Tuesday, April 01, 2008


The other day we learned about the qualifications for the spiritual leadership of the church for those whom one would call the pastor and elders. Today we will learn about deacons. We read from 1 Timothy 3 these verses:
8 Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. 9They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 13For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Do you see that word Likewise? Just as elders and pastors must have certain qualities to handle their positions well, so do deacons. A person who is called to a deacon must be
  • dignified
  • not double-tongued
  • not an alcoholic
  • not greedy for dishonest gain
  • a person of faith
  • willing to be tested
  • a person with a likewise good spouse who is sober-minded and faithful in all things
  • a person with ONE spouse
  • able to run their own household well
For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
If churches were set up in such a way that elders AND deacons did not run the church. For instance, if deacons were solely responsible for encouraging good stewardship with material possessions, with ability to foster evangelism and the gifts of encouragement and helps, then anyone can be a deacon. The bible even talks about deaconnesses.

But in the churches that I am familiar with the deacons help to run the church as well. Deacons are often thought of as mini-elders. If they handle being a deacon well, well then, lets make them an elder. WRONG thinking. It would be good if this could be changed. Different giftings, different callings and they should be recognized as such.

Deacons have a different calling on their lives than an elder does. Elders and pastors (because really pastors are teaching elders) are called to the spiritual leadership of the church, to help people understand correct doctrine, to encourage people to grow in their knowledge of mystery of the faith.

Deacons are called to look after the poor, to help those in need, to encourage people to engage in acts of mercy, to handle the physical needs of the church.

It is to the elders we turn if we have spiritual needs of education and understanding, it is to the deacons we turn if we need help putting food on the table, if we want to engage in a mission outreach and so forth.

BUT the person called to be a deacon has to be a person of good character. Can you imagine having a deacon counting your money donated to the church who has a problem with greed? Or having a deacon who had a problem with drugs or alcohol, who was also known for being less than truthful? If they would reach out to people in such a state ... for the Lord...what would folk think? They would tend to suspect the worst wouldn't they? So as to not impunge the name of Christ or of his church, a deacon also must be a person of good repute. And thus lead the church, by their good example and encouragement to better the name of Christ.


Stan said...

I have a great deal of difficulty with the concepts of "pastor", "elder", and "deacon" as they are commonly used these days in so many churches. The typical Baptist church doesn't have elders at all; they only have deacons. How that corresponds to Paul's demand for both elders and deacons eludes me. Some churches have "trustees", something I don't find anywhere in the Bible. In most churches, deacons are the "physical laborer" types, the folks that get the work done. That's fine, I guess, except that one of Paul's qualifications includes "great confidence in the faith." These guys need to be spiritually-mature, not just workers.

Then there is the "pastor", the center position of almost every church I know. Your position that "really pastors are teaching elders" is similar to my own, except that I see no such claim in the Bible. One of the qualifications of "elder" is "able to teach." All elders are to be teaching elders. Sure, some more than others, but none are to be non-teaching elders. And somehow, even though "pastor" occurs one time in the Bible, today's church has minimized "elder" and maximized "pastor". What's up with that?

All this to say I'm enjoying your series.

Rileysowner said...

Stan, I agree with you in some ways, as to the pastor being a teaching elder, while I agree all elders are to be able to teach, that does not mean they must all be able to teach publicly, but simply that they must be able to teach. It would seem that would include things like teaching bible studies, teaching people who are new believers, teaching in various one on one or small group settings, and the like.

Also keep in mind the following:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
1 Tim 5:17 (ESV)

That seems to indicate that while all elders rule as the spiritual overseers of the congregation, not all would labor in preaching and teaching.

As for the Baptist tendency to not have elders, as someone who is not a Baptist, I always wondered about that. I know the standard response is that the pastor is the elder, but that seems to neglect the clear call for a plurality of elders in a local congregation.

Finally, as to Deacons having to be strong in the faith, I would agree that making a man a deacon who does not hold to the faith with great confidence would be wrong. They are not simply doing a physical task, they are doing a spiritual task that is primarily physical in its expression. Thus, they need to be spiritual men who will labor by grace to the glory of God. Not by they own strength for their own glory.

Annette said...

Stan, thanks for stopping by. :)

Why so much emphasis on pastors? I don't know how it started, maybe it's just the result of "the person we see up front on Sundays...well he's responsible for it all". Many people think it's all the pastors fault in how a church goes. If it grows numerically it's the pastor's fault, if it decreases its all the pastors fault.

I can somewhat understand that, but at the same time it really discounts the work of God, and really discounts the people in the church already.

Pastors are called teaching elders because that's what they do. They are elders with a gift for public speaking and leadership. Not all elders are so gifted. Some teach simply by how they live and quietly offer advice to others. Some are the best Sunday school teachers or bible study leaders out there.

Deacons... they need to have a heart after God, if they don't, the service they do is nothing. Like seriously...if you don't work for God then you are working for yourself. Deacons with a heart after God exemplify this. They show what true service to God is all about.