Two Offices: Deacon, the Second of Two Offices (part 2)
The Qualifications (or Qualities) of the Deacon
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. (Acts 6:2-7)
Many scholars agree that this passage describes the birth of the office of the deacon. This is where the apostles charged the church to… “choose” (NIV) or “select” (NASB) "...seven men who would tend to the business of “serving tables”. What kind of men were they to be? Did the apostles suggest they be men who had successful carrier paths? Can you imagine the apostles saying, “choose seven financially successful men. We think you should get, a banker or two, an attorney, a couple of wealthy land owners, an entrepreneur, and what about a carpenter? Naw, get an Oil man instead… that should do it.”? This may seem somewhat humorous, but sadly it seems, even Bible believing churches look to these outward experiences of men to determine their qualifications. However, if the passage above is indeed speaking of deacons (and I believe it is), then the church should pay attention to the qualities mentioned to determine the metal of a man. We see here that they are to be “…men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” (v.3)
The development of this progressive organism called the church was given further instruction in 1Timothy 3:7-13; The adverb “likewise”, is held by some to refer to the office of bishop (eg. like the office of a bishop, the office of the deacon is to…), to others it is applied to the bishops standard of quality (eg. just as the bishops must be blameless, etc. so deacons must also be blameless etc.). Either way, deacons, “are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” (1Tim.3:8-10; NIV)
The Responsibilities of the Deacon
J.N. Darby makes an interesting observation in his Synopsis of the Old and New Testaments,
It will be noticed that the apostle speaksThis points up the fact that deacons had an important role in the life of the early church, and they do in the life of churches today too. Their responsibilities then and now, is to serve the pastor/s and the local church.
of the wives of deacons, not those of bishops (except to say that these must be
the husbands of one wife only). Bishops had a charge, in which they were
occupied with souls and exercised authority in the church, in which women were
not to act. Deacons were necessarily occupied with family details and
circumstances. In these women might well be concerned and often very useful. In
the spiritual cares of elders they had nothing to do. It was requisite therefore
that the wives of deacons should possess qualities which would cause their
husbands to be respected, and at the same time guard themselves from becoming
busybodies and tale-bearers.
I asked our ABF class “In what ways do our deacons serve the pastor/s and the people of EBC?” We came up with this list of the ways deacons have touched our lives personally:
Visitation; prison, hospitals, homes of visitors, and shut ins
Caring for the widows and the needy
Assisting in the administration of ordinances
Keeping up the building and grounds of the church property
Assisting many in financial accountability and stewardship
Assisting in the programs and functions of the church
Advising and assisting the Pastor/s on various matters
Interviewing candidates for membership
Advising the church in various matters (to many to list here and maintain any interest)
Assisting the pastor/s and the church in seeking pastors to fill certain areas as needs may arise
These servants free the pastor/s to minister in areas of higher priority (i.e. prayer and the ministry of the Word of God), and help the church organize in other areas. In reality deacons are servants to the pastor and the church.
One last note, deacons:
Serve not dictate!
Serve not govern!
Serve under not over a pastor!
Minister not master!
Can I hear a deacon say, “Amen?”