What are Deacons?
Last week we talked about elders. We gave a quick overview of their biblical warrant and job description. This week, we want to unpack the position of deacon.
Paul groups elders and deacons together. They aren’t the same thing, but he connects them in his thinking. For instance in Philippians Paul greets them, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:” (Phil. 1:1 ESV)
The qualifications of elders and deacons are nearly the same. Compare and contrast, when you have the time, passages like 1Timothy 3:1-7 with 1Timothy 3:8-13. The differences between elders in the former and deacons in the latter are minor. Elders are to be able to teach, and this is not said of deacons. Also, the terms themselves denote something. Overseers lead, and the deacon derives from a word that means “servant.” Deacons have a “helps” role in work of the church.
In Acts 6, Luke relates how the Apostles chose men to come alongside of them in their work. The Apostles had the task to teach and pray but the men they appointed as helpers attended to practical matters like overseeing the distribution of food to widows. There could be a hint in Acts 6:2, where Peter describes the work of the seven who were chosen. He uses the verb form of the Greek word deacon to describe their ministry.
The fact that a team of deacons deals mostly with practical areas of service does not mean that they are less critical. Their duties do not diminish the need for a good character as those who know Christ. Both in Acts 6 and 1Timothy 3 these men are required to be of good repute. You don’t choose men solely because they can swing a hammer anymore than you’d choose an elder because a man can run a business.
For some reason, at Grace, our church did not initially establish a team of deacons. I think that was an oversight. When elders lead the church and have to balance shepherding tasks with various practical matters,, they get bogged down and burned out. For the last several years we’ve had two elder meetings per month to try to manage that. No more.
We have recently appointed three men to serve as deacons. We have applied the biblical qualifications and looked for men with servant's hearts. At some point down the road, we may add this to our church constitution and have deacons on our annual ballot. For now, the elders appoint the deacons. They are Tyler Smith, Brian Williams, and Andy Holinde. We will have a bio and picture on the web site before long.
Pray, as we make this adjustment to a more biblical and hopefully more workable arrangement for the good of the church.