Biblical Guidelines for the Deacon Ministry at Kitwe Church
I Timothy 3:8-13
The church is a living organism. The church is the body of Christ in whom the Spirit of the living God dwells! In the life of every organism there are growing pains, we welcome them because the goal of every living organism is growth.
The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership. People do not usually rise above their leaders! It has been said that ‘everything rises and falls on leadership.’ Failure to adhere to biblical standards for appointing those to serve the church has caused many of the problems in the church today.
In 1 Timothy Paul is writing to Timothy the young pastor at the church of Ephesus. Problems had arisen in this church because men who were unqualified had found their way into church leadership (1:3, 4:1-3). Some were women (2:12) others were guilty of sin and needed public rebuke (5:20). (Acts 20:29-30).
Paul is giving instructions for the local Church at Ephesus, instructions that apply to our church, Kitwe Church.
In the New Testament there are only two offices in the Church the office of Elder (v.1-7); and the office of Deacon (v.8-13)
The Office of Elder there are three terms used interchangeably for the same office:
- Bishop – gr. Episkopos = Overseer, responsible for the spiritual well-being of the church (Phil 1:1, Titus 1:7)
- Elder – gr. Presbuteros = Authority, to teach and rule (I Tim 5:17, Titus 1:5,7)
- Pastor – gr. Poimen = Shepherd, to lead, guide, provide (I Pt 5:2, Acts 20:28)
The Office of Deacon – Deacon (gr. Diakonos) means minister, emphasizes the attitude of a servant. (12) A deacon is a servant – He is not in a position of authority, decision maker, preacher or teacher.
The Biblical qualification for deacons is found following that of the pastor. This shows the organizational structure of the New Testament church to be pastoral leadership through the support of faithful deacons.
For this reason deacons, as well as pastors, must meet certain qualifications before they can be allowed to serve in a position. In Acts 6 the qualifications were given in general to be “of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” In I Timothy 3 the qualifications are given in a specific way: “Deacons likewise must be:”
THE NEED FOR DEACONS
Our church is growing and there are genuine needs in the congregation that need to be met. The elders need help so that they can fulfill their primary role to lead in the spiritual life of the Church and to teach the Word of God. To carry out this the pastors need time to prepare, time to meet with people to share the gospel, disciple, counsel, preach and teach. (Acts 6:1,4)
QUALIFICATIONS OF DEACONS
- He is dignified (8): – The term means: “serious, devout, honorable, and dignified; one who acts in a mature and tactful fashion.” This term normally refers to something that is honorable, respectable, esteemed, or worthy, and is closely related to “respectable,” which is given as a qualification for elders (1 Tim. 3:2).
- He is not Double Tongued (8): Those who are double-tongued say one thing to certain people but then say something else to others, or say one thing but mean another. They are two-faced and insincere. Their words cannot be trusted, so they lack credibility. (Prov. 8:7,12:22; Jas.5:12)
- He is not addicted to much wine (8): – This means that he is not to come under the influence. A man is disqualified for the office of deacon if he is addicted to wine or other strong drink. Such a person lacks the self-control and discipline to serve a deacon. Not given to excesses, a state of mind which is free from the excessive indulgence of passion, lust, or emotion. He is able to keep his head in all situations. Doesn’t loose his temper, and control of his tongue. William Hendriksen comments, “Such a person lives deeply. His pleasures are not primarily those of the senses, like the pleasures of a drunkard for instance, but those of the soul. He is filled with spiritual and moral earnestness. He is not given to excess, but is moderate, well-balanced, calm, careful, steady, and sane. This pertains to his physical, moral, and mental tastes and habits.” At Kitwe Church we ask those serving as deacons to voluntarily abstain from beverage alcohol.
