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Deacons

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The Situation

Acts 6:1 ESV
1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
Acts 6:1 NIV
1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

The Threat

The Greek or Greek-speaking Jews lodged a complaint against the Hebraic or Hebrew-speaking Jews. The former group didn’t believe food was distributed equally among their widows. Nor did this unequal distribution appear to randomly occur. It looked as if the widows were being treated differently because they were either Greeks or Hebrews. It seemed that cultural or ethnic prejudice was threatening the unity of the church and the physical well-being of some members.

The Solution

Acts 6:2–3 NIV
2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them
So this is where we get the earliest forms of deacons but they seem to have evolved and grown as the church matured.

What is the office of a Deacon?

Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons Chapter 1: Choosing Your Waiter: An Introduction to Deacons

The opportunity: Acts 6:1 points out that “the disciples were increasing in number.” It was a time of spiritual prosperity in the conversion of souls and enrollment in the school of Christ. The Word of God was advanced and produced much fruit.

The threat: Inside the church, however, the Greek or Greek-speaking Jews lodged a complaint against the Hebraic or Hebrew-speaking Jews. The former group didn’t believe food was distributed equally among their widows. Nor did this unequal distribution appear to randomly occur. It looked as if the widows were being treated differently because they were either Greeks or Hebrews. It seemed that cultural or ethnic prejudice was threatening the unity of the church and the physical well-being of some members.

The solution: so the apostles did two things. First, they determined to prioritize their own ministry of the Word and prayer, over caring for physical needs. Second, they instructed the church to choose seven men to “serve tables”—to deacon (v. 2). In doing so, the apostles made provision for both the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the widows.

To modern sensibilities, “serving tables” sometimes connotes a low-level, demeaning position. A person waits tables when he or she is working through college, or passing time until a career takes off. people regard it as a necessary sacrifice to make ends meet.

40 Questions about Elders and Deacons Question 36: What Is the Role of a Deacon?

But based on the New Testament data, the role of the deacon is mainly a servant role. Deacons are needed in the church to provide logistical and material support so that the elders can concentrate their efforts on the Word of God and prayer.

Deacon is just the Greek word for servant. It has a somewhat broad meaning in the ancient world; it could refer to all Christians, as servants of Christ. Or it could narrow and refer to anyone engaged in formal ministry (I.e. Missionaries, pastors, and deacons would all be ministers/servants). Or, it could refer to an official role within the church.
“The role of the deacon is mainly a servant role. Deacons are needed in the church to provide logistical and material support so that the pastors can concentrate their efforts on the Word of God, prayer, and shepherding”

Qualifications?

In , we briefly learn that they are full of the spirit and wisdom.
1 Timothy 3:8–12 NIV
8 In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. 11 In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. 12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.
One of the key differences in qualifications for pastors and deacons is the pastors must be skillful to teach, whereas deacons don’t have to be.
Even if they may not have the aptitude to teach God’s word, they must understand and love sound doctrine. That’s why both our pastors and deacons must wholeheartedly affirm the Leadership Affirmation of Faith at our church. They also must be tested first and be found blameless before they do their deaconing, just as pastors should not be new converts. Paul says in , “Don’t be hasty in the laying on of hands; give time for sins and issues to come to light before you formally put someone in a church office.
1 Timothy 3:8–12 NLT
8 In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. 9 They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. 10 Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons. 11 In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. 12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well.
Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons Chapter 1: Choosing Your Waiter: An Introduction to Deacons

We see this quite clearly in Acts 6, where the apostles charge the church in Jerusalem to find several men full of the Spirit and wisdom. The word deacons is not used in this passage, but the passage seems to point in this direction.

The opportunity: Acts 6:1 points out that “the disciples were increasing in number.” It was a time of spiritual prosperity in the conversion of souls and enrollment in the school of Christ. The Word of God was advanced and produced much fruit.

