Baptist Deacons

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Marcia, Jul 12, 2005.

  1. Marcia

    Marcia
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    We are studying 1 Timothy in SS and the issue of elders and deacons has come up.

    It seems that the Bible clearly states that overseers (also translated as bishops) and elders (pastors are included in this) have spiritual authority in the church. Deacons are servants, though there are qualifications fo them as well.

    I am wondering if in most So. Baptist churches do they have elders and deacons, or just deacons? And are the deacons really serving as elders? Do the deacons have spiritual authority in the church?

    In other words, are deacons being used as elders, though they are called deacons?
     
  2. DHK

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    I am IFB not SBC, so my view, no doubt will be very much will be very different.
    The Greek word diakonos simply means servant. A deacon is a servant. There is no such thing as a "ruling servant." That is a contradiction of terms."
    Servants are called to serve, not to rule.
    The worst thing that can happen in a church is to have a "board of deacons" that usually end up controlling the pastor, who ought to be head of the pastor. It ends in a power struggle, where inevitably the pastor loses, for he doesn't really have the headship of the church.
    A servant must be a servant. Anyone who takes a position of serving in the church becomes an ambassador of said church, and as such ought to measure up to the standards set forth by God as described in 1Tim.3:8-13.
    The terms: elders, overseers, bishops, pastors, all refer to the same person, just different functions of the same office. You will find these terms describing the same office in Acts 20:17,28.
    DHK
     
  3. Deacon

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    Don't be fooled into believing a servant can't be a leader.
    After all the greatest servant was our Savior (Luke 22: 24-27).

    The Scriptures are not wholly illustrative about the role or function that deacons take. Since it's not clearly delineated in the New Testament there's a lot of latitude in their use among local churches.

    Where the term ‘deacon’ is decisively used as pertaining to the office of deacon, it is used in conjunction with bishops or elders (see Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3). IMHO therefore the task given to a deacon is weightier than that of a simple servant. These were men choosen out from among the congregation as special servants.

    If you believe that Acts 6 marks the beginning of the office of deacon, then perhaps the deacons participated in an administrative role over the congregants that chose them.

    Rob
     
  4. exscentric

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    Elders are the spiritual and deacons the physical in my mind, the Baptists (in general) have one elder and deacons are, as you say, doing the work of elder.

    I believe in plural elders rather than one dictator and these are not PAID elders in particluar as some believe.

    Elders should deal with the spiritual and oversee what the deacons do, but the deacons should do the physical. Some states might require trustees, which can be the deacons with another name or act on two boards - whatever works in the state.
     
  5. OldRegular

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    Unfortunately in most Southern Baptist Churches the deacons behave more like ruling elders than servants.
     
  6. robycop3

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    I useta attend a SBC that was ruled by elders, and indeed they tried to control the pastor. No probs arose until they expelled a member who, on his own volition, admitted to an act of adultery. (His co-sinner was not a member of that church-she was an adult piano student of his.) The man had divulged his sin to his wife, and after some serious prayer & soul-searching she forgave him and when he publicly confessed his sin she publicly forgave him.

    One of my dad's greatest earthly Christian ambitions had been to become a deacon in that church, and his election to the deaconship, he said, ranked as one of the happiest moments of his life, almost as great as being saved or marrying Mom. He happily served as a deacon for about 2 1/2 years before the above incident occurred. he told me, "Son, you know how much it meant to me, my becoming a deacon. But in good conscience I cannot remain a deacon in a church whose elders have so grossly violated Scripture. It's not as if the man involved was a lecher committing adultery daily...he had this ONE INDISCRETION, not nearly as bad as David's was with Bathsheba, as the woman here was single & no other sin such as murder was involved. After several days' prayer, I have decided to resign both my deaconship and membership of that church."

    He was joined by several other deacons, the pastor, and many members, who all began attending other Baptist(not necessarily SBCs) churches in the area. Soon, the other church folded, as no other pastor, after learning what had happened, was willing to serve there...and the elders took turns serving as "interim" pastors, but couldn't do the job, as JESUS had apparently left that church. My wife and I left with my parents.