- He is not Greedy For Money (8): – There is to be no dishonesty in the getting of gain. This applies to unethical business practices, tax evasion, gambling, bribes, extortion, and covetousness. The servant’s attitude is to be “How can I meet the needs of others?” rather than “How can I get others to meet mine?” If a person is a lover of money, he is not qualified to be a deacon, especially since deacons often handle financial matters for the church. (1 Ti. 6:10; Ro.13:9)
- He is a man sound in faith and life (9): Paul also indicates that a deacon must “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” The phrase “the mystery of the faith” is simply one way Paul speaks of the gospel (cf. 1 Tim. 3:16). Consequently, this statement refers to the need for deacons to hold firm to the true gospel without wavering.
Yet this qualification does not merely involve one’s beliefs, for he must also hold these beliefs “with a clear conscience.” That is, the behavior of a deacon must be consistent with his beliefs. This would imply that he has first the absolute assurance of his own salvation, and that he is not ashamed to let others know that he is a Christian and seeks to win others to Christ.
- He must be blameless (v. 10): “Blameless” is a general term referring to a person’s overall character. There is nothing to accuse him of. If a malicious charge were to be made, to know his character would make the charge absolutely unbelievable. He is an example for the congregation to follow. (Phil. 3:17)
Although Paul does not specify what type of testing is to take place, at a minimum, the candidate’s personal background, reputation, and theological positions should be examined. Moreover, the congregation should not only examine a potential deacon’s moral, spiritual, and doctrinal maturity, but should also consider the person’s track record of service in the church.
- He is the husband of one wife (v. 12): The literal meaning here is “a one-woman man.” There must be no other woman in his life to whom he relates in an intimate way either emotionally or physically. This would prohibit someone from serving as a deacon who was a polygamist or divorced. It is also clear that the office of Deacon is reserved for men.
- He manages children and household well (12): A deacon must be the spiritual leader of his wife and children. Children are not perfect, but they are disciplined and respectful, according to the admonition of Ephesians 6:1,2; and his wife is submissive according to Ephesians 5:22-24.
- His wife is a godly woman (11) She must be “faithful in all things” (cf. 1 Tim. 5:10).
- Reverent – dignified or respectable.
Not Slanderers – If you care for others you control the tongue, this means the deacon’s wife does not engage in destructive criticism of others or go around spreading gossip. Such action is so contrary to the ministry of caring for others that a man is disqualified from being a deacon if his wife has this attitude.
Temperate – The term temperate means “not intoxicated, circumspect, and discreet.” She must be able to make good judgments and must not be involved in things that might hinder such judgment.
Faithful – This is a general requirement which functions similarly to the requirement for elders to be “above reproach” (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6) and for deacons to be “blameless” (1 Tim. 3:10). The wife of a deacon has a very important ministry. She must be loyal and dependable.
THE DUTIES OF DEACONS
Let’s be very clear, the biblical role of Deacon is not the role of spiritual teacher in the church. There is no qualification listed that requires a deacon to be gifted in teaching the Word of God.
The office of Deacon is that of a servant. The tasks of the deacons is anything NOT related to the teaching and shepherding of the church. Deacons are charged with the physical & temporal concerns of the church, and the duties will vary from one congregation to another depending upon the needs. Some possible examples of duties that may be attended to by a Deacon:
- Benevolence – visit the sick, dispense aid
- Any other task that serves the church and frees the hands of the elders to focus on preaching, teaching, preparing, and praying.
The Scriptural qualifications in this text conclude with a promised benefit:
“They that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
The meaning of good degree is “a stair or step up.” Most people would consider the position of servant to be a step down, but the priorities of God’s kingdom is different! Jesus taught His disciples that those who are great in God’s estimation are those who serve. He taught them that the way up is to go down, and that the last shall be first. The office of deacon demonstrates the priorities of God’s kingdom!
A man will increase in faith by having served as a deacon. As God performs His work through the deacon, his confidence will increase in God’s ability to work through him.
Lest we think that God only requires these character qualities of Deacons, remember, God does not have a double standard he requires all disciples to live blameless lives.