Summary: Church Structure is designed by God. Deacons are important!
DEACONS FOR THE PRESENT AND THE FUTURE
The Church is the Body of Christ. It was bought by the blood of Christ and every Christian exists and lives in submission to Christ. It should be of no surprise to us that God has given us specific instructions about how he desires the church to be structured.
Great dangers and abuses have been experienced by the church over the centuries as humans attempted to improve on God’s plan for the church. Early in the life of the church Apostle Paul appointed elders/shepherds/ overseers in the churches he established. In the second generation of the church, elders appointed Bishops to serve as overseers of groups of churches. Bishops had councils and appointed a Chief Bishop over all the Bishops - a very powerful position often associated with the Roman Emperor - and later even appointed by the Roman Emperor over the churches. Those kinds of structures still exist today, but they are still not the simple plan God put in place. Throughout the centuries reformers attempted to solve this dilemma and various other plans were put into place. But there is no better plan than the one put into place by the One who Reigns over the Church.
So if you think a lesson about deacons is not very important, think again! God desired that elders and deacons be appointed in His church.
1. DEACONS ARE SERVANTS
The very word translated “deacon” means “servant” or “minister”. That word appears 95 times in the New Testament to describe various kinds of serving, but only five times to refer to that special servant selected by the congregation to serve as a deacon.
It’s true we are all supposed to be servants. That’s part of the second greatest command - to love God / love others. We are to be like Jesus! Matthew 20:28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Deacon is a special designation, however, of a certain kind of man who has a certain job. Not every servant is a deacon, but every deacon is to be a servant. Deacons are generally servants who have a special assignment.
2. DEACONS ASSIST THE ELDERS
Paul established elders in all the churches. This was necessary. Elders are Shepherds, Pastors to help the flock who needs guidance. The flock needs to be guarded against wolves. The flock needs to be sought after if they wander away. The flock needs encouragement and spiritual direction.
Elders are to be sources of wisdom, overseers, who help the church maintain unity, strength, faithfulness.
Elders are to be teachers, able to confront false teaching and also able to share the gospel with the lost. Thus they are to be in the Word and learning all they can about the Scriptures.
Elders should be so involved in the lives of people that they have no time to tend to the kinds of things that deacons do.
Elders in the Bible are always male, and always serve in plurality. This prevents the mistake of having one person with the greatest influence in the church. This allows for accountability among the elder group - shepherds need shepherding too.
Elders are to be examples in every area of life, and particularly in their family life. Elders wives are often a part of the work of the elder’s shepherding ministry and should be. An elder’s spouse is a major support but also a source of accountability and strength. Tremendous damage can be done to the Body of Christ if elders are abusive, unfaithful, or detached in the home relationships.
Being an elder entails a tremendous responsibility. Those who serve well are worthy of honor and respect. But elders cannot serve alone, they must have help.
Acts 6:1-7 is likely the first appointment of deacons in the NT Church. Some widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. The Apostles could have stopped their ministry in the Word and prayer to take care of this.
Acts 6:2 NLT So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program."
But instead they asked the church to select seven men from among them. Not just any men, but men who were known to be full of the Spirit and full of Wisdom.
Acts 6:3-4 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
The church chose godly men and the Apostles laid hands on them and prayed for them.
They were appointed and the church continued to grow.