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The Vital Role Deacons Play

“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 …” – Acts 6:3 (NIV)

Acts Chapter 6 is a watershed moment in the life of the early church. After a period of sustained growth since the day of Pentecost, the church faced a serious problem. The Greek-speaking Jews complained that their widows were being overlooked in the distribution of food. The Hebraic Jews, it was claimed, were giving preferential treatment to their widows. If this went unresolved, it could very well have led to a church split, hindering growth and maybe destroying much of the church in its infancy. Something had to be done, and it had to be done with wisdom and sensitivity.

The First Deacons

The apostles, who were acting as the elders of the local church in Jerusalem at the time, could have chosen to handle this themselves. Instead, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they set in place seven men to resolve the issue. These seven were the first deacons. Their appointment served not only to solve one problem but to help the church grow at an even faster rate. Up to this point, Acts tells us that God added people, but after deacons were ordained, the church multiplied!

Acts tells us that God added people, but after deacons were ordained, the church multiplied!

Deacons Today

Today, many churches have dispensed with the office of deacon altogether or made it something very different to that which we see in Scripture. If we are to have healthy churches, we need to build in a healthy way, according to the pattern of Scripture. This includes recognising and releasing deacons in a manner that is consistent with Biblical principles.

The word deacon (Greek diakonos) means ‘servant’ or ‘one who executes the command of another’. For this reason, in many churches, deacons are simply those who serve well; maybe they look after the building or hand out Bibles. This fails to do justice to the vital role of deacons in the life of the church. Simply serving is the duty of all believers; after all, we are referred to in Scripture as slaves (Greek doulos). Just because somebody serves well does not mean they should be a deacon.

On the other hand, in some churches, deacon boards have the authority to ‘hire and fire’ the pastor and make governmental decisions. Whilst this practice recognises the importance of the office, it fails to recognise the proper role of elders and places the role of deacon higher than it should be.

Simply serving is the duty of all believers … Just because somebody serves well does not mean they should be a deacon.

What Scripture Says About Deacons

  • They are men and women who should be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3).
  • They were delegated an area of responsibility by the apostles (elders). The apostles did not abdicate their authority nor duplicate the work. They assigned authority to those who could then exercise such authority within the sphere they were assigned. Remember, deacons are those who ‘execute the command of another’. This freed the apostles to continue leading the church forward.
  • The deacons were trusted not just with a simple task of handing out food parcels but of resolving a dispute that could have severely damaged the church. They were trusted by the apostles with significant tasksWe will turn this responsibility over to them”.
  • These were men of great faith and great capacity. Stephen preached powerfully and was martyred, while Philip brought revival to Samaria and performed amazing signs and wonders. They were certainly not confined to simple, practical duties. Within our field of churches, we are privileged to have many deacons who can truly be described as “full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit”. They set an example to all the believers in the way they love God and people, the way they worship, and the way they exercise their spiritual gifts.
  • Once revival had come to Samaria through Philip, the apostles went 0n to establish healthy churches (Acts 8). There was a recognition of governmental authority not carried by a deacon. Again, even in the Four12 field, we have seen deacons start outreach groups that have become congregations.

“Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households 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 “– 1 Timothy 3:8-13 (ESV)

  • Later, Paul gave instructions for the qualifications of deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13). They are almost identical to those of elder, with the exception of being able to teach (setting doctrine is a governmental responsibility carried by elders in partnership with apostles). In other words, those who fulfil the role of deacon must be those who set an example for other believers in character and conduct.
  • In this same passage, it is made clear that women can also be deacons (or deaconesses).
  • Deacons must be tested first (1 Timothy 3:10). Whilst Paul doesn’t clarify what a test should be, the context seems to show that there must be a track record in the life of a prospective deacon. That person should be living and acting as a deacon would for a period before being set into office.
  • In Acts 6, the apostles told the people to choose seven men that the apostles would then trust with the work. This does not mean that deacons are elected by some democratic method, but rather that they can be recognised as leaders and examples by the people. For this reason, before any person is ordained as a deacon, there should be an opportunity for people to raise any concerns about character issues of which the leadership may not be aware.

Their Job Description

There is no real job description given for deacons in Scripture. This is most likely deliberate. Deacons serve Christ by serving the church in a wide variety of ways. Some notable examples of deacons roles could include working full time for the church in an administrative capacity, leading ministries within the life of the church, overseeing one or more Community groups, or simply exercising specific giftings within the life of a congregation. This list is illustrative of the kind of roles deacons can fulfil and is certainly not exhaustive.

… they are men and women called by God to help lead His people and build His church.

Deacons, whatever their role, should work closely with the eldership team, doing whatever is needed to help the vision of the team become a reality. Yet they are far more than dogsbodies or gofers: they are men and women called by God to help lead His people and build His church. Without deacons, the church will never become as healthy or move forward as God intends. As for the deacons themselves, as Paul writes, “those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:13, ESV).

