The Role Of Deacons?

June 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Newsletter

Under The Elmtree

In This Issue:

*  Function of  Deacons Executive Board ?

*  Bibles For Babwisi – Uganda

*  What Topic Would You Like Us To Address?

*  Where’s Waldo – Calling A Pastor

*  Pastoral Wisdom – No Place To Hide

*  Read My BLOG – Critical Mass – Have You Passed This Point?

Function of Deacons??

In the June 1st News Letter I requested my readers submit topics they would like to see us address. The first response we received regards the Function of Deacons. The request is listed below. In the limited space we have we address this most important topic. THANK YOU to the faithful reader who submitted this question.

How about the “function” of deacons?  There is this very popular thinking that is embedded in Christian culture, especially among SBC churches, that deacons constitute the Executive Board of a congregation.  Yet, no such role is ever mentioned in Scripture.  If that is not the function of deacons, then what is it?

I think I finally got through to our people that deacons are not the Executive Board, but they still expect “monthly meetings.”  But when I ask, “For what purpose,” they seem bewildered.  It amazes me how different “cultural” Christianity is from “biblical” Christianity.

First Principles

The Scripture makes clear that there are two Offices in the NT Church. Those are (1) Pastor/Elder, and (2) Deacon. In every NT church found in the text of Scripture there is a plurality of Elders. In many/most Baptist churches there is a single Elder. Major problem.

Deacons became a necessity as recorded in Acts 6. The Grecian widows were being neglected while the Jewish widows were being cared for (prejudice is not a new thing!)

The stated reason for the establishment of Deacons in the church is that of service. The Apostles/Elders/Pastors declared that they must not give up preaching and prayer (vv.2&4) to diakovein trapeizais, serve tables. In this context the specific reference is to meeting the material needs of those widows.

This establishes the primary roles of the two offices in a NT church. Deacons are to serve. They are not to govern. Their role is not one of dominance or the establishment of ministry policy. It is not to preach and/or teach. It is not to guard and monitor doctrine. That is the responsibility of the Elders. Deacons are to serve and to do so in submission to (Heb. 13:7; 13:17) and in concert and harmony with the Elders.

There is an accurate, specific, and vivid description of the qualifications for those who would serve as Deacons. They are to be ‘men of good report’ – their reputation in both their private lives and in the public marketplace. They are to be ‘men full of the Spirit’ and wisdom. That is, their conduct is to be directed and guided by the Holy Spirit in modeling godly lives. The ‘fear of the LORD’ is the beginning of wisdom. There is often a spirit of arrogance and a lack of humility displayed by those holding this office due to misunderstanding their role as one of service not governing. This must not be permitted

What would be the result if a local church went into the community and inquired as to the reputation of those who serve as Deacons BEFORE men are elevated to this office? Identifying those who will serve in this office is usually done as a popularity contest rather than an examination of their character. Arrogance is not fitting for men who hold  this office. In 46 years of ministry it is my observation that this quality of humility is profoundly absent in men who occupy this office to the great harm and dysfunction of the church. If you disagree with this observation consider the state of the evangelical church in America. I take no pleasure in stating these things but they are true.

A common complaint I hear in working with Pastors is ‘the Deacons won’t come to the Deacon’s meetings’! Then they should not be Deacons! That role is not an honorary title. It is a position of service and it must me engaged with excellence and integrity.

One final observation on this test. Notice the pronouns. It was not ‘the vote’ of the people that put these men into the office of deacons/serving. The text specifically declares that the people identified these men because they lived with them, observed their conduct, knew them well. However, the text states ‘we’, meaning the Apostles, ‘will appoint them’ (katasteisomen, 1p pl future active indicative). Notice they did not formally hold that office until the Apostles appointed them. A great deal of confusion could be avoided if we simply followed what the text declares.


The offices in the NT church are clearly delineated. Most Baptist churches (the question was submitted by a Baptist pastor) have only one Elder. This is a clear violation of the polity God ordained for the church (Acts 14:23 – appointed Elders plural in every church, singular; Titus 1:5 appoint Elders, plural).

A word study of Deacon (deaconous, servant, helper – 1 Tim. 3:8) brings crystal clarity to the function of Deacons in a NT church. Deacons by God’s design are to serve not govern. The problem that has arisen is the church has assimilated ‘democratic rule’, Roberts Rules of Order, etc. as the guiding principle in the church. As the questioner stated – there is a vast difference between Biblical and Cultural Christianity. Majority Rule is not a wise course of action for several reasons. Consider Kadesh Barnea as a classic object lesson. The ‘majority’ (10 of 12) said ‘do not go in’. How did that work out? 40 years of wilderness wandering. We must involve and listen honestly and carefully to the congregation. That does not mean that a 51-49% vote has God’s approval!


