I read an article that described both good news and bad news for a pastor in a local church. It went something like this.
Good news: You baptized seven people today in the river. Bad news: You lost two of them in the swift current.
Good news: The women’s group voted to send you a get-well card. Bad news: The vote passed by 31-30.
Good news: The elder body accepted your job description the way you wrote it. Bad news: They were so inspired by it, they also formed a search committee to find somebody capable of filling the position.
Good news: Mrs. Jones is wild about your sermons. Bad news: Mrs. Jones is also wild about the “Gong Show” and “Beavis and Butthead.”
Good news: Your women’s softball team finally won a game. Bad news: They beat your men’s softball team.
Not good news for any pastor. Pastors are the leaders of their churches but they can’t do it all by themselves. God, in His wisdom, established early on a leadership structure for the church so that its mission could be carried out. There are two separate leadership offices mentioned in the New Testament, elder and deacon.
The deacons were first recruited in Acts 6.
The early church had a problem, Jewish widows and Greek speaking widows weren’t receiving equal care. This was a problem for the apostles who wanted everyone to be taken care of but who had other duties to perform. They recruited seven men to be “deacons” in charge of making sure all the widows were cared for properly. The word deacon literally means servant. Their duty was to carry out the physical work of the church, in this case making sure the widow’s needs were met.
The office evolved over the years, but the title and the function remained the same. These individuals were charged with making sure the everyday needs of the church were met. Today, the deacons serve the same function. They are recruited as workers in charge of the various ministries of the Church.
Romans 16:1 even mentions a woman who served in the role of deacon, her name was Pheobe. Paul, the writer of Romans, refers to Pheobe using the same term as the original seven deacons in Acts 6. She was a Deaconess in the Church of Cenchrea. Many theologians think she was actually the individual who delivered the book of Romans to the Church in Rome. Many churches limit the office of deacon to men only but this was not the case in the early church.
The qualifications for men or women serving in the office of deacon are strict, according to I Timothy. Deacons are to be men and women of character who are exceptional examples of what Christians are to be. They must follow the example of Jesus.
Deacons are essential for the success of the church. The body of Christ needs men and women whose loves are devoted to carrying out its mission. Without devoted servants, the church languishes and cannot accomplish the will of God.
Rob Morton is minister of First Christian Church Middlesboro. Contact him at email@example.com.