Baptist churches and deacons

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Jonathan, Jan 14, 2002.

  1. Jonathan

    Jonathan
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    What is the practice of your church regarding deacon selection, ordination, and service and what is your biblical basis?

    In every church (all Baptist) where I have served, Acts 6 figures very prominently in both the training literature and ritual of ordination.

    Doesn't Acts 6 refer to any and all lay positions of service rather than the single translated "office of deacon"?

    Doesn't Acts 6 also refer to a specific area of service needed (administration to the widows and orphans) infering a limited and fixed (both in time and area of responsibility) area of service? If so, how do we justify a standing board of deacons in our churches?

    Concerning the service that deacons provide to your church (not including the board of directors function that has no biblical basis), could and should these functions be better performed by adult Sunday school classes or other similarly defined small groups within your church?
     
  2. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Jonathan:
    What is the practice of your church regarding deacon selection, ordination, and service and what is your biblical basis?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    They are selected by the church in accordance with the biblical descriptions given with regards to character and doctrine (1 Tim 3:8ff.; cf. Acts 6). They serve various functions (administration of ordinances, physical plant support, financial recommendations to the pastor and congregation, etc.).

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Doesn't Acts 6 refer to any and all lay positions of service rather than the single translated "office of deacon"?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>[qb]

    No, because the apostles limited those eligible for service. All members are to be ministers in the church (Eph 4:11-16). Deacons serve a particular function in the congregation.

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>[qb]Doesn't Acts 6 also refer to a specific area of service needed (administration to the widows and orphans) infering a limited and fixed (both in time and area of responsibility) area of service? If so, how do we justify a standing board of deacons in our churches?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>


    FTR, this contradicts your above statement. There you appear to claim it refers to all positions of service; here you say it refers only to a specific function of service.

    That aside, the function in Acts 6 probaby had a financial aspect -- the administration of resources towards those church members in need. There is no limitation in the text concerning either time or service, at least that I can see.

    Furthermore, the deacon became one of the two recognized offices of the local church stipulated by Scripture. While we do not have a standing "board" of deacons, we do have the office of deacon continuously occupied. A church without deacons is a church out of order.

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Concerning the service that deacons provide to your church (not including the board of directors function that has no biblical basis), could and should these functions be better performed by adult Sunday school classes or other similarly defined small groups within your church?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    As for "board of directors," a number of congregations have delegated that type of authority from themselves to the deacons for practical reasons. At any time, those congregations can retake that delegation. Some functions can be performed by any and they should. However, that does not absolve the church of the responsibility to have men designated as deacons in accordance with Scripture.
     
  3. Clint Kritzer

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    These are the terms set forth in my church's bylaws:

    A deacon-
    (A). shall have been a member of the local church at least one year.
    (B). should be able to attend, and unless providentially hindered should attend, all of the meetings of the deacons.
    (C). should be a faithful and loyal supporter of the entire church program and be regular in attendance.
    (D). should be a faithful and loyal supporter of the missionary program of the church and the denomination.
    (E). should take, at one time during the tenure of his office, a study course as offered by the church on the office of deacon, its obligations and responsibilities.
    (F). should exhibit spiritual standards in keeping with I Timothy 3: 8—13 and Acts 6:3.
    (G). should be a person of vision concerning the affairs of the Kingdom of God and local church, always faithful and willing to consider any worthy proposal for an improved, enlarged, and efficient church program.
    (H). should set a good example by faithfully discharging the duties of any additional church office or committee to which he/she may be elected.
    (I). the deacon’s social and moral standards should be above question. Conduct should be at all times the type that will bring honor to the name and cause of Christ and be a credit to the church and to the community.

    DUTIES. It shall be the duty of the deacons to assist the pastor in the administration of the ordinances; to visit the sick, the poor, and the afflicted of the church; to admonish members who may be delinquent in their covenant duties; to uphold and strengthen the hands of the pastor in his labors, and with him, exercise a general superintendence over the spiritual and physical welfare of the church and the congregation.

    Our deacons are not a "board." They do not make monetary decisions, property decisions, or hiring decisions. Rather, they are servants to the families of the church. Each deacon is assigned a set of families to whom they minister.

    Their ordination is a service of laying on of handsperformed by each previously ordained minister and deacon present in the service.