The threat: Inside the church, however, the Greek or Greek-speaking Jews lodged a complaint against the Hebraic or Hebrew-speaking Jews. The former group didn’t believe food was distributed equally among their widows. Nor did this unequal distribution appear to randomly occur. It looked as if the widows were being treated differently because they were either Greeks or Hebrews. It seemed that cultural or ethnic prejudice was threatening the unity of the church and the physical well-being of some members.

The solution: so the apostles did two things. First, they determined to prioritize their own ministry of the Word and prayer, over caring for physical needs. Second, they instructed the church to choose seven men to “serve tables”—to deacon (v. 2). In doing so, the apostles made provision for both the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the widows.

To modern sensibilities, “serving tables” sometimes connotes a low-level, demeaning position. A person waits tables when he or she is working through college, or passing time until a career takes off. people regard it as a necessary sacrifice to make ends meet.

But how different it is in the Lord’s church! The apostles under the inspiration of God’s Spirit appear to have created an entirely new office in the church for the specific purpose of serving tables. And the loftiness of the office is seen in (a) the character of the individuals required to fill it (“full of the Spirit and of wisdom” v. 3), (b) the fact that it facilitates the ministry of Word and prayer, and (c) the unifying and strengthening effect it has on the whole church. The deaconate is important!

Are there widows in our churches who are not well cared for? perhaps we need to consider our work with deacons. Are there inequities in the distribution of benevolence resources in the church? Sounds like a job for deacons.

Are there cultural tensions and threats to unity in the church? Do we wish to see a more diverse church integrated in Christian life? The position of deacon was established to promote harmony across cultural and language lines.

Is the church threatened by a possible split? Deacons were the early church’s “shock absorbers.” They absorbed complaints and concerns, resolved them in godliness, and so preserved the unity and witness of the saints.

When Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus were commissioned for the deaconate, “the word of God spread” and “the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7 NIV). Who among us would not like to see the Word spread, the number of disciples rapidly increase, and large numbers of people become obedient to the faith? An effective deacon ministry facilitated this in the early church since it freed the deacons of the Word—the apostles—to do their work. With this hope in mind, I pray the Lord would guide us in our consideration of deacons and how to find them.

2

One of the key differences in qualifications for pastors and deacons is the pastors must be skillful to teach, whereas deacons don’t have to be.

We have discussed some distinctions between elders and deacons, but we have yet to specify the precise duties of deacons. We already have indicated that deacons are not responsible to teach or lead the congregation. They are not the spiritual leaders of the church. Instead, the deacons provide leadership over the service-oriented functions of the church. The Bible, however, does not clearly indicate the function of deacons. But based on the pattern established in Acts 6 with the apostles and the Seven, it seems best to view the deacons as servants who do whatever is necessary to allow the elders to accomplish their God-given calling of shepherding and teaching the church. Just as the apostles delegated administrative responsibilities to the Seven, so the elders are to delegate responsibilities to the deacons so that the elders can focus their efforts elsewhere. Newton rightly concludes, “In the servant role, deacons take care of those mundane and temporal matters of church life so that elders are freed to concentrate upon spiritual matters. Deacons provide much needed wisdom and energy to the ample physical needs in the church, often using such provision as opportunities to minister as well to the spiritual needs of others.”4 As a result, each local church is free to define the tasks of deacons based on its particular needs.

There are some clues as to the function of deacons based on the requirements in 1 Timothy 3. Grudem offers some possibilities.

[Deacons] seem to have had some responsibility in caring for the finances of the church, since they had to be people who were “not greedy for gain” (v. 8). They perhaps had some administrative responsibilities in other activities of the church as well, because they were to manage their children and their households well (v. 12). They may also have ministered to the physical needs of those in the church or community who needed help [Acts 6].… Moreover, if verse 11 speaks of their wives (as I think it does), then it would also be likely that they were involved in some house-to-house visitation and counseling, because the wives are to be “no slanderers.”

We must note, however, that some of the requirements could have been given to counter the characteristics of false teachers and were not so much directed toward deacons’ duties. Mounce maintains that the requirements listed suggest that a deacon would have substantial contact with people: he must not be double-tongued, must have a dignified wife, be faithful in marriage, and have a well-managed family. Although such a conclusion is possible, it cannot be given too much weight.

