New Testament Deacons
Compiled by David P. Nolte

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Before we get into any study, please take a moment to tell me what you already understand about Deacons.

What is a Deacon?

What does a Deacon do? List specific tasks.

Who can be a Deacon? Be specific.

Now, let's find out from the authority: The Bible says:

"Deacons, likewise, 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. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A Deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus." 1 Timothy 3:8-13 (NIV)

What are the qualifications for Deacons according to this text?

First, consider the Deacon himself (8-12)

Positive qualifications

Worthy of respect (8a). Respect must be earned, not demanded. Act and speak in such a way others can respect you!

Holding the deep truths of the faith with a pure conscience (9). That is, adhere to and cling to the faith; keep it in mind and be bonded to it. Keep your conscience clear by practicing what you preach, by walking what you talk.

Tested (10a). That is, proven under fire. James writes: "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him." James 1:12 (NIV)

There is nothing found against them (10b). That is there is no charge that can be justly brought. If you are accused, let your life be the rebuttal. Peter wrote: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us." 1 Peter 2:12 (NIV)

The husband of one wife (12a). In that culture I think it meant "not a polygamist." It surely means "not a womanizer." I doubt that this means a widower who has remarried, or even a man divorced and remarried under the Biblical parameters.

Managing his children and house well (12b).

Negative qualifications

Not double-tongued (8b). That is, not saying one thing to one person and saying something else to another; not talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Not indulging in much wine (8c). Certainly no drunk or wild party guy.

Not pursuing dishonest gain (8d). That is, not greedy or shady or unscrupulous. Paul warns: "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV)

Then consider what the text says about their wives (11)

Worthy of respect (11a).

Not malicious talkers (11b). That is, not slanderers and not gossips or tale bearers.

Temperate (11c). That is self-controlled, not excessive or immoderate.

Trustworthy in all things (11d). That is, faithful and dependable and women who can be relied on.

Then notice the honor of their work (13)

Those who serve well gain an excellent standing (13a). I think this is in the eyes of God and of man, but the former is what matters. "Well done, good and faithful servant" are words to hope for. It also means you can be influential in the body. People trust you and will follow your leadership.

Also great assurance in the faith which is in Christ Jesus (13b). This has to do with courage, confidence and boldness. Doing right always makes us so.

Okay, so: "What is a Deacon?"

The word "Deacon" comes from the Greek, "diakonos" and means: one who executes the commands of a master; a servant; minister; the servant of a king; one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the widows and shut-ins. It occurs in the New Testament in reference to domestic servants, John 2:5-9. It is used of Civil Rulers (who are servants of the society), and of disciples of Jesus as His servants. The world always means servant or minister in some sense. It is used in the feminine only in Romans 16:1.

What is the difference between a Deacon and an Elder?

Simply stated, the Deacons usually do service related to material things while the Elders take care of the spiritual / shepherding things pertaining to the congregation. The Deacons are assigned specific duties and the Elders oversee the entire operation.

What is the earliest example of Deacons in the New Testament?

"In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian 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, 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." Acts 6:1-6 (NIV)

"The Deacons were at first appointed to distribute the charity of the church, and to manage its concerns, yet pastors and evangelists were among them. The Deacons had a great trust reposed in them. They must be grave, serious, prudent men. It is not fit that public trusts should be lodged in the hands of any, till they are found fit for the business with which they are to be trusted. All who are related to ministers, must take great care to walk as becomes the gospel of Christ." Matthew Henry Commentary.

The so-called "seven Deacons" in this passage are not actually called by that name, but the kind of service in which they were engaged was of the character of Deacons.

If every Christian is to be a servant, why is it necessary to have a group of men specifically designated as Deacons?

It is somewhat a matter of authority, delegation and responsibility.

Every Christian is a servant, that is true; but not every Christian has been established in a specific task / responsibility within the body and then been given authority and finances to carry out that task.

Somebody in specific has to be responsible for upkeep, maintenance, expansion, supplies, and labor. If it is left to "everybody" in general, "nobody" in specific gets the job done.

What a chaos would ensue if everybody in general decided on their own just to come down and paint the building, or tear out a wall, or cut a doorway in a room.

But if someone is responsible, empowered and financed to do those jobs, makes plans to do those jobs, those jobs get done decently and in order. There has to be someone authorized, financed and accountable or things either remain completely undone or get done in a haphazard fashion.