If you enjoyed this read, then we also recommend Leadership That Reflects Christ by Mike Davies and Building Not Just Blessing by Jonathan Stanfield.

 


This article was first published on 16 August 2022.

Mike serves on eldership in Joshua Generation Church. He is married to Chantal and they have two daughters. He loves to see people equipped to effectively serve the Kingdom of God through teaching and writing. Follow him on Facebook for more.

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Sin
Worship
Confusion
Trials
Husbands
Offence
Humility
Idols
Pride
Evangelising
Obedient
Christian Leadership
Singles
Healing
Direction
Revelation
Conviction
Complacency
Recalibration
Guidance
Transformation
Volunteering
Taiwan Churches
Providence
New Testament Church
Pastor
Church Structure
Feminism
Apostolic Partnership
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Distractions
Christian Books
Christian Movies
Covenantal Love
Storms of Life
resilience
steadfastness
uncompromising
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Doctrine
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Money
Social Justice
Youth
Death
Tribulations
Partner
Overcoming
Humbleness
Immorality
Prophets
Fornication
Planting A Church
Christian Leaders
Debt
The Word
Discipline
Condemnation
Bear Fruit
Complacent
Recalibrating
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Modesty
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The Poor
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Justice
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Apostles
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Poor
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Counting the Cost
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books
Raising Leaders
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God's Character
Affirmation
Judaism
Enlightenment
Building Deep
Prostitution
Godly Team
Footholds
Breaking Bread
Festivals
Idolatry
Prayer and Fasting
Theology
Foundations
Heaven
Fellowship of Believers
Leading Church
Diversity
Church Accountability
Rebellion
Witchcraft
Baby Christian
Kassie du Plessis
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Envy
Quiet Times
Retaliation
Lessons
Spreading The Word
Cheating
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Rest
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Jewish
Reason
Selling Out
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honour
favour
Devil's Schemes
Children
Forgiveness
Income
Prophetic
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Sancti
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Sexual Purity
Christmas
Jealousy
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Promises
Loss
The Cross
Persecution
Unfaithfulness
Sacrifice
Brazil
Prophetic Training
Healing Conference
Identity
Small Group
Biblical Pattern
Systematic Theology
False Gospel
Testimony Apostolic
Jews
Reasoning
Watering Down
Reaching Out
Expectancy
Christian Character
Generosity
Jesus
Purity
Trust
Helps
Mortality
Christian Family Values
Lukewarm
Home Group Leaders
Exhort
Sanctification
Dominionism
Beliefs
Praying
Celibacy
Fathers
Comparison
Training
Bible Study
Tests
Cross
Fear of Man
Find Forgiveness
Sacrificial Service
Brazil Churches
Prophetic Equip
Voice of God
Team
Home Group
Change
Servant Leadership
Apostolic Leaders
Authentic
Religions
Intellectual Pride
Ambition
Fruitfulness
God's Favour
The Church
Christian Living
Gentleness
Joy
Repentance
Unity
Loving People
Infirmity
Family Values
Righteousness
Leading
Exhortation
Self-Righteousness
Kingdom of God
Commands
Provision
Sex Before Marriage
Mothering
Women in Leadership
Halloween
Honesty
Testing
Crucifixion
Conversion
Guilt
Sacrificial Giving
Church Merger
Equipping
Saints
Leadership Team
Priesthood
Jehovah's Witnesses
Women In Ministry
Fruit of the Spirit
Womens Ministry
Messiah
Mind Idolatry
Megachurch
Biblical Paradox
Honouring God
God's Manifold Wisdom
Church Leadership
Church Life
Giving
Kindness
Revival
Water Baptism
Servant Heart
Living for Jesus
Covenantal Relationships
Division
Accusation
Flesh
Sexual Sin
Scripture
Customs
Provider
Living for God
Mothers
Female Leaders
Calling
Christian Fellowship
Backsliding
Easter
Witnessing
Infidelity
Biblical Culture
Merging Churches
Prophetic Equipping
Gift of Prophecy
Apostle
Priesthood of All Believers
Finance
Servanthood
Biblical Church
Praise
