The Ministry of the Deacons
The New Testament knows of only two church offices; namely, elder (also given the titles pastor and bishop) and deacon. In his first letter to Timothy the apostle Paul gave instruction concerning the appointment of elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3). When he wrote to the church at Philippi he sent special greetings to the bishops and deacons (Phil. 1:1). These are the two offices ordered for the New Testament church, and it is our purpose here to introduce you to the ministry of deacons at Reformed Baptist Church.
It is generally agreed that the origin of the office of deacon is found in the sixth chapter of Acts, where we read of a squabble arising in the first-century Jerusalem church. It was a Jewish assembly, of course, but the Grecian Jews were complaining that their widows were being ignored by the Palestinian Jews in their daily provision for the needy. The apostles evidently agreed that the work needed more attention, but they were unable themselves to see to it because of the demand of higher responsibilities. As important as this need was, they said, “it would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to serve tables” (Acts 6:3). And so they directed the church to select seven men whom they would appoint to this responsibility. Interestingly, it was seven Grecian men who were selected, they were appointed to the task, the problem was solved, the needs were met, and it all served to facilitate the advance of the gospel and the growth of the church in Jerusalem.
Although these seven men are not called “deacons” in this passage, it is generally agreed that they were, in fact, the first deacons, or at least the “office” that soon became that of deacon. We think this, in part, because of what we see in the later development of the New Testament church. The apostles find their later counterpart in the office of elder (1 Pet. 5:1). And if these seven men do not find their later counterpart in the office of deacon, then they find it nowhere. Furthermore, the word “deacon” (diakonos) simply means “servant.” And while the noun “deacon/servant” does not appear in this passage, the verb form of the word does appear in Acts 6:2, where the apostles refer to these as men appointed to “serve” (diakoneo) tables. So it seems we are on fairly good ground in seeing in Acts 6 the origin of the office of deacon.
The Nature of their Work
Establishing the origin of the office deacon in Acts 6 is important, for here we can observe the purpose of their office and the nature of their work. In brief, we see that the deacons’ work is practical in nature. Their very title (“servant”) as well as their original job description point to the “action” nature of their work. Moreover, their office was instituted for the purpose of relieving the apostles to spend their time and energies in the ministry of the Word of God and prayer (Acts 6:2, 4). That is, the deacons were appointed to service matters so that the elders could give themselves to the even greater concerns of spiritual oversight. Of course this is not to say that the deacons’ work is unimportant or unspiritual. Service to God is always, by the very nature of it, “spiritual” in nature (Rom. 12:2). And in fact there are qualifications for this office, an emphatic requirement that they be men “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). More important than social standing or professional abilities, they must be men of obvious Christian character (1 Tim. 3:8-12). Even so, the work of deacons is service and action oriented.
Further, according to Acts 6, the deacons are chosen by the church and then ordained by the elders and are therefore responsible to them. The elders assign their work. Deacons are not limited to such action-service tasks, of course. In fact, some may be as Philip and Stephen, who were strikingly gifted in evangelistic ministry. Still, as deacons their duties in the church were action and service oriented.
The Number of Deacons
The New Testament nowhere specifies a number of deacons necessary for a local church. Rather, the lesson from Acts 6 in this regard seems to be that deacons are appointed according to need and according to God’s sovereign provision of qualified men. At Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia God has blessed us with eleven men who serve in this elected office.
The Deacon Ministry at Reformed Baptist Church
In order to free the elders to the work of spiritual oversight, the deacons at Reformed Baptist Church perform a variety of very important services. Here is a brief overview of some of the work they do.
Special Needs Ministries
- Meals on wheels (delivered, for example, to those of our congregation who are ill or recently hospitalized)
- Visiting shut-ins and the seriously ill
- Service projects for the elderly and disabled of the church
- Distribution of benevolence funds as needed
- Prayer chain ministry
- Coordinate needed transportation to church events for shut-ins.
Church Service Ministry
- Oversight of the greeters ministry
- Oversight of the usher ministry
- Preparation for the ordinances
- Oversight of auditorium sound / recording team
- Oversight of church budget
- Coordinate church-wide meals, activities, and fellowships
Property and Maintenance
- Oversight of church grounds and facilities
- Oversight of janitorial services
- Coordinating church work days
It was in our Lord’s wisdom and kindness that he provided this office of deacon for his church. The deacons at RBC perform an invaluable service for us, and we are thankful to God for them all. If there is some way we can serve you better, please do not hesitate to speak with one of our deacons. We will be more than happy to help you anytime and in any way we can, to the glory of our wonderful God.