Monday, January 12, 2009

What is a Deacon? (part one)

Last night during our evening Night Light service we examined 1 Timothy 3:8-16. In this section of Scripture Paul teaches Timothy what qualities ought to be present in a candidate for the office of deacon. First, what is this office? What is a deacon? The word ‘deacon’ is the English transliteration of the Greek word which means servant. Sometimes in the New Testament the Greek term refers broadly to one who is a servant or one who serves and is sometimes even translated minister. In other texts as in 1 Timothy 3, it is clearly identifying a specific role within the church. In one sense we are all deacons as we are servants of God. Pastors are servants or deacons of the Word for example, but there is a defined role of leadership established for the church first seen in Acts 6.

In this text the ministry of the Word was being interrupted because of other needs in the church. Seven men were set apart to serve in a capacity that would both address these needs and free up the apostles to carry out the ministry of the Word. That’s the model we have for the relationship between pastors and deacons in the NT. The office of deacon was not set up as a ‘board member’ to make policy or to govern. Too often churches mirror corporations instead of the Bible so they have the pastor as CEO and the deacons as board of directors. Perhaps they try to mirror government with the pastor as the executive, the deacons as the judiciary and the congregation as the legislature.

The first deacons were assigned three tasks in Acts 6: 1) Care for the physical needs of the church; 2) Maintain unity in the church; and 3) Support the ministry of the Word. Deacons implement and carry out the hands-on ministries of the church. Every deacon should have his hands dirty with the soil of ministry.

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