    - Clint

    [ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: Clint Kritzer ]
     
  4. TomVols

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    Unfortunately, I believe Baptist churches have a woeful understanding of the diaconate. We practically function as a presbyterian church, allowing the deacons to be a "board," overseeing all aspects of church life. This is not Scriptural, in my observation. As I understand the NT, the elders are the spiritual leaders of the church while the deacons are the servants. This is seen in the distinction between the qualities sought in each person (Cf. 1 Tim 3), as well as Acts 6. I believe Acts 6 at least displays the prototype of the diaconate, if not actually depicting it. Therefore, I do believe it is germane to the topic.

    For an excellent treatment, see Alexander Strauch's book Minister of Mercy: The New Testament Deacon.

    See also John Gill's article on the diaconate in A Treatise on Church Order: the Ministry

    [ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: TomVols ]
     
  5. TomVols

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    Pastor Larry wrote:
    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>As for "board of directors," a number of congregations have delegated that type of authority from themselves to the deacons for practical reasons. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    But if a congregation does this, are they not doing something unScriptural, since the NT seems to distinguish between the overseeing role (elders) and the servant role (deacons)?
     
  6. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by TomVols:
    But if a congregation does this, are they not doing something unScriptural, since the NT seems to distinguish between the overseeing role (elders) and the servant role (deacons)?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Not really inasmuch as the authority stlll lies in the congregation. They have given their authority (sort of by proxy) and can retake it whenever they wish. If they could not take it back, then it would be unbiblical. In most cases, it is merely a matter of practicality.

    It seems to me that the pastor is the "governor" of the church, given ruling and leadership functions. He does that by call and consent of the congregation, who at any time, can revoke that call. The deacons are servants in terms of ministry and service.

    I do not argue it is the best way, but I do not see it as unbiblical per se.
     
  7. TomVols

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    Pastor Larry,
    I understand where you are coming from since (As I take it) we're both congregationalists. But again, to me this practice does seem to be undercutting the Scriptural teaching since I don't see where the Scripture would allow for the diaconate to exercise ruling authority which is the domain of the elder(s). Can you give me the Scriptural basis for this position so I'm not assuming 'facts not in evidence'? :D

    [ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: TomVols ]
     
  8. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by TomVols:
    ... this practice does seem to be undercutting the Scriptural teaching since I don't see where the Scripture would allow for the diaconate to exercise ruling authority which is the domain of the elder(s). Can you give me the Scriptural basis for this position so I'm not assuming 'facts not in evidence'?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I don't have Scriptural evidence for it because it is not mandated nor forbidden in Scripture. What I am suggesting is that the ruling body (the congregation) can delegate someone or a "group of someone's" (diaconate) to do a task or to act in their behalf in certain areas. For instances, it is common in most churches to allow the deacons to approve the expenditure of up to a certain amount of money in order to avoid the red tape of a calling a business meeting to get a copy machine fixed, or some such expenditure. In addition, in many churches, the deacons act as trustees, the legal representatives, necesssary in this culture that were not necessary in the first. The congregation can elect other trustees, or can themselves serve as the trustees I suppose. These are neither prescribed or prohibited in Scripture.

    It does not, or at least should not, take the pastor's authority. I think the biblical picture is that the pastor as the head of the church goes to the congregation with ideas, plans, etc., with the expectation that the congregation will follow. It is not so much an up or down vote as it is an affirmation of the pastor's authority. There are obviously some stick practical issues here. The theory is a lot of fun though [​IMG]
     
  9. TomVols

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    If deacons may exercise some authority (Which is what I hear you saying), how much is too much? Where is the line drawn? At what point do we set a boundary to keep the diaconate from acting as an ad hoc congregation? Curious.
     
  10. Pastor Larry

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    To me, it seems the only authority the deacons can exercise is that authority which is expressly given them by the congregation. So the line is drawn whereever the congregation says it is drawn. I don't think the congregation should give them too much because then you end up with a situation such as you describe. Any authority is too much if the congregation has not given it to them. Too often, the deacons kind of assume the authority which they shouldn't.

    It seems that many churches do operate in the manner you have suggested, which is unfortunate. I do not think they should. And I have taken some steps to change some of that here where I am. And I think you and I are probably closer on this than you might realize. My only pointing in beginning was that some churches do it; not that it necessarily should be done.

    [ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: Pastor Larry ]
     
  11. TomVols

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    Oh yes, I think we're fairly close. I just don't know how comfortable I am with the idea that if the congregation gives the deacons authority, then it's all fair game. I think the congregation can give deacons too much authority which would overstep the NT nature of the diaconate. But we probably have to admit that we don't have as much NT evidence as we'd like for the role of the diaconate.
     