Please understand there is much more exegesis that must be considered on this issue. Traditions are powerful and deeply entrenched. James McDonald wrote an article several years back titled “Congregational Rule Is Of The Devil“. (June 9, 2011 – He later wrote a retraction. Deacons are to serve. Elders are to Preach, Teach, Pray and provide oversight for the congregation. Thom Rainer’s research states that Organizational Dysfunction is one of the two primary reasons for the decline of the evangelical church. When a church has a single Elder there is no way they can fulfill the profile found in the text of Scripture. This contributes to a vacuum and Deacons assume they are to fill that void. This is a dysfunctional organizational structure as measured by the text of Scripture. When the church ignores what the text says on organizational polity or any other item it does not meet with God’s approval.

Deacons governing rather than serving has been established culturally not biblically. Changing this requires patient systematic instruction, line upon line, precept upon precept. The goal must be to honor what the text says.

The initial question included the issue of meetings. Some guiding principles for meetings:

1.  Never conduct a meeting for which there is no clear purpose.

2.  Never conduct a meeting for which there is no Agenda stating specific objectives.

3.  Meetings should contribute to the effective fulfillment of purpose – Make Disciples.

4.  There must be accurate minutes and a clear statement of who does what & why as a result of the meeting. Without this clarity you become a hampster on a wheel meeting month after month with no substantive achievement.

Two titles that will provide excellent direction for church meetings.  Meetings That Work by Alexander Strauch and Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni.

Submit your question on a topic related to ministry. THANKS!

* Bibles for Babwisi – Uganda

$8.50 = 1 Bible Delivered

Wycliffe Bible Translators and The Seed Company have partnered to complete translating the New Testament, Genesis, and other Old Testament books, such as Jonah. All donations for this Bible will go directly to and are administered by Wycliffe.

The plan is to print 5,000 Lubwisi Bibles in the summer of 2015. Next, the Bibles will be taken through customs, transported to the Babwisi, and dedicated in the fall of 2015 through local pastors and missionaries.

This “Heart Language Happening” campaign is raising $42,500 to print and deliver 5,000 Lubwisi Bibles. $8.50 buys and places one Lubwisi Bible into the hands of the Babwisi.

Please contribute because … One Bible matters.

*Contribute & be part of bringing Scripture to this People Group in their tongue.

*  What Topic Would You Like Us To Address?

Ministry poses a multitude of challenges. What is the most pressing issue you are facing? Send us an email ( and describe your circumstance. We will consider using this in our News Letter. We will protect your identity and just deal with the issue. Give us your name, email address, church name and cell phone #. THANKS!

* Calling a Pastor – Where’s Waldo?

It is not uncommon for a church to receive 300-400 Resumes when seeking to call a Lead Pastor. They then launch a process that is comparable to ‘Finding Waldo’. Remember that game? There is a picture of a thousand faces. The challenge is in viewing this photograph; find Waldo. The book by this title was released in 1987.

This may be entertaining for some folks, but, it is a very poor and ineffective way to identify and call a pastor. It takes far too long, cost far too much and produces pastoral tenures that average 4.3 years (; ( Not good and very detrimental to the church.

IgniteUS provides a Process that is less costly, requires less time (on average 12 months or less), is more effective and results in a pastor that FITS the church and the church FITS him. The churches that have used this process give us a 94% Effectiveness Rating. Contact us for more information on this valuable resource that equips local churches in calling a man that leads with excellence and effectiveness. 803 413 3509 or

Pastoral Wisdom – No Place To Hide

Unless you have been hiding in a cave or on a deserted island in the past week you are aware of the most recent capitulation to evil by some ‘so called’ evangelicals. Dr. Al Mohler responded to this in an editorial post on 06/10. The link takes my readers to this post. We will or we will not defend the veracity and integrity of the text of Scripture. Choose you this day whom you will serve!

BLOG “Critical Mass – Have You Passed This Point? “. Read and respond. THANKS!!

Read my BLOG – – Also on the Home Page – A Monday Morning BLOG. (Currently -“Critical Mass – Have You Passed This Point? “) New post every Monday morning. Comments welcome!

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