XPastor tries to help churches by providing some of the essentials for running a church—items like job descriptions, employment applications, review forms and policies. Below is the Deacon Handbook of Washington Heights Baptist Church of Ogden, Utah.

Introduction

This handbook is written to help the deacon to better understand his role and to help him to serve faithfully and effectively. It is written to acquaint the deacon to the Biblical references related to the office of deacon and the particulars of the deacon ministry of Washington Heights Baptist Church.

At Washington Heights Baptist Church, men are elected by the congregation to hold the honorable position of deacon. Men that are elected to the position of deacon must live a life which has exhibited the characteristics of faithfulness and loyalty to both the Lord and His church.

There are three passages in the New Testament that are commonly cited concerning the office of deacon: Acts 6:1-7, Phil. 1:1, and 1 Tim. 3:8-12. The word for deacon in the New Testament originally described a servant who “stirred up dust while waiting on tables.” A deacon’s major attention must be given to serving God under the leadership of the Senior Pastor and the Executive Pastor in the practical ministry of the church.

The general concept of deacon as a servant of the church is well established in both the Bible and church history. The deacon is intended to serve as a model to the local church through the character of his life as well as through his involvement in ministry. The role of deacon is not intended to be sought after for personal honor, but rather it is to be viewed as a call to a greater commitment of service. The desire and willingness to live the life of a servant is a critical qualification for deacon selection.

Paul wrote that the reward for faithfulness in the office of deacon is that they “obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 3:13). The selfless deacon may also feel close kinship with his Master, who walked the earth as “One who serves” (Luke 22:27). According to Jesus, the true heroes in the kingdom of God are those who assume the role of diakonos—a servant.

Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:26-28)

Role of the Deacon Defined

The word deacon is defined by Wikipedia as:

The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diakonos, which is often translated servant or more specifically waiter. Some believe that the office of deacon originated in the selection of the seven men (among them Stephen) to assist with pastoral and administrative needs of the early church (Acts 6). Deaconesses are mentioned by Pliny the Younger in a letter dated c. 112. The exact relationship between deacons and deaconesses is ecclesiologically unclear; in some traditions, a deaconess is simply a female deacon; in others, deaconesses constitute a separate order.

The role of deacon in the New Testament is indeed somewhat ambiguous. As it has been stated previously, the word literally means servant, but the word can also be translated as minister and there is no further elaboration of the office given. The role of deacon in the Christian church is generally associated with service of some kind, but the type of service rendered by the deacons varies among theological and denominational traditions. Some may argue that the deacons administrated the physical needs of the church because of the example of the seven men selected in Acts 6. While the word deacon is used in verse 1 (ministry or distribution), and the verb form is used in verse 2 (to serve), the noun form is also used in verse 4 to refer to the apostles proclamation (ministry of the Word). Therefore, there is reason to believe that the ministry of the deacon is limited to administration.

Deacons are usually thought of as under-shepherds who were responsible for shepherding a smaller group of people within the local church, while the elders were responsible for the overall leadership of the church. Deacons are to be under the authority of the elders, which is evident from the fact that they are always mentioned after the elders, and also because the requirements for deacon are slightly less strict than for elders.

In the early years of the church, a difference of opinion arose about the role of deacons. Some church officials argued that no spiritual function had been assigned to deacons. But others insisted that deacons were a vital part of a church’s ministry, with official duties to perform. Through the centuries, deacons generally have served as assistants to the clergy in the service of the sanctuary.

In the modern church, deacons exist as a distinct lower order of the clergy in the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, and other liturgical churches. In other denominations, including Baptist, Presbyterian, and Congregational, deacons are ordained laymen who carry out a variety of practical and spiritual ministries that assist the pastor. Deacons are often given administrative and financial duties, such as reviewing budgets and recommending new church programs and personnel.

It should also be noted that the position of deacon, which is described in Acts 6, is an elected position. This means that although the deacon should certainly feel led to serve in that position, the initiation of the commitment rests in the hands of the congregation of the church. Therefore, the position of deacon is not a position to which one appoints oneself.