  12. PackerBacker

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Pastor Larry:

    A church without deacons is a church out of order.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Pastor Larry,

    What if there is no current need for such service? The first deacons were chosen because of the need of service that arose over the widow issue and not due to a mandate from Christ that this “office” must be in order.

    I know there are guidelines for those serving as deacons (1 Tim 3), but I’m questioning if it is a must. I’m asking, not debating with you. The subject caught my attention and it is not one I feel I have a decent grip on yet. As I’ve mentioned before, I am working with a new church, as a missionary, and there has not been a need arise yet that warrants a special office to handle it. We are kind of in an Acts chapter 2-5 mode, before a big problem arises.

    I also wouldn’t mind hearing positions from Chris, Tom, and Dr. Bob on this question I’ve asked.
     
  13. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by PackerBacker:
    What if there is no current need for such service?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I can't imagine a church with no sick or shut in to be visited, no offering to be taken or counted, no visitors to be called on, no dinners or events to be set up for or torn down from, etc. In other words, if you have no need for deacons, then the church is not a church or at least is not doing what the church should be doing.

    I do agree with Tom, that I think deacons have way too much authority in most churches. And once they get it, it is hard to get rid of. One of the problems is that most deacons stay around longer than the pastor and they are hesitant to give much authority to a pastor who is going to leave in a few years.

    I heard once this about the length of time of a pastorate. Maybe someone else has heard this.

    Years 1-2 are kind of a feeling out time, getting to know one another. They want you to do pastoral things, like visit, preach, marry and bury (hopefully in unrelated incidents).
    Years 3-4 are the years when the congregation begins to trust you more and give you more respect.
    Years 5+ are when a pastor has gained the trust and is really able to actually do the leading that a pastor is supposed to do.

    The problem is that most pastors leave before they ever get that far, frustrated by the situation and looking for the greener grass where year 1 is going to start all over. The result is that the deacons stay behind and get even more authority and are hesitant to give it up. I think it take a strong pastor who is very patient and willing to work in the "system" to change it.

    [ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: Pastor Larry ]
     
  14. Dr. Bob

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    In 1942 my home church allowed the pastors and deacons the power to "exclude" from membership anyone they deemed "disloyal" without even bringing it to the church for a vote.

    That was a congregational decision for immediate action, since we were at war with Germany and Japan and "disloyal" members in such a patriotic congregation were a cancer. It was an era of pro-U.S.A.

    In 1968 I met with the pastoral staff and explained my differences in practice with them and that I would be moving my membership to another church. I thought we left the meeting cordially.

    My mother, still attending, was anxious for a business meeting to vote on my leaving, as it would be opportunity to publically ask "why" I had chosen to leave. This would be a "closing" to her of that chapter of life.

    It was never brought up. When my new church accepted me and licensed me to preach, they wrote and asked for my membership, a letter was received that I had been "excluded from the membership of ____ Baptist Church by executive action of the Pastors and Deacons."

    Disloyalty. No, not to the USA - I was going to Vietnam - but that old power from WWII had never been rescinded and they still weilded the political power game behind the scenes.

    I have had little trust for deacons since. They are servants of the church and should hold that position of "servant" in sacred trust.
     
  15. PackerBacker

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Pastor Larry:
    I can't imagine a church with no sick or shut in to be visited, no offering to be taken or counted, no visitors to be called on, no dinners or events to be set up for or torn down from, etc. In other words, if you have no need for deacons, then the church is not a church or at least is not doing what the church should be doing.

    [ January 14, 2002: Message edited by: Pastor Larry ]
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Guess I got your answer, although it was not the kind of answer I imagined. That last phrase about a church not being a church etc, without deacons, was a shocker that I really did not expect. What Biblical basis do I offer this small group of believers tonight when I tell them we are not a church because we don’t have official positions of deacon? What Biblical basis do I offer the many missionaries overseas and inland that do not have deacons yet, to support the idea that they are not a church? Does a church with a deacon, cease to be a church if their deacon dies or leaves in a huff? What was that group of called out believers in Jerusalem before the appointing of deacons in Acts 6?

    First time I ever heard that we must have dinners, events, shut-ins, visitor follow up, and offering collectors, which require deacons, before we are a real church or doing what a church needs to be doing. What biblical command or example is there of needing to appoint deacons to those activities you mentioned?

    I realize I just asked a lot of questions but your comment opened up these and many more about what a NT church is.
     
