Friday, July 15, 2016

Divorced Deacons In The Church?

Some of you are not going to agree with me on this.  And that's perfectly ok.  There are plenty of good people on both sides of this issue.  Furthermore, we can have different opinions on this and still be good friends.  If you can, just give me a minute of your time, and hear me out before you react.  Maybe we can find some common ground here. 

I've heard it every year I've served as a pastor since 1993.  And, for the most part, I've kept quiet and not said much in response.  What am I talking about?  This:  "Pastor, we can not elect a divorced man as a deacon in the church because Paul wrote in 1Timothy 3:12 that deacons must be "husbands of one wife."

Let me just go ahead and say it:  I disagree with this idea.  Why?  Here's why...

Well, for starters, Paul did NOT even mention divorce in 1 Timothy 3:12.  If Paul wanted to forbid divorced men from being deacons, he would have written, "deacons must not be divorced."  But he didn't write that.  Nowhere in 1 Timothy 3:12 did Paul mention divorce.  Nowhere.  Go back and read it.  Divorce is not in that verse. 

Then what did Paul actually mean?  He meant what he said.  There's no need to complicate it.  He stated deacons must be "husbands of one wife."  That means a deacon should not be a polygamist or promiscuous.  In other words, he is a one woman kind of man.  He is faithful and loyal to his bride, and he doesn't have another woman or two in addition to her.  It is my firm belief that this is what Paul was writing about.

Listen, I get it.  If some ole fellow has been divorced several times because he's a scoundrel and not one bit sorry about it, then he shouldn't be a deacon.  I do see the point in a scenario like that.  He has some character issues that he needs to address with God's help before he can be a leader in God's church. 

But it must also be considered that plenty of people are divorced because of choices their spouse made.  Not everyone who is divorced actually wanted that to happen.  Also, some people who did cause their divorce by wrong actions have since been forgiven, made good changes, and live very differently now.  See my point?  Each divorce case is unique and complex.  Don't think you can size someone up just because they've been divorced.  There's usually WAY more to the story than you may see on the surface.

Furthermore, let us consider others who are not divorced, but they are lazy, dishonest, quick-tempered, secretly hooked on porn, racist, gluttonous, arrogant, dead-beat guys who make no positive contribution to the church in any way, shape, or form.  If you assign one of those "good ole boys" to the position of deacon just because he hasn't been divorced, then congratulations to you.  You've just hurt the church way more than you would have if you had picked a good man who just happened to experience a divorce earlier in his life.  Simply put, there are worse things in life than divorce.  Far worse!

There are other character qualities that we must look for in deacons.  Paul said that deacons should also be dignified, good leaders in their homes, proven over time, not greedy, and in control of their appetites.  And that's just part of the list.  Let's don't get so hung up on one part of the list ("husbands of one wife") that we overlook all the other items on the list, which can be read by clicking HERE

Nobody is perfect.  I'm not.  And neither are you.  And if we want to be too rigid, we churches will never find anyone who is qualified to lead in any capacity.  Nobody meets all of the standards to perfection.  But the good news is we do have a perfect God who uses imperfect people to do His life-changing work.  And I'm thankful for that.

Yes, character DOES matter when it comes to leadership.  It really does.  At the same time, let's also remember to be reasonable, full of grace, and understanding when it comes to dealing with people.  And let's not make the standard higher or tougher than God Himself set it in His Word.


  1. Awesome! Thank you for this blog post! I viewed this issue with a legalistic bias until I had a church member that challenged me to pray & study about this issue. A 2 year journey began where God changed me heart! We have many churches and believers that need to do the same! "As far as the east is from the west, so far he has removed our sin" - Psalm 103:12
    Matthew 19:9 Jesus gives an allowance for divorce. So if He doesn't hold it against that person then why should I? Lastly, God told the children of Israel through Ezra & Malachi to divorce themselves from the canaanites and abandon their children because he did not want them married to these wicked people. Now this is certainly not a justification for divorce or abandonment but it is a sign to live in obedience to God according to His Law. They couldn't do it and neither can I! Praise God He sent His Son to bestow upon us His Grace!!! David was an adulterer, but God showed His Grace and used him as the King of Israel to lead them into their glory days. So I know he can use me & any divorced men who have repented and trusting the Lord for His leadership in their lives & churches. Many of our churches are missing out by holding men back that certainly "qualify" to be a servant only by the grace lf God!

  2. Thanks a million for your feedback, Charis! Really great to hear from you. God bless you and yours.