Must a church have deacons?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by PackerBacker, Jan 17, 2002.

  1. PackerBacker

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    This is a splinter off of another thread on deacons. I'll paste in some quotes from the other thread to see if any one else cares to jump in. It has become an interesting subject that has led me into some study on the subject, I'd like to continue.

    [ January 17, 2002: Message edited by: PackerBacker ]
     
  2. PackerBacker

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by PackerBacker:


    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.
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  3. 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.

    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 ]
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  4. PackerBacker

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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. 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.
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  5. PackerBacker

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

    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 ]
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  6. PackerBacker

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

    Thanks for further explanation and for the sense of humor.

    I did briefly mention why we have no official deacons but I can try to do it again with perhaps more detail. I am a missionary working with a group of around 12 people that God has saved. Evangelism in the place I am is slow and hard going because the people are VERY religious, similar to the Jews in Christ’s day. Presently I am acting as the pastor of this group of called out ones. We meet in a home and are about as simple as those groups described in Acts, early church history, and even our early Baptist history. While I’m not knocking those who have all the bells and whistles added along with your faith and practice, I have yet to see how the Western version of “church” must apply to every local group of believers.

    Seriously, we have no shut-ins or sick within the group that require a special choosing of deacons. We all take an active part in helping each other. Even when we do eat together, not that that is a test of a church, we don’t need much set up for sitting on the floor and clean up is a cinch by letting the dogs clean up the mess. Now we are real heretics for substituting dogs for deacons in this area (My turn to have fun). : ) When a baby cries any of the women will serve the child and the mother of the child, without some special appointment of deacon for this job. Some how I see these few examples I listed as more in line with believers loving and looking after each other than the idea that a few men take care of a need, while the rest of the group sits on their spiritual or physical backside, thinking “that’s what we have deacons for” (Gal. 5:13-15).

    While it is true that several thousand people added unto the church would bring joy and problems at the same time (such as in Acts) that does not mean that deacons have to be appointed if there is not such overwhelming problem. The church was a church after Pentecost before seven men were chosen to serve widows (Acts 2:41-47). Frankly I’m glad that our church (group of believers) has not had the complaining, jealousy, and infighting amongst our group, that led to men having to be picked to deal with it. While I’m realistic to know we will face those things as the church grows, I’m not anxiously awaiting similar fleshly attitudes that led to the need of special servants in the Jerusalem church.

    While I agree that special servants had hands laid on them in Acts 6 for a special purpose, I can’t find anywhere that deacons “must be in place” to make a church a real church or doing right. I’m supportive of the position of deacon in a NT church but have yet been convinced that this position is a must in order to be a NT church.

    [ January 15, 2002: Message edited by: PackerBacker ]
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  7. PackerBacker

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by rlvaughn:
    PackerBacker, your post brings this thought to me - a church does not necessarily need deacons to exist as a church. In fact, a church can exist without an elder or elders (pastors). But if a church is large enough to need deacons, and has men scripturally qualified to serve in the office, I think it is out of order to refuse to recognize the office. I know of a situation of a church that has had no settled pastor (just fill-ins) for a period of at least five years. I don't think they have ceased to be a scriptural church, but I do think they are seriously out of order. When a church is able and refuses in these and other scriptural obligations, I believe something is amiss.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
     
  8. PackerBacker

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by TomVols:
    Packer,
    So there are no needy among your church or your community that the deacons could minister to? I find that hard to believe. I hear what you are saying, but I just find it hard to believe that there are no temporal, physical needs that your church could be ministering to, thus utilizing deacons.
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  9. rlvaughn

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    By "must", do you mean in order to exist scripturally? If so, I say they do not have to have deacons any more than they have to have a pastor to exist as a scriptural church. Just as there are times when a church is without a pastor or pastors, there are times a church may be without deacons. For a church to deliberately choose to not have the office of deacon is wrong and out of order. To have an occasion (or occasions) when they are without deacons is in the realm of normalcy.

    [ January 17, 2002: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  10. PackerBacker

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by PackerBacker:


    Tom,

    I never said there are no needs. I’ve tried to make the point that we have no current needs that our church is not able to minister to. Believe it or not, there are not any needy among our church that we as a small group cannot meet the needs of. It seems silly to have a meeting, take a vote, and appoint someone to do something they are already doing (looking out for each other). “Ok so-and so, we have chosen you to be a servant to this body of believers. Be on the look out for the needs of your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.” His reply, “Ok, but I’m already doing that along with the rest of the group.” If we, as a small group, are all being servants to each other, I fail to see the justification in utilizing “specific servants.”

