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THE NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH
I have been reading your posts about deacons, and a recent situation that has come up at our church makes me think you might be able to help. I am not an official deacon at our church. However, I have been serving our elders by using my unique talents and abilities to perform several chores… some of which were done by previous deacons no longer alive.
At a recent elder/deacon meeting, I was told one deacon expressed concern that I was acting as a deacon. He felt that I should discontinue the chores (website help, audio/visual support, etc.) until I am recognized as an official deacon. They all agreed there wasn't anyone better qualified at handling those jobs, but there was apparently still much disagreement on what I could scripturally do, and nothing has come of it. Can I serve the elders even though I'm not an official deacon, and really what is the difference, so I can explain it? Thanks.
Not A Deacon
Dear Not A Deacon,
The key to understanding this issue is to remember that all Christians are deacons, but not all Christians are elders’ deacons. Let us explain. Jesus was called a deacon to the Jews (Rom 15:8), the apostles were told to be deacons (Mk 9:35), and godly Phoebe was called a deacon to the church (Rom 16:27). ‘Deacon’ just means ‘servant’. Every Christian is to be a servant to the church… but only certain qualified men are allowed to be the type of servants that help the elders do their job.
The office of deacon (1 Tim 3:13) is a unique position designed to remove the burden of service from the elders, just like the benevolence situation in Acts 6 placed an added burden on the apostles (Acts 6:2-3). A deacon, under the oversight of the eldership, has the authority to undertake tasks that normally would require an elder. Deacons can deal with sensitive issues like benevolence, worship organization, counseling, and church finances that wouldn’t ever be shuffled off on a “normal” church member due to the task’s importance and delicate nature. These are all areas that an elder would normally have to be very hands-on with, but thanks to deacons, the elders can breathe easier.
There is no hard and fast rule as to what jobs require a deacon and what jobs don’t, but the general principle is: if it requires an elder’s touch, then it can only be delegated to an “elder’s deacon”.
I see things; I think God is contacting me; He wants me to do something, but I don't know what. Please, please answer this and tell me what to do!
What you need to do is go to church. The days of dreams and visions have passed. In the past, God spoke to various people through dreams, visions, and prophecy, but today, He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2). Now that we have the complete and perfect Bible there is no need for God to give people individual dreams or visions (1 Cor 13:9-10). It is through the Word of God that we learn how to live faithfully (Rom 10:17).
We are sure that the things you are seeing mean something, but they don’t mean anything supernatural or prophetic. Our guess is that you have a great deal of internal struggle in your life, and this is affecting your vision, your mind, and everything else. The fact that you are writing into this site tells us that you are trying to put the pieces together and get help. One of the things that we do here at AskYourPreacher is try to connect people with a desire for answers (such as yourself) with congregations near them that can help them find long-term relief. If you would like us to do that, just e-mail us back at email@example.com, and we will happily help in whatever way we can.
(This question is a follow up to “Whose Servant?”)
Help me understand how Philippians 1:1 deals with elders having scriptural oversight over deacons? How does this passage say that "deacons serve elders"?
Dear Context Please,
In hindsight, Php 1:1 does seem like a rather obscure reference without a little clarification. Our point was that the only time that deacons are ever mentioned is with elders. There are multiple references of elders without deacons, but zero Bible examples of deacons without elders. Paul told Titus of the urgency to appoint elders in every church (Tit 1:5). Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in the congregations that they had started (Acts 14:23). As Paul said, the elders have the responsibility to feed the church (Acts 20:28), and that is the pattern we see over and over again. Congregations need elders because elders lead those congregations. On the other hand, we are never told that congregations have that same need for deacons, nor do we see any congregations that had deacons without elders. Php 1:1 was a reference (albeit all too vaguely) to that fact.
The word ‘deacon’ just means ‘servant’ and is used throughout the Scriptures. Matt 22:13 uses the same Greek word to describe a king’s servants. Rom 15:8 refers to Jesus as a deacon of God to the Jews. Deacons are always mentioned alongside those that they serve. Since the deacons we are talking about are never mentioned without elders, the implication is that the deacons serve the elders, and if you don’t have elders, you wouldn’t have deacons… the exact pattern we see throughout the New Testament churches.
The Bible gives no example of a congregation having deacons without elders. Where the Bible is silent, we must be to (1 Cor 4:6). Hope that provides the clarification we should have given in our first answer.
The New Testament gives qualifications for men to serve the local congregation as elders and as deacons. If there are men qualified to serve as deacons but there is not a plurality of men qualified to serve as elders, should the congregation ask men to serve as deacons when there are no elders?
Dear Deacon Dilemma,
No elders means no deacons. A deacon without an eldership is a servant without someone to serve. Deacons are servants of the church. The word ‘deacon’ comes from the Greek word ‘diakonos’ which literally means ‘servant’. The deacons who meet the qualifications of 1 Tim. 3:8-13 are a specific type of servant in the church – they serve the eldership (Php 1:1). Deacons are given authority by the elders to oversee various responsibilities within the church. These responsibilities might be building maintenance, the treasury, benevolence, etc. – whatever tasks the elders need help doing are the tasks deacons are to fulfill.
My family and I go to a small Baptist church. One deacon didn't like the preacher even though the congregation loved him. The deacon didn't like the way the preacher walked back and forth across the pulpit, and the preacher was too emotional when he gave testimony. Our preacher resigned, and we lost over half the congregation because of it. My two kids and one other are the only children there now. My husband won't go back because he thinks it is corrupt now. I asked him if we can go visit other churches, and he said, “Why? If one is corrupt, they all are.” How can I convince him they are not all corrupt? I want to keep my family in church. I don't know what to do. My kids are getting where they don't want to go on Wednesday night now because they are the only kids there.
Grasping At Straws
Dear Grasping At Straws,
There are congregations all around the country that aren't corrupted by denominationalism, personal opinions, or traditions. Our recommendation is that you show our article "Down With Denominationalism" to your husband and read it together. There are so many problems with modern religion, and it all comes down to opinions being placed above Scripture. When we leave the Bible pattern, all sorts of chaos and trouble ensues (2 Tim 1:13). The church is supposed to be the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim 3:15), but most churches have become places for petty arguments or the latest worship fad.
We know of congregations all over that reject this philosophy and really do put the Bible first. It may be hard for your husband to believe because he has seen so much of the opposite, but it is true. Just because there are lots of bad mechanics doesn't mean that you stop driving a car – just because there are lots of bad churches doesn't mean we can give up on the Lord. Comb through past articles on our site, and you'll see that we do our very best to always give book, chapter, and verse for what we do. Our congregation isn't alone, and if you want, we can help you find one near you that has the same attitude. Feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any further questions or if we can help you locate a church.