What is a Deacon?
The word Deacon comes from the Greek diakonos, which means “helper”).
A Deacon a member of the leadership team of the threefold Christian ministry (below the Pastor and Elder (bishop) or, a lay official, usually ordained, and is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind who shares in the ministry and sometimes in the governance of a congregation.
What is the difference between an Elder and a Deacon? - Comparing the office of deacon to the office of elder will help us answer these questions. The primary spiritual leaders of a congregation are the elders, who are also called overseers or pastors in the New Testament. Elders teach or preach the Word and shepherd the souls of those under their care (Eph. 4:11; 1 Tim. 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9; Heb. 13:17).
Deacons, too, have a crucial role in the life and the health of the local church, but their role is different from the elders’. The biblical role of deacons is to take care of the physical and logistical needs of the church so that the elders can concentrate on their primary calling.
This distinction is based on the pattern found in Acts 6:1–6. The apostles were devoted “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (v. 4). Since this was their primary calling, seven men were chosen to handle more practical matters in order to allow the apostles the freedom to continue with their work.
This division of labor is similar to what we see with the offices of elder and deacon. Like the apostles, the elders’ primary role is one of preaching the Word of God. Like the seven, deacons serve the congregation in whatever practical needs may arise.
THE QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS
The only passage that mentions the qualifications for deacons is 1 Timothy 3:8–13. In this passage, The Apostle Paul gives an official, but not exhaustive list of the requirements for deacons.
The similarities of the qualifications for deacons and elders/overseers in 1 Timothy 3 are striking. Like the qualifications for elders, a deacon must not be an addict (v. 3,), not greedy for dishonest gain (v. 3), blameless (v. 2; Titus 1:6), the husband of one wife (v. 2), and an able manager of his children and household (vv. 4–5). Furthermore, the focus of the qualifications is the moral character of the person who is to fill the office: a deacon must be mature and above reproach. The main difference between an elder and a deacon is a difference of gifts and calling, not character.
Perhaps the most noticeable distinction between elders and deacons is that deacons do not need to be “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2). Deacons are called to “hold” to the faith with a clear conscience, but they are not called to “teach” that faith (1 Tim. 3:9). This suggests that the deacons do not have an official teaching role in the church.
What are some duties that deacons might be responsible for today? They could be responsible for anything that’s not related to teaching and shepherding the church. Such duties might include:
- Facilities: The deacons could be responsible for managing the church property. This would include making sure the place of worship is prepared for the worship service, cleaning up, or running the sound system.
- Benevolence: Similar to what took place in Acts 6:1–6 with the daily distribution to the widows, the deacons may be involved in administrating funds or other assistance to the needy.
- Finances: While the elders should probably oversee the financial business of the church (Acts 11:30), it may be best left to the deacons to handle the day-to-day matters. This would include collecting and counting the offering, keeping records, and so on.
- Ushers: The deacons could be responsible for distributing bulletins, seating the congregation, or preparing the elements for communion.
- Logistics: Deacons should be available to help in variety of ways so that the elders are able to concentrate on teaching and shepherding the church.
Alan Blackmer (Head Deacon)