adult helping senior in hospitalJesus, speaking to His disciples about true greatness said, “…but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,” (Matthew 20:26b).

This statement is a direct rejection of the world’s definition of greatness! Jesus desires His followers to be servants above all. Does servanthood describe you and your mindset? What if I were to tell you that there is a specific ministry in the church directly fulfilling Matthew 20:26b. The ministry that I am referring to is the ministry/office of the Deacon.

The office of the Deacon in the New Testament is a vital and rewarding office according to the Holy Scriptures. When the office is properly understood and fulfilled, there is a much-added benefit to the body of Christ. In many modern contexts, the deacon’s role and responsibility have either been diminished or over-extended. Some churches relegate their deacons to church janitorial work whereas other churches ask deacons to become the church’s main decision-makers. This article is meant to examine what the scriptures say about the office and function of the New Testament Deacon so that all who faithfully fulfill this wonderful office will experience the joys and rewards of their service.

 The Beginning of Deacon Ministry

As the first-century church in Jerusalem continued to grow spiritually and numerically different needs began to arise. Specifically, in the area of caring for the needy within the church body. The scriptures say, “Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.” (Acts 6:1) What would the apostles do? Up to this point, they had been able to manage the collection and the distribution of church funds and food (Acts 4:32-35). Now, while the Apostles found great joy in caring for those in need, they also knew that any more attention given on their part would keep them from their primary focus of the word and prayer.

So the Apostles took action:

… the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. (Acts 6:2-4)

And thus the Deacon Ministry began. Alexander Strauch writes,

“By solving the problem this way, the apostles formed a new body of church officials. The two major categories of officials in the church at Jerusalem were the apostles and the Seven. The apostles were to devote themselves to prayer and to the proclamation of the Word. Hence, their work was primarily a verbal ministry. The newly appointed officials were to give themselves to the ministry of deeds—to provide loving service to needy brothers and sisters in Christ.” [1]

The Seven men selected were the men who were responsible for meeting the pressing needs of the saints so that the Elders could remain focused on their main responsibility, which was the word of God and Prayer.

The Qualifications of Deacon Ministry

The New Testament is clear, specifically, in 1 Timothy 3:8-13. Those who are selected and approved for deacon ministry are to be men who are biblically qualified. The nature of their ministry requires it. Just as the elder’s in the church, the deacon is in a position of trust. The Deacon shares many of the same qualifications with the elder. A noted difference is the deacon is not required to be a man gifted in the teaching of God’s word. Below is a sampling of their necessary qualifications:

  1. Dignified (v. 8): The term dignified alludes to something that is honorable or respectable. The Deacon is to be a man who is seen as worthy of respect because of his conduct.
  1. Not double-tongued (v. 8): The term double-tongued means to be insincere, two-faced, speaking with a forked-tongue. The Deacon is to be a man who says what he means and means what he says. Their yes is there yes, and their “no” is their no.
  1. Not addicted to much wine (v. 8): The Deacon is to be a man who is not addicted to wine or any other strong drink.
  1. Not greedy for dishonest gain (v. 8): The Deacon is to be a man who is not a lover of money. This is important, especially since deacons often handle financial matters for the church.
  1. Holds to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience (v. 9): The Deacon is to be a man whose life is lived not only with knowledge of God’s word but also based on God’s word. He understands that you cannot separate life and doctrine. His behavior is consistent with his beliefs.
  1. Blameless (v. 10): The term blameless means irreproachable or free from accusation in overall character. The Deacon is to be a man who post-examination proves themselves free from the accusations possibly presented against his character.
  1. Godly wife (v. 11): The Deacon’s wife like her husband is to “be dignified, not a slanderer, sober-minded and faithful in all things.”
  1. Husband of one wife (v. 12): The Deacon is to be a man who is faithful to his wife. He must be a “one-woman man.” That is, there must be no other woman in his life to whom he relates in an intimate way either emotionally or physically.
  1. Manage children and household well (v. 12): The deacon is to be a man who spiritually leads his household.

The Outworking of Deacon Ministry

The context of every local church will be different so we can safely say that the deacon’s ministry will look slightly different from church to church. Each local church should have the freedom to define the tasks and responsibilities of the deacons, as long as in accordance with Acts 6, deacons enable the elders to accomplish their God-given calling, of devotion to the Scriptures and prayer.

This means the deacon will be a man under the leadership and oversight of the elders who works ardently to support the mission and vision of the church. The deacon’s responsibilities could range from organizing a meal train for a church widow all the way to leading an area of ministry on Sunday mornings, as long as he does so in a way that is cohesive to the vision of the leading elders.

The Privilege of Deacon Ministry

Dr. John MacArthur discussing the deacon office/ministry writes, “In a special sense, the deacon’s task sums up the essence of spiritual greatness. Our Lord said, ‘Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slaves; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.’ ” (Matthew 20:26-28) [2]

The office/ministry of the deacon uniquely positions a man to exemplify his Savior in humility and sacrificial service. And when a deacon is faithful by serving Christ and His church well. 1 Timothy 3:13 tells us that there are great rewards given… Could Christ be calling you to deacon ministry? If so, you will be blessed!


[1] Alexander Strauch, Minister of Mercy: The New Testament Deacon (Colorado Springs, CO: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1992), 30

[2] John Macarthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2008), 240

 

Posted by Albert Kilgore

Albert is the Assoc. Pastor of Children and Student Ministry at Mission Bible Church in Orange County and is completing a Master of Divinity degree. Albert is married to wife, Ali, and has two children.

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