Deacons in Scripture

The office of the deacon is introduced in the New Testament in Acts 6. Although the seven men appointed in Acts 6 were not actually called “deacons,” most students of the Bible generally agree that the “seven” were the prototype of today’s deacons. In the early days of the church, the tremendous growth through the ministry of the apostles was accompanied by many demands of service, which the apostles could not adequately provide. Specifically mentioned were the increasing complaints by the Grecian Jews against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Thus, the appointment of these dedicated individuals provided support and service for the ministry of the gospel by meeting practical needs within the church body.

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ This pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the Word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7)

The work of Stephen and Phillip strongly suggests that gifted deacons became a permanent part of the church’s outreach to the world very early in its history. The thrilling activities of these servants of the church sound much like the work of a traveling evangelist, missionary, or lay preacher. Stephen is described as a man “full of faith and power” who “did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). So convincing were his words and miracles that “they were not able to resist the wisdom and Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6:10). While some responded in faith, Stephen’s zeal for Christ stirred up powerful enemies (Acts 6:11-13). Undaunted by false witnesses, Stephen glorified the Lord even as he was put to death for his convictions (Acts 7:59- 60). Phillip was also an evangelist who “preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:9-13). After preaching to eager crowds in Samaria, Phillip witnessed to a solitary Ethiopian in the desert and baptized him (Acts 8:26-38).

It is important to note that, in the first introduction, emphasis is placed upon the character of the men chosen to serve as deacons. Seven men were chosen who were “known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Among those chosen was Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit”. No matter what the ministry to be performed was to involve, in this case the waiting of tables and service to the widows, the life and character of the man chosen to perform it was the determining factor.

In addition to the passages in Acts 6, which refer to the role of the deacon, there are two other passages that make reference to deacons: Phil. 1:1 and 1 Tim. 3:8-12. The primary focus of these passages is the order and structure in the church. The appointment of a deacon can best be understood in relation to the role of co-worker and fellow servant in the Gospel.

Paul and Timothy, servant of Christ Jesus, to all the saints with the overseers and deacons … (Phil. 1:1)

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. (1 Tim. 3:8-12)

In summary, there are several aspects of the position of deacon, which are referenced in the New Testament, that need to be understood. First, the deacon is selected to serve by his fellow members of the church and church leaders. Next, he should be recognized to be faithful. Finally, the deacon is to be seen as an extension of the pastoral ministry. The deacon has the responsibility of making the truth of God’s Word come alive within the church.

Selection to the position of deacon at Washington Heights Baptist Church is based on the above standards. These standards are essential to the services that the deacon is expected to perform. In our life and indeed, in our Christian walk, what we do is normally a reflection of who we are; each deacon is expected to nurture his own personal life and relationships so that he is able to fulfill the responsibilities of ministry that have been outlined by God in the New Testament. A deacon must demonstrate a heart for God through scriptural attributes and demonstrated spiritual maturity and service as described above.

Qualifications of a Deacon

Spiritual Qualifications

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ This pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the Word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7)

  • Full of the Holy Spirit—The word “full” means “covered in every part, thoroughly permeated with, complete, lacking nothing” concerning God’s Holy Spirit. Deacons are to be completely dedicated to the presence and guidance of God’s Spirit in their personal life and in their daily work.
  • Full of wisdom—The word “wisdom” means the deacon, because of a relationship to God’s Spirit, knows how to both choose and act wisely in all matters. Common sense is certainly a part of the meaning.
  • Full of faith—This is not specifically stated as a requirement, but is inferred from the selection of Stephen. It means the deacon should be clear in his understanding of his own faith, and he should be strong first in its proclamation, and then, if need be, strong in its defense as he carries out his responsibilities.