What are some duties that deacons might be responsible for today? Basically they could be responsible for any item not related to teaching and ruling the church. Below is a list of possible duties.

• Facilities. The deacons could be responsible for the basic management of the church property. This would include making sure the place of worship is prepared for the worship service. Other items may include cleanup, sound system, etc.

• Benevolence. Similar to what took place in Acts 6 with the daily distribution to the widows, the deacons should be involved in administrating funds for the needy.

• Finances. Some believe that matters of finance should be handled by the elders since the famine-relief money brought by Paul and Barnabas was delivered to the elders (Acts 11:30). But while the elders can oversee the financial business of the church, it is probably best left to the deacons to handle the day-to-day matters. This would include collecting and counting the offering, record keeping, helping to set the church budget, etc.

• Ushers. The deacons could be responsible for distributing bulletins, seating the congregation, preparing the elements for communion, etc.

• Logistics. Deacons should be available to help in a variety of ways so that the elders are able to concentrate on teaching and shepherding the church.

At the end of this chapter is a flow chart diagramming the various ministries of elders and deacons.

Summary

The role of a deacon is different from the role of an elder. Whereas elders are charged with the tasks of teaching and shepherding the church, deacons are given a more service-oriented function. That is, they are given the task of taking care of matters related more to the physical or temporal concerns of the church. For example, they might have responsibility over areas such as facilities, benevolence, finances, and other matters related to the practical logistics of running a church.

We do believe Scripture opens up doors for both men and women and we can unpack that more on the midweek podcast this week.
Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons Chapter 1: Choosing Your Waiter: An Introduction to Deacons

When Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus were commissioned for the deaconate, “the word of God spread” and “the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7 NIV). Who among us would not like to see the Word spread, the number of disciples rapidly increase, and large numbers of people become obedient to the faith?

Questions to ask during Vetting Stage:

Also, at our church, we view the office of deacon to be task specific. This is more of a matter of wisdom and prudence rather than because we believe the Bible mandates this. In other words, instead of having a group of people who are general deacons, we are looking at deacons over specific areas.
Here are a few different tasks
set up
child care
sound
benevolence
missions
Finance
And more.
Is this candidate a mature and growing Christian?
Do we want our congregation to imitate this candidate?
All of these roles have oversight from the pastors.
There are a handful of members at our church that have been faithfully engaging in tasks that serve the church. One particular person is Isaiah Langenfeld. Isaiah has been serving our church in finance for a number of months. And we want to officially recommend him to be a deacon to the congregation.
As leaders, we’ve done our part in the process and now it’s your turn.
Does the prospective deacon show competence in the area of service?
Is the prospective deacon aligned with the churches doctrine, mission and vision?
For the next months, we’d like you members to consider a few questions:
Is there anything that disqualifies the prospective deacon from serving?
Is the congregation supportive of the potential deacon entering the office?

Questions to ask during Vetting Stage:

Is the congregation supportive of the potential deacon entering the office?
Is the congregation supportive of the potential deacon entering the office?
Is this candidate a mature and growing Christian?
Do we want our congregation to imitate this candidate?
Is there anything that disqualifies the prospective deacon from serving?
Does the prospective deacon show competence in the area of service?
Is the prospective deacon aligned with the churches doctrine, mission and vision?
Is the congregation supportive of the potential deacon entering the office?
Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons Questions and Observations

1) Is the prospective deacon a mature and growing Christian?

Time does not always predict maturity, but, generally speaking, recent converts are untested and unseasoned. While no magic number of years must pass before a person becomes eligible, churches must examine someone for spiritual preparedness and capability before making him a deacon. Is the fruit of the Spirit evident in his life? Is he growing into Christlikeness and contributing to the growth of others so that all may grow up into Christ (Eph. 4:11–16)?

2) Does the prospective deacon show competence in the area of service?