Atheism
Church History
Living the Gospel
Paradoxes in the Bible
Honouring People
Church Planting
Community Leaders
God the Father
Leaders
Salvation
Women
Afterlife
Protection
Dating
Decisions
Eldership
Fleshly Desires
Shame
Truth
Traditions
Works
Morality
Wisdom
Women Leaders
Ordaining Elders
Christian Community
Backslidden
Resurrection
Testimony
Masturbation
Communal Culture
Partnering Churches
Prophesy
New Churches
Five Fold Gift
Trinity
Tithe
Relationship
Employment
Thanksgiving
Atheists
Old Testament Prophet
Ambassadors
Truth in Tension
contradictions
Treasure Hunting
treasure
Deacons
Culture
Good News
Maturity
Self-Control
Word of Knowledge
Bitterness
Self-Pity
Courting
Forgiving
Anger
Freedom
Submission
Gifts of the Spirit
Get Baptised
Works and Faith
Morals
Gift of Wisdom
Females in Leadership
Ordaining
Defence
Commitment
Hearing God
Consequences
Receive Forgiveness
Leadership Training
Living Hope
Zimbabwe
Start a Church
Prophet
New Believers
Being Generous
Study Scripture
Jobs
Entitlement
Misotheists
New Testament Prophet
Work Values
Family
Devotion
Goodness
Men
Serving
Word of Wisdom
Brokenness
Sickness
Courtship
Friendship
Church Plant
Hope
Trusting
Gifts
Baptized
Fasting
Overcomer
Words of Wisdom
Leadership
Encounter
Repenting
Challenges
Listening
Caring for Children
Four12 Partners
Training Leaders
St Johns
Relief Fund
Building Church
Evangelist
Dreams
Communion
Being Accountable
Occupation
Rejection
Misotheism
The Case for Christ
Kingdom Priorities
Biblical Contradictions
Movement
Love
Discernment
Gospel
Mercy
Shepherding
Work
Caring
Suicide
Desires
Lies
Fathering
Vulnerability
Accountable
The Apostolic
Kids
Intercession
Singleness
Fear
lead
Life
Repent
Anxiety
Obey
Child Care
Four12 Partner
Volunteer
Taiwan Church
Israel
Healthy Church
Teacher
Multi-site Church
Perseverance
Loving Others
Profession
Social Media
Hopelessness
Lee Strobel
Kingdom Living
Refining Fire
God's Glory
Marriage
Discipleship
Grace
Ministry
Sin
Worship
Confusion
Trials
Husbands
Offence
Humility
Idols
Pride
Evangelising
Obedient
Christian Leadership
Singles
Healing
Direction
Revelation
Conviction
Complacency
Recalibration
Guidance
Transformation
Volunteering
Taiwan Churches
Providence
New Testament Church
Pastor
Church Structure
Feminism
Apostolic Partnership
Vocations
Distractions
Christian Books
Christian Movies
Covenantal Love
Storms of Life
resilience
steadfastness
uncompromising
Four12 Conference
Accountability
Doctrine
Healing and Miracles
Money
Social Justice
Youth
Death
Tribulations
Partner
Overcoming
Humbleness
Immorality
Prophets
Fornication
Planting A Church
Christian Leaders
Debt
The Word
Discipline
Condemnation
Bear Fruit
Complacent
Recalibrating
Teaching Kids
Partners Relief Fund
Apostolic Partnering
Netherlands
Marriage Training
Church
Apostolic Field
Administration
Racism
Church Partnering
Christian Values
Cosmological Argument
Christian Authors
Review
Husband
Isle of Man Conference
Apologetics
Elders
Heaven and Hell
Obedience
Spiritual Gifts
Caring for Others
Depression
Online Church
Spouse
Conflict
Meekness
Lust
Prophecy
The Gospel
Purgatory
Control
Finances
The Word of God
Modesty
Judgement
Bearing Fruit
Comfort
Divorce
Teaching Children
Four12 Partners Relief Fund
Pastors Training
The Poor
Letting Go
Values
Partnering
Heart of God
Justice
Church Partnership
Great Commission
Existence of God
Christian Literature
Old Testament
Romance
Apostles Teaching
Apostles
Evangelism
Holiness
Partnership
Stewardship
Caring for People
Doubt
Church Involvement
Wife
Reconciliation
Overseers
Lying
Deception
Hell
Raising Children
Godliness
Miracles
Word of God
Ordained
Equality
Breakthrough
Defending My Faith
Covenant
Teenagers
Four12 Churches
Training Pastors
Needy
Rastafarian
Translations of the Bible
Preaching
Authentic Community
Relationship with God
Faith and Works
New Christian
Creation
Reading
Worldviews
God's Love
Presence of God
Apostolic
Faith
Holy Spirit
Pastoring
Suffering
Brotherly Love
Eternity
Community
Wives
Bishops
Shepherd
New Believer
Greed
Immaturity
Raising Kids
Parenting
Poor
Bible
Ordinance
Unforgiveness
Refreshing
Defending The Gospel
Matrimony
Teenage Years
Four12 Church
Youth Leaders
Ireland
Redemption
Godly Leadership
Disciple
Church Discipline
Church Health
False Teachers
Fatherly Love
Tongues
Goats
Fear God
Godly Love
Body of Christ
God's Presence

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