    The deacons and elders were different people; the elders elected the deacons and set all church policy, while the pastor was mostly a preacher only. Again, everything was great until that one incident.
     
  7. NateT

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    In response to the OP my experience has been that MOST (&gt;75%) have deacons only. A few have deacons and elders.

    I would also say that my experience with deacons has been that they typically are a mix between elders and deacons. Usually they are thought of by the people as elders (having some level of authority over the congregation.)
     
  8. Deacon

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    Where I serve we have the typical much maligned "deacon board" structure.

    The topic of deacon/elder role has been discussed among the deacons and the three pastors here.
    Until recently, every one of the deacons was older than the pastor/elders and many have been in the same church longer than the pastors;
    But besides the age issue some of the deacons also serve as teachers, administrators and small group leaders.
    Every once in a while one pastor will slip and expose his prejudice by inadvertently calling the deacons elders.

    I know of local area churches that have had heated disputes between their elders. That is not a good argument against having multiple elders at a church.
    I know of local churches that have had difficulties between their pastors/elders and deacons. That’s not a good argument against having deacons (or a “deacon board”).

    I believe that together the elders (pastors) and deacons serve the local church.
    Look at the pastor(s)/deacon board like a pro-ball club. Both the coach and the ball-players have proven themselves proficient. The clubs that work well together generally win.

    Many on our deacon board are professionals; a few are CEO’s of some pretty prestigious organizations. Are they greater qualified to administrate various aspects of the church than the pastor? Do they have more time (or interest) to administrate various aspects? Absolutely!
    The skills and business savvy of several of the deacons are indisputably greater than our pastors in certain areas. The pastors would be remiss to fail to use their advanced administrative skills.

    But this doesn’t mean that the deacon board rules over the pastors. The pastors run the church using the various skills of the deacons. The pastors also will discuss plans for the church, seeking out advice.

    I don't know of any deacon in the church here that doesn't appreciate the work and skill needed to run the church. I'm glad I'm just a servant and not the pastor. He deserves MORE than double honor!

    Rob
     
  9. Marcia

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    I really appreciate the responses, and DHK, I didn't meant to limit it necessarily to So. Baptist chuches. I am actually interested in IFB churches and other Baptist bodies.

    I tend to agree with DHK. It seems to me that since one of the qualificiations in 1 Tim. of elder or overseer is to be able to teach, but that that is not one of the qualifications for deacons, that deacons do not have the same authority as overseers/elders/pastors.

    But I appreciate all views and will look at passages cited here. Thanks.
     
  10. Bro. James Reed

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    I am Primitive Baptist. Our churches usually have several deacons and 1 or 2 elders. An elder, in PB churches, is any man who has been called to preach and has been ordained by a presbytery.

    My church currently has the following as members:

    2 Elders (with one serving as Pastor and Moderator)
    2 Deacons (which is unusual to have such a small number in a PB church)

    The Pastor is undershepherd of the flock (the Shepherd being Christ) and he is responsible for what is preached in the pulpit and, in general, being our leader.

    The other Elder has a standing appointment to preach once per month, and he is also to be used for counseling, etc, but other than that, he has no more say so in church matters than any other member.

    The 2 Deacons are responsible, mainly, for making sure visiting ministers are paid and how much to pay them. They are also responsible for taking care of the "workings" of the church; i.e. making sure the doors are unlocked before church, general tidiness, serving the wine and bread at communion, the little things that make a church function.

    One Deacon is the Senior Deacon and on him falls the responsibility of being Moderator pro-tem if the Pastor is out for some reason.

    The Deacons are also the Trustees and hold charge over all properties owned by the church, aside from the church records, which are my responsibility(as Clerk).

    Deacons should have nothing whatsoever to do with preaching, unless it is to step up in the Pastor's/Elder's absence and correct something. Of course, that could also fall to any man in the church who catches a doctrinal error.

    No one, other than the membership, should have the authority to bring in or dismiss members. That would lead to a church being run as a dictatorship, or even an oligarchy, rather than as a democratic body of believers.
     
  11. Randy Highsmith

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    My pastor has a Bible Study related to this subject. It is at http://www.fellowshiponline.org/biblestudies/canwomenbepastors.htm

    This particular study address Women as Deacons but there is some specifics that talk about the question addressed here.

