History’s first deacon assignment was an all-out widow war that threatened the future of the Jerusalem church. Without these first deacons, the first local church would’ve split in two and the apostles would’ve eventually burned themselves out.

The Jerusalem church started growing again as the pastors re-devoted themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. Pastors and deacons have been imperfectly serving side-by-side for two millennia for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.

Pastor, if you are interested in embracing your original call to partner with deacons and/or elders, I want to suggest four ways they can protect you.

  1. A deacon can protect you from your fans

The crowds who followed Jesus often asked more from Him than was reasonable. Immediately after He fed the 5,000, that crowd tried to “take him by force to make him king” (John 6:15, CSB). By the end of that same chapter, Jesus’s teachings had gotten so tough that “many of his disciples turned back and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66, CSB).

Fans are fickle.

Friends are faithful.

Fans chase pastors down in stores and restaurants. They text pastors at any time and for any reason, then complain because he didn’t reply fast enough.

Friends, on the other hand, will protect pastors from their fickle fans.

Friends walk in and clean up the mess the fans left on their way out of the church.

Pastors don’t need fans; we need friends. Local churches need their deacons and/or elders to become faithful friends to their pastors.

  1. A deacon can protect you from your critics

Early in his ministry, a handful of deacons from Orlando, Fla., First came to Pastor Jim Henry’s home to pray for him. They told him, “Anybody who comes after you has to come through us first.” Henry later said, “Those guys kept their word. Deacons have had my back for over 50 years.

Church critics see themselves as the pastor-police who are protecting the church, but they are nothing less than schoolyard bullies. Is your church a safe place to pastor? If not, deputize your deacons to wage peace in the hallways of your church. There is nothing they can do that aligns better with their original assignment to stop a widow war that would keep the pastors from devoting themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6).

  1. A deacon can help protect you from demons

I knew that one would get your attention. Demons are fallen angels who live to terrorize the church as well as those who lead there. Satan is the Chief Executive Demon who strategically targeted pastors before the fires of Pentecost died down. He not only has his demonic crosshairs on pastors but also on their wives and kids.

Last year I spoke at 40 events for pastors around the country and their number one prayer request was for their children. I married a PK (pastor’s kid) and fathered a couple of my own, so I know firsthand how much Satan hates our kids.

A simple way to let your leaders protect you is to ask them to pray for you before each worship service or at whatever time is most convenient. Selectively recruit one or two intercessors—or a rotation of intercessors—and ask one of them to be the timekeeper so this doesn’t devolve into a distracting chat time.

  1. A deacon can help protect you from yourself

The pastor in the mirror is much more dangerous than his fans, critics, or even the devil. We need to surround ourselves with trusted leaders who love us enough to protect us from ourselves.

Initiating accountability is much less intrusive than waiting for it to be assigned to you. Deacons and elders won’t hold this sacred assignment lightly, especially if you use it as a preventive measure. Make sure they understand the biblical ground rules of accountability—private, respectful, and in love (Matt. 18:15; Eph. 4:15).

If you are a deacon or church leader and your pastor is drowning, don’t yell advice from the shore. Jump in and help him.

If you are a pastor, let them help you. The only thing coming between you and your deacon cavalry is pride. God sent them to help you, not hurt you. I realize many of us who have pastored have been hurt by a rogue deacon or elder, but that does not disqualify the others. So don’t be so quick to stiff-arm someone God sent to help you succeed.

In my experience of pastoring churches for three decades, I’ve sensed that my deacons felt a sense of privilege in protecting their pastor. As they helped me fulfill my calling, they likewise fulfilled their own.