In answering the question “What is a deacon?”, part of me wants to say “That mean old man that moderates business meetings, take up the offering on occasion, and causes chaos whenever there is progress.” In defense of many godly ones, this is not always the case. The biggest problem is that many churches have never been biblically educated about what a deacon is. Let’s see what the Bible says NOT some man made constitution and bylaws.
The foundational principle of understand what a deacon is requires that we know the meaning of the Greek word diakonos which means “servant”. So when or why did servants become a board? In cases that the deacons tell the pastor what to do, pitch baby fits over foolishness, and fail to face conflict biblically, the deacons have a misunderstanding of the biblical role of the pastor as overseer, undershepherd, and spiritual leader. Most just view that pastor as “the preacher”. That only touches a portion of the pastor’s ministry. When a deacon or church member views himself as a superior to the pastor, it can be a recipe for disaster. When we understand that we are co-laborers, perspective becomes aligned with God.
Now to the part that references qualifications. Acts 6 has been referred to as the first selection of deacons to assist the apostles in order that the apostles dedicate themselves to “prayer and ministry of the word”. Notice what the Scripture says:
“But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. 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. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.” (Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7 NLT)
Note that the early deacons were not bossing around preachers but were assisting the pastor with ministry.
First Timothy 3:8-13 goes into more detail about the deacons and wives: “In the same way, deacons must be well respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers or dishonest with money. They must be committed to the mystery of the faith now revealed and must live with a clear conscience. Before they are appointed as deacons, let them be closely examined. If they pass the test, then let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.”
The standards are high. But carefully examine that these are things that God really wants from all of us. Many in the church think that pastors and church leaders must do this, this, and this while they can live like hell. NO!!!! EVERY BELIEVER IS CALLED TO LIVE A LIFE OF HOLINESS.
If you are a deacon and do not biblically understand your role, please start serving instead of enjoying a power trip. If you are serving well, please make sure that you are a blessing to your pastor, staff, and congregation. When conflict arises, handle it biblically. That does not mean that you call a special meeting about it. Biblical conflict management requires that you address the individual first. The greatest thing you can do to a gossip is take him or her the person he or she is bashing. Either the individual will shut up or turn it into an episode of Jerry Springer. If he or she does the latter, it’s time for some Matthew 18 church discipline.