    I would be curious to know what others have to say about a Woman's role in Church life/structure is according to what God's word says.

    Blessings,
    Randy
     
  12. shannonL

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    The problem with deacons in baptist churches is they think it is their job to run the church. Actually it is their job to help the church move in the direction that the pastor feels God is directing him to lead the church.
    A church should be pastor led not pastor driven. There is a difference.
    Grant it there are some fine, upstanding spirit-filled deacons out there. Yet, on the other hand I believe one of the main problems we have in IFB churches and SBC churches is unsaved church members. And friends there are alot of unsaved deacons amongst those unsaved members. Right there is where alot of the problems with deacon boards can be found. Things are changing on the church scene but for to long it wasn't uncommon for ole Joe to be a deacon because he had a fat bank account or he had the right last name. Get my point.
    This is just my opinion but I see no need for a
    "chairman of deacons". It can't be found in Scripture.

    Yall have a good n.
     
  13. RandR

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    The worst thing many churches ever did to their future pastors was to name the deacons as "trustees" in their bylaws many moons ago.

    Reading the NT, it seems that the most biblical model includes both elders and deacons where a plurality of elders (pastor, key staff, and key lay leadership) administrate and the deacons minister.

    I've seem much ink spilled and heard almost every argument attempting to justify equating "table waiters" with "ruling oligarchy," but its just not scriptural.
     
  14. Artimaeus

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    Elders rule - works out well

    Elders serve - works but can be inconvenient at times, hence, the need for deacons

    Deacons rule - no precedent in the Bible

    Deacons serve - works out well

    Many churches, mine included, have a deacon board which act as elders, and a board of trustees which act as deacons. While I would prefer that they get the names right, isn't the important thing that the functions are Biblical? OTOH, When it comes time to decide on deacons and trustees they don't use the qualifications for elders and deacons. They use the qualifications for deacons when electing the de facto elders and use the qualifications of "whoever is willing" for trustees.
     
  15. IveyLeaguer

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    So Randy,

    Is the authority of the senior pastor limited to his shared role as an elder, or does he possess additional authority?
     
  16. DHK

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    I recently did an indepth study on 1Tim.3:1,10. I was surprised to find that there is no "office" of a deacon. You don't find the word in the Greek. It is supplied by the KJV translators. The verse simply speaks of a servant. The qualifications are there for all who want to serve in the church. After all is it not true that the ambassadors of the King of Kings and Lord of Lord's should be held to a high standard. I think, after studying the Greek, that the Darby translation reflects the most accurate translation of this verse:

    Note the king James first:
    1 Timothy 3:10 And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.

    1 Timothy 3:10 And let these be first proved, then let them minister, being without charge against them. (Darby)
    DHK
     
  17. Lamin Dibba

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    I have attended Southern Baptist churches since I was a child and I have been a pastor and and missionary in Southern Baptist life as well. I have known of only one SB church that has an elder form of church government.

    In my experience the role of elder is filled by the pastor of the church.
     
  18. DHK

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    Welcome to BB Lamin. I hope you find your stay here
    enjoyable.
    I agree with you wholeheartedly. The role of an elder is filled by the pastor of the church.
    DHK
     
  19. Lamin Dibba

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    Dear DHK,

    Thanks for the warm greetings.

    While I too believe that the pastor of a church fills the role of elder, it is often true that many deacon see themselves as "ruling elders" even though Bapists (generally) believe in congregtional decisions making. Our practice and our doctrine often don't match! :(

    I do believe that deacons ought to be elders in the sense of being spiritually mature and wise counsellors to their pastor and other church members. I have been blessed to have served with many who fit this description well.

    Thanks again for the greetings.

    Every blessing,
    LD
     
  20. jdcanady

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    Mark Dever has a great study on biblical eldership on his "nine marks" website. If I remember right, he says the SBC originally recognized Pastors, Elders, and deacons as the offices of the church, but in the 1925 statement, they eleminated the mention of the "Elder".

    It seems, historically, baptists have distinguished the roles of pastors and elders, or had a "preaching" elder. Very interesting study.
     

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