Moral Qualifications

Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. (1 Tim. 3:8-12)

  • Worthy of respect—The deacon is to be a person whose moral and spiritual character evokes esteem from others; a person that is considered honorable or noble. He should be a person that has a respectful reputation, especially in spiritual matters.
  • Sincere—The deacon is to be truthful and trustworthy. He should not say one thing to one person and something different to another. A deacon’s word must be honest; not a person that takes part in gossip, tale bearing, idle talking, or slander and does not use manipulative, insincere, or deceitful speech. He is not a liar.
  • Not indulging in much wine—For the deacon, there is to be no abuse or dependence on any drug—may include the regular use of alcohol even though not getting drunk, if inappropriate dependence is demonstrated. There should be a demonstrated freedom not to drink. Paul is prohibiting the abuse of wine or any other substance that could damage a deacon’s testimony and make ineffective his Christian witness.
  • Not pursuing dishonest gain—Not willing to manipulate or resort to illegitimate means for personal gain, either for money or for recognition, especially in the area of ministry. The person demonstrates a proper values system, including a willingness to give up money making opportunities for the sake of the gospel. The deacon is not to be controlled by a greedy obsession to obtain all the material possessions he can.
  • Must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience—The words “keep hold” speaks of knowing the Word of God and “clear conscience” speaks of doing the Word of God. This simply means that a deacon’s life must be consistent with Christian doctrine. The deacon should believe in sound doctrine, and should hold firm to his convictions. His spiritual integrity is beyond reproach.
  • Must first be tested—The deacon must demonstrate his spiritual qualifications before being elected to serve in the position of deacon. His daily attitude, speech, and conduct should be observed for an appropriate period by the elders of the church. The deacon should have a proven ability to do the work of shepherding and service effectively and without any grounds of accusation.
  • The husband of one wife—Literally, a “one-woman man,” this means specifically that there is at most only one wife in the deacon’s life. It means in principle that the deacon has his sexuality resolved and under control. This should not be interpreted to mean that a man must be married in order to serve as a deacon or that a man that has been divorced is ineligible to serve as a deacon.
  • Manages his children and household well—The primary application is to married men meaning that their family life is good. The deacon should act as a responsible Christian father, husband, and household manager providing for his family financially, emotionally, and spiritually in an active, ever-present role through example and service. One key measurement when evaluating a man’s household management is the behavior of his wife and children. Because the home is often referred as a microcosm of the church, it is imperative a deacon is able to care for his family before he can care for the church of God. In the case of the unmarried, it means that they have close relationships and that those relationships are generally healthy and stable. A pattern of broken relationships suggests an inability to get along with others (especially his family and friends) and should disqualify him to serve as a deacon.

Qualifications for the Wife of the Deacon

In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (1 Tim. 3:11)

It has been suggested that the wives of church leaders are a big factor in their husband’s success. The deacon’s wife must meet special requirements as well, because she will often need to support her husband in his many delicate duties. Any reproach on the part of the wife reflects on the work of her husband. The qualifications for the deacon’s wife are given in 1 Tim. 3:11.

  • Worthy of respect—This refers in the same manner as the qualification of the deacon. The wife of the deacon should be truthful and trustworthy. She also should be a person that has a respectful reputation, especially in spiritual matters.
  • Not a malicious talker—Similar to the deacon, the wife should be forthright in her speech; not participating in gossip or slander. She should not use manipulative, insincere, or deceitful speech. He is not a liar. The wife of a deacon should not be one who is loose with the tongue.
  • Temperate—This usually refers to someone who is sober-minded and calm. A temperate person is one who is collected, well composed, and not easily excited. The temperate person is possessed with balanced judgment.
  • Trustworthy in everything—The wife of the deacon must be faithful and reliable in all things. She needs to be a person that can be depended upon. She must be faithful to her husband, to her family, to the church, and above all, to Jesus Christ.

To summarize, then, the qualifications of the deacon’s wife include holding a serious view of life, avoiding the spreading of gossip, striving to maintain a balanced sense of judgment, and dependability in every area of life. A wife such as the one described can be a real asset to any man, especially to the deacon who has official responsibilities in the church of God.

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