Monday through Friday I deal with different subjects in this blog. I also post my blog to my Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld. Wednesday’s I try to focus on the Church. This week I am taking a look at How to Better Understand Your Church’s Deacons.
The Establishment of Deacons
Over the years I’ve seen great deacons, mediocre deacons, and lousy deacons. Sometimes this disparity stems from a misunderstanding of what a deacon is and is not. The first mention of deacons appears in Acts 6:1-7:
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
While you don’t see the word deacon in the English, the word serve stems from the Greek word diaconos which means servant among other things. We see from this passage that the Grecian widows were being neglected. The underlying reason was that the Apostles were so busy proclaiming the Word that they didn’t have time to take care of these matters. So they created the office of deacon to take care of the daily needs of the people, in this case the Grecian widows.
The impact upon the Ministry
Then and now the deacons provide a very strong presence in the church. Not necessarily as rulers but as men who, under the authority of the pastor, serve the congregation. The pastor benefits from their ministry so that the ministry of the gospel would go forward in power. It benefits the people in that their needs are constantly looked after.
Do Deacons Run the Church?
Somewhere during the ensuing generations there arose the belief that deacons were there to protect the congregation from the pastors. While there isn’t any Scripture to support such a belief it is believed and practiced in some otherwise Biblical churches. Aside from its unbiblical source it also creates a division between the pastor and the people.
When you study it out in the Bible the deacon represents the pastor. While it is expected that the pastor would visit those who are sick sometimes he is unable to visit all of them or even any of them (he’s sick, etc.). In those cases it is not uncommon for a deacon to make the visit on behalf of the pastor. To use that occasion to undermine the pastor is to become an Absalom who stole the hearts of the people from King David.
How are Deacons selected?
Most churches use a method that is similar to what is seen in Acts 6. This procedure consists of Nominated by the people, Approved by the Pastor, and Elected (chosen) by the people. So the people have a hand in the process, whereas the Pastor examines the worthiness of the nominee and uses Scripture to determine if the nominee should be approved. The actual selection is by the people.
But the first thing that needs to be done is: , look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. Also Deacons should be held to the same standard as the pastors!
Different churches have different criteria pertaining to term of office. For example, some churches elect their deacons for a term of six years and every year they re-elect a certain number of deacons or elect new ones to replace the existing deacons. Another thing that churches differ on is that in some churches if a man is elected a deacon the title is his for the rest of his life whether or not he is serving as a deacon.
In effect the Bible allows a great deal of flexibility on the part of the churches in the selection of deacons.
What are the Duties of Deacons?
This is another area where churches may differ. So I am not trying to cover all the duties. Here are some:
This involves the care of church members who are in need. It may also involve meeting needs of non-members. The deacon handling this may desire to interview the person in need.
- Hospital visits as requested by the Pastor
- Advising Pastor if requested.
Sometimes the Pastor wants the feedback of his deacons to help him determine the future direction of the church. They are a powerful tool to be used in this manner.
- Serving within the Church’s various departments as directed by the Pastor:
For example, a deacon may be placed over the office work. Sort of an Office Manager. Since this is often the area an Associate Pastor may be involved in the two would work together with the Associate being in charge.
Your church may have additional duties but these give you some insight. There is another duty that I think all churches should consider.
Are Deacons Trustees?
The office of Trustee is not a Biblical office. It is an office demanded by states. I am not a lawyer so I can’t tell you exactly how to do this but here are some thoughts:
- The Deacons should automatically be Trustees (and perhaps the Associates should be also).
- This should be in the church’s constitution.
To better understand your deacons study the Bible. It is there that you learn that only men can be deacons (the Bible allows no room for deaconesses), what kind of men should be selected, and how they are selected. And when you vote, don’t just vote for the “nicest” person. Vote for the godliest man that you think can do the job. And don’t forget it is a Biblical office and therefore an important office.
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R Frederick Riddle is the author of several books and is best known for Christian Historical Fiction. For more information on him or his books visit his Amazon Authors Page. He is also co-founder and Vice President of T&R Independent Books where his books are featured. To reply to any blog you have the option of commenting on a blog and/or sending an email to email@example.com. You may also be interested in his Facebook page at RFrederickRiddlesWorld.