Here is a cute little story to illustrate the need for someone in specific to do particular tasks:

"There were four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important task to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it or that Somebody would, but Nobody realized that Everybody would not do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done in the first place."  Unknown Author.

Must I be a Deacon to paint the building, weed the yard, help with upkeep, drive the van and so on?

Definitely not! Hopefully the Deacons, charged with specific duties, will enlist many outside the "ranks" of the Deacons to help with those duties. Somebody, though, must be in charge, empowered, accountable, and financed to get the ball rolling and to keep things organized. On the physical, material level, that is the Deacons.

We are not setting men aside for a church office (a mere position) but calling men to a job, a task, a responsibility, a ministry of service.

So, if I become a Deacon in this congregation what will be expected of me, and what may I expect?

What may I expect?

I may expect to have the support, encouragement and guidance of the Elders and pastor.

I may expect to have not only the responsibility to do a job, but budgeted funds and authority to do that job.

I may expect to be asked to do some important ministries and services for the good of individuals within the congregation and of the congregation as a whole.

I may expect to grow in my understanding of the needs and resources of the local congregation.

I may expect to grow as a Christian through serving.

Being a Deacon is more than being a church officer. It is more than passing out communion. It is more than wearing a title. It is a job, a ministry, a service for Christ and the local congregation.

So, what may be expected of me as a Deacon?

Regular attendance at the services of the congregation unless hindered by a conscientious reason. That is a reason you'd look Jesus in the eye and express. This is not to say that you will never be absent. It is to say that you will do your best to be present. The writer of Hebrews puts it like this: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)

Faithful attendance in, and completion of, SWCC 101 - 501 classes. These will be offered on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. Each class will be completed in one session. There will, therefore, be 5 sessions to attend. Make up classes will be scheduled.

Being a regular financial supporter of the work of SWCC. I recommend, but we cannot require, tithing (10%). Each should do as he purposes in his heart, but it should be regular, and it should declare your trust in and love for Christ and His church.

Communication with the pastor and Elders. If you have a budget, and a job to do, do it. You will not need to run every decision through the Elders. If your task involves yard and equipment maintenance, and you need a lawnmower and it is within your budget, buy it. If your task is in the audio-visual area and we need a microphone, if it is in your budget, buy one. (Always check with the treasurer first to be sure actual money is available). Work within your budget and do your job. We won't micro manage you. But if the task means major changes to the building or financial indebtedness, a written plan must be submitted to the Elders. When approved, let us know that it has been done and what it cost. If your job requires expenses outside the budget, come to the Elders and make a written request for funds.

Co-operate with, don't compete with, the Elders. Having two groups of leaders must not mean a stand-off between the two. The Elders are the overseers, the pastoral / shepherd leaders; the Elders set policy and are charged with maintaining sound doctrine and leadership. The Deacons are the servant leaders and are charged with the more material, physical ministries. There is difference but both are of equal importance to the body. There is to be harmony, communication and co-operation if the body is to be healthy.

Develop "thick skin!" Don't be overly sensitive to criticism or guidance. When you step into public leadership, you wear a target. You won't, can't, and shouldn't please everyone. But when you get the brunt of a gripe, your qualification for being a Deacon is put to the test.

Live a consistent life for Christ outside the gathering of the body. In the community, at work, in the neighborhood, maintaining a clear Christian testimony in word and deed. I never want to hear of any of you what I heard about a Deacon at a church I served years ago. A man who visited our services quit coming and told me, "I don't want to attend a church who has a man as Deacon who spends more time in a Tavern than he does in church." You never know who is watching and what evaluation they are making. (By the way: this applies to you whether a Deacon or not).

Be the spiritual leader in your home. Love your wife as Christ loves the church and lead her with kindness. Raise your children to be Christians. Be kind, gentle and Christlike. Be men of the Word and of prayer on a regular basis.

Contribute to the numerical and spiritual growth and soundness of SWCC by inviting others and by welcoming those who come. Be one who actively seeks out guests with a friendly greeting.

Take your job seriously. You have not been called to an office but to a task. Do what you do for Christ and with energy. Paul wrote, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

Fulfill your vow. When you assume the ministry of Deacon, you make a commitment to God and to SWCC. The Bible teaches us about vows and fulfillment: "Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the [temple] messenger, 'My vow was a mistake.' Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God." Ecclesiastes 5:2-7 (NIV)

You are called to be a Deacon -- not called just to be called one.  Do the work of ministry, fulfill your task, edify the body!

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