Biblical Background for the Office of Deacon
The word for deacon in the New Testament, diakonos, defines someone who “waits on tables”. It also defines someone who “serves a king” or “executes the commands of another”. The origin of the word is derived from the verb diako, which means “to run errands.” It is clear that we are called to be servants as our Lord taught “The greatest among you shall be your servant.”. [Matt 23:11]. The last word in this teaching, servant is transliterated from the word diakonov. Deacons embody the practice of serving others, and serving the Lord, in a practical manner. A deacon’s focus is to serve God under the leadership of the pastor in a practical ministry to the church.
Acts 6:1-7 is the original passage that cites the creation of the office of Deacon. In this passage, several reasons are given for the selection of seven men. While these men are not specifically called out as deacons, their ministry, their ordination through laying on of hands and the fruit of their labor laid the groundwork for the creation of the office of Deacon in the early church.
One of the reasons these men were chosen was to solve a problem within the early church, and thus to spread peace among its members, the other reason was to allow the ministers, as represented by the apostles, to give full attention to prayer and ministry of the Word.
Several passages of scripture govern the office of Deacon. These passages of scripture, mainly Acts 6, and 1 Timothy 3 are outlined in detail in the subsequent pages of this handbook. They govern the qualifications for a deacon, the duties they perform, the fruits of their labor, and the need for their ordination. As a whole, they describe a deacon as an individual who is set apart from others in the church with a mandate to serve the Pastoral Staff in a practical ministry.
The elders are called to "superintend or preside over the affairs of the church" (1 Timothy 5:17). and deacons are called to support that direction. In our churches, then, elders should make spiritual, directional decisions while deacons are servants who facilitate congregational involvement to make that vision a reality.
- SERVICE-Assist in meeting the needs of widows and widowers. Hospital visitation. Visitor outreach.
- LEADERSHIP- Help connect ministries to those in need. Help ministries achieve the mission Jesus has given the church.
- SPECIAL DUTIES- Invitation prayer partner. Administer Lord's Supper.
God has always intended to display his glory to the nations, in part, through the unity of Jews and Gentiles within the church (Ephesians 3:10), and yet it was exactly at this juncture that disunity was erupting in the early Jerusalem church. The Greek-speaking Jews began to complain "against" the Hebrew-speaking Jews concerning the distribution of food. The church, therefore, chose seven men to distribute food equitably, but more than that, to restore unity where there was division. Unity-building was their primary goal; good administration was the means. Deacons should be:
- PROTECTORS OF UNITY IN THE CHURCH - Promote unity. Prevent gossip, misinformation and help encourage biblical, Christ-exalting communication.
* (Jamie Dunlop, Benjamin Merkle)