of the faults and failures of local congregations and the sins of individual members.  I am also aware of the collective evil that characterizes much of church history.  And I bear in my own body and spirit some scars and wounds that have been inflicted on me by church members and church leaders.  But this biblical vision of the church has sustained me through the years and still creates great energy.
My experience is that every now and then, in local churches, with very ordinary and broken people, the glory of God breaks out.  Light shines. Mystery happens.  I am not naive nor romantic about churches.  But I belong to one and seek to serve it because I belong to Christ.
First, a church is a FAMILY OF FAITH.  It is comprised of people who believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and the world’s Savior.  Churches find their identity and unity in a common commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord.  This commitment produces a loyalty to Christ and a following after Christ.  Such loyalty is greater than all other loyalties and it transcends all human divisions.  Faith in Christ is what makes a church more like a family than anything else.
Second, a church is a COLONY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.  Although it exists in the world and thus partakes of the world, it is not of the world.  It represents a heavenly and eternal reality where God is recognized as absolute sovereign.  This reality is the kingdom of God.  A church is an embodiment and outpost of the kingdom.  A church is not the same as the Kingdom, but it is an agent of the kingdom,  a witness to the kingdom.  And a church, in its life and ministry, is a foretaste of what will one day become a visible reality for all to see, the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
Third, a church is a TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.  Jesus Christ was the incarnation of God’s kingdom on earth, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is now living in and through his church.  This means that churches are a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  Of course, the living presence of Christ cannot be confined to churches, and Christ surely works in the world in multitudinous ways.  But through the presence and power of the Spirit, which is the presence and power of Christ, God continues his kingdom work in and through churches.
Fourth, churches are WORSHIPPING COMMUNITIES of the one true God, known to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Like Israel we worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  We treasure the law, listen to the prophets and sing the Psalms.  But in addition to this, we believe Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and the fulfillment of all promises to Israel.  We worship the invisible God of Israel who has become visible in the face of Jesus Christ.  So we reject all idols and all other so-called god’s in order to worship the one true God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Fifth, a church is A PEOPLE HOLY UNTO THE LORD.  We are set aside, called out, sanctified and separate from the world.  We are a people who belong to God.  The New Testament word for church (ecclesia) actually means “the called out ones.”  So just as a church rejects idolatry so a church rejects immorality.  Churches seek holiness, because God is holy.  Churches seek righteousness, because God is righteous.  Churches seek purity and perfection, because God is pure and perfect.  And here again, our holiness is patterned after God as God is revealed in Jesus Christ.  We desire to be like Christ, because Christ is the perfect image of God.
Sixth, a church is a LABORATORY OF TRINITARIAN LOVE.  Just as God lives in a triune community of love, and just as God loved us even while we were yet sinners, and just as Christ  loved us and gave himself for us, and just as the Spirit has been poured out into our hearts as the Spirit of love, so we receive this divine love.  We experience and then live in this divine love.  We practice love.  We love as we are loved.  This means that we forgive one another, bear one another’s burdens.  This means we are kind and patient to one another always humbling ourselves before one another.
Seventh, a church is a FELLOWSHIP THAT REACHES OUT TO THE WORLD.  Churches do not exist for themselves, but for the glory of God and the good of the world.  Churches are sent into the world with a mandate to love, to witness, to minister, to serve just as our Lord did.  We are sent to sacrifice and suffer for the world just as our Lord did.  Our influence in the world is like salt, light, leaven that has the power to transform the world.



"Deacons as Servant and Spiritual Leaders"
Dear Friends,
We are pleased and excited to let you know the deacon leadership development workbook, Exemplars: Deacons as Servant and Spiritual Leaders has been published and is available Here! All of us who have had a part in producing this resource believe that it has great potential to help congregations. Please feel free to contact me if I can be of any help as you introduce Exemplars to your diaconate. Our contact information is listed below.
The content and format of this workbook is designed to encourage robust conversation within diaconates as well as between deacons, clergy and other laity. For deacons to reach their full potential as servant and spiritual leaders, thoughtful and prayerful conversation must happen. All of us grow spiritually as we listen and speak to one another with open minds and loving hearts. "Exemplars" was born and has been developed out of conversations and is offered with prayer for the Holy Spirit to use it and the conversations produced to renew today's Church.
The purpose of Exemplars is to encourage and inspire deacons to become servant and spiritual leaders as they seek to be "Exemplars" of Christ. The writing team of Guy Sayles, Mike Smith, Carol Younger and Daniel Vestal explored a matrix or framework for individual deacon development as well as formation for an entire diaconate. We believe it can be helpful as a study guide for an individual deacon but will be best used in a group format where deacons study together, hold one another accountable and offer support and encouragement. See the following testimonials.

Pastor Jim Holladay, Lyndon Baptist Church, Louisville, KY

I thought I might give you a follow-up word on our Deacon retreat.  Several of the Deacons asked me to pass on to you and Daniel their appreciation for the book.  Though they found it a bit intimidating a first, most of them read it twice before we had the retreat, and found the sharing and discussion at the retreat challenging and uplifting.  I was pleased at their willingness to take seriously the content and the questions the book presents.  It was such a good experience that most of them felt we should do a retreat with some regularity.
 Donna Trotter, Ministry Chair Deacon, First Baptist Church, Cornelia, GA
 We are currently using Exemplars monthly in our Deacon Ministry meetings to help us initiate conversation regarding “Who a Deacon is; What a Deacon is supposed to do; and What a Deacon is supposed to know”.  These are questions with which our Deacon Body has wrestled  for several years  as we have attempted to restructure our Deaconate to better serve our Church families according to Who and What the Bible tells us we are.
Thankfully our Pastor recognized the need we have to ‘serve’, to hold one another accountable, and to support each other in our endeavor.  Exemplars  has already proven to be very instrumental in helping us figure out how to restructure our Deaconate to be servants among our Congregants as well as leaders in our Church.  Recognizing the change in Christian Church culture is the basis for figuring out how to be the Church in our Community, thus the face, hands and heart of Jesus. 
The personal reflection through the self directed exercises  and  group discussion after each book session have surely helped us identify the answers we are looking for as to Who we are and What we do and need to know to re-imagine our service.  The dialogue we’ve had thus far is exciting because it is rooted in Biblical concepts, yet culturally timely. We’ve even had non-active Deacons request the opportunity to study Exemplars in order to be better prepared to serve in the future.    

To order "Exemplars: Deacons as Servant and Spiritual Leaders" from Smyth and Helwys Publishing   click here.

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