The Work of Deacons
"To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons" -- Philippians 1:1
In appointing deacons, it's not about just looking for men who make good decisions. It's not a talent competition. It's not about who's the most popular. It is: "Has this man exemplified service, and done so with love?" Jesus said in Matt. 20:28: "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Biblical leadership is about serving.
We oftentimes point to Acts 6:1-7 as the passage that provides us an example to appoint deacons. The church was growing quickly; thus, needs arose that the apostles could not address (Acts 6:2). So there were men “appointed” to perform a necessary task of service (Acts 6:3). The apostles described the work of these men as “serving” (Acts 6:2). Although the men who were chosen to serve were not called “deacons,” this passage sheds more light on the work of deacons than any other passage.
What deacons are not: They are not rulers. The oversight of a congregation belongs only to the elders. But it’s good for deacons to meet with the elders in planning the work of the church. Deacons’ input and feedback on spiritual matters can be valuable. Also, the term deacon is not an honorary title. It is a work; a serving position. It should never be viewed as a prerequisite to be an elder. The deaconship, in its own right, is an important work (I Tim. 3:13).
Elders oversee a congregation and certainly cannot do everything needed to accomplish the work. That is where deacons come in. The work that deacons do is often behind the scenes and not very prestigious. Yet, their role is highly important for a well-functioning church.
The work of deacons is primarily physical in nature, allowing elders to handle work more of a spiritual nature. However, we would never want to limit a deacon spiritually. There are spiritual things deacons also can be involved in, like preaching and teaching.
God’s wisdom is seen in allowing each local eldership to assess the needs of the congregation and assign the work that needs to be done to the deacons. The common needs of most congregations are:
*Benevolence: Take care of needy saints
*Bookwork: Treasury, attendance records
*Building maintenance and repair: Order cleaning supplies, furnace and A/C serviced, repairs
*Physical needs of members: Give rides to services, assist in baptisms
*Prepare for worship: Greet, prepare assignment list, hand out visitors cards
*Prepare the building for services: Lock/unlock doors, turn on/off lights, make sure furnace or A/C is on
Bottom line: Deacons are important and they must be supported by the congregation. These men must be positive, optimistic and encouraging. They encourage the elders, preacher and members. They are shining lights and great examples of service.