Looking for competence in a deacon is not the equivalent of conducting a professional headhunter search. But wisdom and experience teach churches to look for persons already skillfully serving in the area they may be asked to lead. perhaps they have been volunteering in some related capacity. Or perhaps they have work-related experience and expertise. “This is a universal principle of Christian ministry: the way to prepare for greater service is to be diligent in some lesser service. Faithful ministry is both rewarded by God and recognized by the church.” Does the deacon candidate have the required skill for filling the service need of your church?

3) Is there anything that disqualifies the prospective deacon from serving?

Whether in character or competence, does the church’s testing reveal serious deficiencies—whether in character or competence—that would prohibit a person’s service?

4) Is the congregation supportive of the potential deacon entering the office?

The person who passes the testing should labor with the full support and commendation of the church body and its leaders. The testing affirms the person’s gifting and character and endorses his ministry. It enables confidence in service.

The Result

Acts 6:7 NIV
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Who among us would not like to see the Word spread, the number of disciples rapidly increase, and large numbers of people become obedient to the faith?
When the apostles commissioned the deaconate, “the word of God spread” and “the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” ( NIV). Who among us would not like to see the Word spread, the number of disciples rapidly increase, and large numbers of people become obedient to the faith?
When the apostles commissioned the deaconate, “the word of God spread” and “the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith” ( NIV). Who among us would not like to see the Word spread, the number of disciples rapidly increase, and large numbers of people become obedient to the faith?
Here are a few different tasks
A deacon of set up

• Facilities. The deacons could be responsible for the basic management of the church property. This would include making sure the place of worship is prepared for the worship service. Other items may include cleanup, sound system, etc.

• Benevolence. Similar to what took place in Acts 6 with the daily distribution to the widows, the deacons should be involved in administrating funds for the needy.

• Finances. Some believe that matters of finance should be handled by the elders since the famine-relief money brought by Paul and Barnabas was delivered to the elders (Acts 11:30). But while the elders can oversee the financial business of the church, it is probably best left to the deacons to handle the day-to-day matters. This would include collecting and counting the offering, record keeping, helping to set the church budget, etc.

• Ushers. The deacons could be responsible for distributing bulletins, seating the congregation, preparing the elements for communion, etc.

• Logistics. Deacons should be available to help in a variety of ways so that the elders are able to concentrate on teaching and shepherding the church.

A deacon of child care, who is responsible for implementing a child protection policy as well as organizing teams of teachers and care-givers.
A deacon of sound, who is responsible for microphones, sound boards, recording sermons, and so forth
A deacon of sound, who is responsible for microphones, sound boards, recording sermons, and so forth
A deacon of benevolence
Finance
And more.

Benevolence. Similar to what took place in Acts 6 with the daily distribution to the widows, the deacons should be involved in administrating funds for the needy.

• Finances. Some believe that matters of finance should be handled by the elders since the famine-relief money brought by Paul and Barnabas was delivered to the elders (Acts 11:30). But while the elders can oversee the financial business of the church, it is probably best left to the deacons to handle the day-to-day matters. This would include collecting and counting the offering, record keeping, helping to set the church budget, etc.

Our church also understands this office as distinct from the office of an elder in that it is open to both men and women.
Therefore, there are a handful of members at our church that have been faithfully engaging in tasks that serve the church. One particular person is Isaiah Langenfeld. Isaiah has been serving our church in finance for a number of months. And we want to officially recommend him to be a deacon to the congregation.
Therefore, there are a handful of members at our church that have been faithfully engaging in tasks that serve the church. One particular person is Isaiah Langenfeld. Isaiah has been serving our church in finance for a number of months. And we want to officially recommend him to be a deacon to the congregation.
As leaders, we’ve done our part in the process and now it’s your turn.
For the next months, we’d like you members to consider a few questions:

Questions to ask during Vetting Stage:

Is this candidate a mature and growing Christian?
Do we want our congregation to imitate this candidate?
Is there anything that disqualifies the prospective deacon from serving?
Does the prospective deacon show competence in the area of service?
Is the prospective deacon aligned with the churches doctrine, mission and vision?
Is there anything that disqualifies the prospective deacon from serving?
Is the congregation supportive of the potential deacon entering the office?
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