In Memory of Don Vinzant...

I can't think of another person that I have ever known that has had such a lasting impact on my formation as a minister than Dr. Don Vinzant. So many formational moments, many of which he never knew were significant in my life.

You could never have called him Dr. Vinzant no matter your relationship. For the entire time I knew Don (from the time I was in elementary school) he was always "Brother Don". This was so true. I have never encountered someone in the ministry with so much wisdom, humility, and sheer intellect. My last encounter with Don before his passing should illustrate what I am talking about:

At the monthly preacher's luncheon at Oklahoma Christian in December, Brother Don was asked to give a few thoughts about a part of the story of Jesus for the devotional that was being led by various ministers from the area. He quietly walked to the podium at the appointed time with a handful of little green index cards and nothing else. In his characteristic way he put his notes down, placed his hands on the pulpit, looked up, and gave that contagious smile that you see in the picture above. If you heard nothing that he said you could see in his eyes that you were family and that he loved everyone in the room dearly.

In his trademark understated and humble manner he began to preach. I have always been fascinated (as a student and now a minister) to watch Don preach. He began with a poem (not uncommon for Don by any means) which was both complex and on this day somewhat lengthy. He then went on to read the passage given to him for his brief message. After some rich comments, including citing the various commentators and theologians that he was summarizing I noticed something that wasn't really all that surprising... Don had yet to use his notes. He then changed to the next card in his stack so that he could give an announcement about an event coming up at the Edmond Church of Christ. (Apparently that is what his notes were for.)

Following the luncheon Brother Don approached me and asked about everyone that I love. He asked how my parents were and about Northwest where my Dad is an elder. He asked about my wife, my two boys (remembering everyone's name), and the little church that I had been serving for a little over six months. He asked me to give a warm greeting to my grandfather and to let him know that he has been missed since moving to Cushing.He concluded our conversation with some kind words about the memory of my grandmother who he visited with so tenderly right up until her death. In fact he was there in the middle of the night when I arrived moments after her passing. Like every other time I was in his presence, I felt as if I was the most important and valuable person in the whole world.

This is the Don Vinzant that so many people know and love.

I wrote all of the above before I went to Don's funeral this afternoon at Edmond. The funeral only reinforced that what Don had been in my life he had been as much or more in hundreds, if not thousands of others.

Thank you for a life well lived Brother Don. May my life reflect the image of Christ like yours.

(Latin for "I will rise again!")

Hmmmmm... A Woman Deacon...

This was something I noticed in preparing for a class on leadership in the early church this week, and it has to do with deacons, specifically women deacons.

In fact, the only time that we have the term deacon (διάκονος) attached to a proper name in the New Testament who doesn't have another "role" or some other reason why we shouldn't translate this term as "servant" is in Romans 16:1: "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae." (TNIV)

There are a few other instances where the term "deacon" or "servant" (both the term διάκονος) are used in connection with a proper name, but all of these the case can be made should be understood as "servant" instead of "deacon." Here are the other cases...

Timothy as a διάκονος of God (1 Thessalonians 3:2)
Here Timothy is referred to as "God's coworker (διάκονος). The idea here is of a "servant" not what we would refer to as the role of a "deacon."

Epaphras as a "fellow διάκονος" (Colossians 1:7)
Here Epaphras is referred to as "our dear fellow servant (διάκονος)". He is a "fellow διάκονος" of Paul and Timothy (the authors of Colossians) and therefore cannot be considered here to hold the role of "deacon."

Tychicus as a "fellow διάκονος" (Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7)
These two references to Tychicus are virtually the same. In Ephesians 6:21 he is referred to as a "faithful servant (διάκονος) in the Lord" and Colossians 4:7 has him described as a "fellow servant (διάκονος) in the Lord." Very much in the same with Epaphras. Tychichus could not be a "deacon" alongside Paul, but he could however be a fellow "servant (διάκονος)".

Paul as a διάκονος of the Gospel (Ephesians 3:7; Colossians 1:23)
In Ephesians 3:7 he is a "servant (διάκονος) of this gospel". Paul, here in Colossians 1:23, describes himself as a "servant" (διάκονος) of the Gospel. Both of these references exclude Paul as a "deacon" because he was unmarried and filled the role of an apostle.

Does Christ διάκονος sin? (Galatians 2:17)
Paul writes, "But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinner, doesn't that mean that Christ promotes (διάκονος) sin? Absolutely not!" (TNIV). Or looking at the ESV: "But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant (διάκονος) of sin? Certainly not!"

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but I include it to be exhaustive in the usage of
διάκονος + a proper name.

Paul and Apollos as διάκονος (1 Corinthians 3:5)
Here Paul reminds the Corinthians that Apollos and himself are not "special" or "extraordinary". He says, "What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants (διάκονος), through whom yuo came to believe..." (TNIV). We have no evidence to assume that Apollos could have filled the role of a "deacon" and we know Paul could not do so.

Jesus as a διάκονος of the Jews (Romans 15:8)
Paul writes, "For I tell you that Christ has become a servant (διάκονος) of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy."

Jesus could not and did not serve in the role of a "deacon."

Phoebe as a διάκονος of the church in Cenchreae (Romans 16:1)
This brings us to our last example of the term διάκονος + Proper Name in the New Testament. If there are any references in the New Testament to a specific person being a "deacon" this is it. Notice a couple of differences in this passage from the other references of διάκονος + a proper name in the New Testament.


(1) There is another term for "servant" (δοῦλος) that could have been employed.
(2) This is the only reference of the term
διάκονος that is tied to a specific, local congregation (the church in Cenchreae).
(3) There is no reason from the text itself to assume that she filled another role that prevented or made unecessary such a position (e.g. she is not mentioned as one of Paul's "fellow servants" (
(4) The instructions concerning "deacons" (
διάκονος) in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 are not gender exclusive in their instructions for "deacons" (διάκονος).


So what do we do with this? Hmmmmm... Let the conversation begin. 

Characteristics of Missional Leadership...

I have been working on an essay for my Master's in Missional Leadership about the nature and shape of missional leadership. I spent some time this week writing down some characteristics of missional leadership that I thought were important. I also forced myself to share them on Twitter so that they would be succinct and straightforward. Many of these are not included in my essay that I am finishing up because the essay is more reflective of the course materials, but if asked to describe missional leadership these are some of the things that I would point to. What else would you add that is important to the nature and shape of missional leadership?


Quality #1 - Missional leaders bring the narratives of individuals, communities of faith, and the biblical narrative into conversation.

Quality #2 - Missional leaders operate out of a Trinitarian framework. The nature of God shapes the nature and mission of their context.

Quality #3 - Missional leaders help people to shape their communal identity around a healthy eschatological posture in their context.

Quality #4 - Missional leaders are reliant upon the leading and empowering of the Holy Spirit and help others to become the same way.

Quality #5 - Missional leaders are concerned about the Kingdom of God and the formation of people over programs and facilities.

Quality #6 - Missional leaders don't lead over others. They lead and live alongside a community that is discerning the work of God in them.