Today's roles and responsibilities of the church Deacon vary widely and have morphed to meet both the spiritual and managerial needs of our modern churches.
The Need for Deacons in the Church
Acts 6:1 gives us the origin of the need for Deacons:
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily ministration."
A need for service to the widows was growing, and the murmurings were rooted in the thought the Hebrew widows were being favored in their allotment from the church.
Deacons originated from conflicts in the early church as the number of believers was steadily growing. The qualifications of the Deacons stated below, are vital to the administration of these responsibilities.
Qualifications of Deacons in the Church
Biblical qualifications for the appointment of the deacon are specified in Acts 6:3 as "men of honest report, full of The Holy Ghost and wisdom." These qualifications lend their importance to the ministering of the needs of widows and attending to the secular affairs of the church.
The Choosing of the Seven - Acts 6:1-7
"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. 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. 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 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 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."
Qualifications for Deacons - 1 Timothy 3:8-13
"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."
Be Sober and Not Greedy
In 1 Timothy 3:8, Paul taught: “In the same way, deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.”
A Deacon's tongue and heart must be in agreement. He cannot act or speak in one fashion to the church members than another to the pastor. Being sober and not greedy are qualities that prevent the Deacon from taking advantage of the church's resources for his own benefit.
Manage His Own Family Well
1 Timothy 3:4-5 states, “[h]e must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)”
The Deacon must be sober and the ruler of his own home. If he is not capable of using a clear and sound mind or resolving household conflict, he is not suited to handle these duties within the church.
Be Full of the Spirit and Wisdom
The appointed Deacon must always act in guidance of the Holy Spirit. There are the biblical responsibilities for the office of Deacon, but the individual servant in the position should be in constant prayer for leading and guiding his duties specifically commanded for himself.
“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 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word,” (Acts 6:3-4).
The Deacon must be in constant prayer in order to successfully and rightfully execute his duties. This close connection to the Heavenly Father assures that not only his overt actions are appropriate, but also that his motives are pure.
Husband of One Wife
Just as these qualifications are mostly subjective, so are the duties of the Deacon in modern churches. The only objective qualification of a Deacon is to be the husband of one wife. This criterion is met by a man who has never married or only has one living wife.
Duties of Deacons in the Church
In 1 Timothy 3, Paul further outlines the qualifications as he defines the responsibilities of the offices of Deacon and bishop. The two offices share similar duties but are distinct in that the Bishop preaches the Gospel and administers the ordinances of the church.
- The Deacon is to set up and prepare the table for the administration of the Lord's Supper. In the early church, the Deacon rationed any of the leftover elements to the poor of the church or locality.
- The Deacon is to visit the sick and needy of the church and prepare necessary matters for church meetings.
- If a conflict arises within the church, the Deacon is to assist the pastor in easing any tensions or resolving conflict.
The province of the church Deacon board has steadily shifted and grown. Instead of primarily caring for the sick and the widows of the church, Deacon boards have become the pseudo-corporate officers in many churches. They are deemed the overseers of the church property and its financial stability.
Many pastors feel it is the responsibility of the Deacons to visit within the community and invite them to the church. Deacons should have a part in a church's visitation ministry, but people in the community want to see and know the pastor of the church.
In summary, the Deacon must be a faithful servant and blameless example to the church he is appointed to serve.
His qualifications and responsibilities have roots originating from the disputes within the early church but are necessary and relevant for the growth and administration of our church today.
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