  16. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by PackerBacker:
    Guess I got your answer, although it was not the kind of answer I imagined.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Sorry to disappoint you [​IMG] Perhaps some more explanation is in order. All of the things I listed are things that I consider the responsibility of deacons, not to the exclusion of others. For instance, visitation is one of their vital roles; it was probably included in Acts 6. Taking the offering and counting the money must be done by men who are trusted and accountable. I would allow others to take the offering but not to count it. Things like setting up and tearing down are things anyone can do ... but they are the tasks of servants and that is what the deacons are. I have told my deacons that when we have something like that, I expect them to be here to help. I expect deacons to set the pace for the church in terms of involvement in ministry. In a larger church, it can be spread out more and changed more. You might even have a paid janitorial staff that will take care of it. There are a hundred things for deacons to do.

    As for a church not being a church, I said that somewhat with a view to a definition. Can a church be doing the things a church is supposed to do if these things are not being carried out? I would think not.

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>What Biblical basis do I offer this small group of believers tonight when I tell them we are not a church because we don’t have official positions of deacon?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    I guess the first question is what are you doing meeting with them tonight? Don't you know that you are supposed to meet on Wednesdays, not on Tuesdays? I have serious doubts about whether you are even saved, much less a church. [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Seriously, I guess the question is Why do you not have them? I cannot think of a valid biblical reason not to have deacons just as I can't think of one not to have a pastor, save for times of transition between them. The idea is not so much that they are not a church but that they are out of order as a church. The situation in Acts is descriptional rather than normative. Because of the beginning of the church, there were many things being established, including the office of deacon.

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>First time I ever heard that we must have dinners, events, shut-ins, visitor follow up, and offering collectors, which require deacons, before we are a real church or doing what a church needs to be doing. What biblical command or example is there of needing to appoint deacons to those activities you mentioned? <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    You do not have to have these things to be a church. They are examples of normal things that should be taking place in a church that deacons are the most normal choice to carry out. Deacons should be trained in this area by the pastor (discipleship) and then deacons should be training others (2nd generation discipleship; cf 2 Tim 2). The point is that deacons serve various functions within the church.

    My point would be more to the side of "Why would a church not have deacons?" Again, I can think of no valid biblical reason. If there are no qualified men, the discipleship should be taking place to build them.

    Bob makes somes good points about deacons run amok. Way too much control that should have never happened. The pastor who allowed the congregation to do such should be held as accountable as the church itself, IMHO.

    [ January 15, 2002: Message edited by: Pastor Larry ]
     
  17. Rev. Joshua

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    I think we can all agree that there is no authority inherent in the office of "Deacon." Consequently, each congregation is free to delegate what powers it wishes to the diaconate. My guess is that most baptist churches do not have enough members to sustain separate deacon and elder boards; consequently the two get lumped together.

    Joshua
     
  18. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Rev. Joshua Villines:
    My guess is that most baptist churches do not have enough members to sustain separate deacon and elder boards; consequently the two get lumped together.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    It is impossible to combine the deacon and elder "board" Scripturally. First, there is no NT grouping of a "board." Second, there is no "elder board." The elder(s) is the pastor; he is never referred to as a member of a board. Thus to combine the deacon and elder board is nonsense. They are two distinct offices in the NT church. Many churches have instituted a board of elders to be sure but they have done it in spite of the NT and not because of it. In so doing, they have redefined the office of elder to be something it is not and elevated the office of deacon to something that it is not.

    I do agree that many churches confuse the office of elder and deacon and in most cases, an elder board, is an authoritative group of deacons. It is unfortunate.
     
  19. TomVols

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    Joshua,
    Any church can have an elder/pastor/overseer. And any church could have a deacon or two to sustain the needs resident within all churches. I think that's selling some small churches short to say that some can't function this way. And I disagree with the idea that the congregation is free to have the diaconate do whatever the church wishes. The church should not blur the distinction between elders and deacons because that would be a violation of NT practice and teaching.
     
  20. Rev. Joshua

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    In many ways I think that the democratic, congregational government observed in baptist churches would have likewise been foreign to the early Church. Nevertheless, whatever authority a baptist pastor/elder has comes solely from the congregation. Consequently, the congregation can apportion that power accordingly. If, because of the goals/needs/mission of the congregation they apportion authority such that some resides in a person within the role of pastor and some resides in a representative body, that is completely within their perogative.

    I certainly don't see it as a violation of any of the underlying principles in Paul's advice or the actions of the early Church.

    Joshua
     

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