    I get the feeling that you guys are addressing this issue based on your own current ministries in the USA and not on the situation I described. Ok it probably sounds too good to be true, what I have described, but it’s true. Actually, as I do look forward to the Lord continuing to add unto His church, I’m not looking forward to the problems that will surely arise which will involve the choosing of special deacons.
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  11. PackerBacker

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by PackerBacker:
    [Q]Some of you seemed shocked that we as a small church do not need the special appointment of deacons. It’s seems a bit foreign to some that a church could function properly in such a simplistic manner where it meets the needs of each other without official deacon positions. Ok let me give another example other than our situation.

    Acts 2:44-47
    And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.


    I’m having a problem seeing why our church of baptized believers is out of order unless we are to say that the church from Acts 2-5 was out of order also. They were meeting the needs of each other, possessions were being sold, etc without any deacons. What was it that caused them to need deacons in the first place?

    Acts 6:1
    And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.


    It was disorder that caused a need for these first appointed table servers. They seemed to be getting along just fine and orderly, as a huge church until the complaint of neglect caused problems. When a situation arose where the group and leadership could not handle it, they appointed people to meet that need. I’m 100% for this. What puzzles me though is how our small church situation seems to be following a pattern of the early church before overwhelming problems hit, and yet we are somehow out of order or missing something.[/Q]<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
     
  12. TomVols

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    Packer,
    You mention there are no needs within the church. But what about the larger community?
     
  13. Glory Bound

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    packerbacker,

    I think when most of us think of churches, we think of established churches with larger congregations than your church.

    Your small body of believers has not yet reached the size to present the problems associated with church growth. It's great that they exhibit the sharing and caring found in the early church in Acts. It's a shame when a church "outgrows" that stage.

    But I agree that for a very small church, where the membership can actively minister to each other, I don't see the need for deacons yet.

    Your church is in the minority of churches in this aspect, though. That's why most of us think of larger bodies than yours when we say "church". We really mean the more average or typical church.
     
  14. Ransom

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    rlvaughn said:

    For a church to deliberately choose to not have the office of deacon is wrong and out of order.

    What of a smaller church where the overseers are able serve as well as teach? The apostles in the early Church at Jerusalem did not appoint deacons until the workload associated with distributing food to the needy got out of hand. Are we going to accuse the apostles of being "wrong and out of order" simply because they appointed no deacons until it was necessary?
     
  15. jester

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by PackerBacker:
    This is a splinter off of another thread on deacons. I'll paste in some quotes from the other thread to see if any one else cares to jump in. It has become an interesting subject that has led me into some study on the subject, I'd like to continue.

    [ January 17, 2002: Message edited by: PackerBacker ]
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    First Hello I just registered today and this Thread speaks to the problem I came seeking help (resources - background etc ) for ..... Be patient as this may be rather simplistic .....


    What is the Scriptural basis for the DUTIES / Authority of a Pastor and for Deacons : what is the difference between Elders ..... where do Trustees fit into this ...

    The Church (American Baptist) which I am a member of is undergoing considerable turmoil.

    In an established Church how are Rights - Privillages to be adminstreated what sort of checks & balances are to be in place ... What role does the church body (general membership) play ....

    I will be reading through the previously posted material so it will be a couple of days before I get back to this ... so be patient......


    Just a personal comment / question it seems that each congregation being an idependant group creates problems that are unecessary as personalities become the driving force ... and without an external (earthly) authority to provide mediation minor conflicts escalate.
     
  16. rlvaughn

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Ransom:
    ...What of a smaller church where the overseers are able serve as well as teach? The apostles in the early Church at Jerusalem did not appoint deacons until the workload associated with distributing food to the needy got out of hand. Are we going to accuse the apostles of being "wrong and out of order" simply because they appointed no deacons until it was necessary?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>There is a lot more involved than any quick answer I can post right now. But in general, they were no more out of order at that time than the church would have been out of order for not observing the Lord's supper before it was instituted. Once the Supper was instituted, a church (except for perhaps some unusual circumstance) would be out of order to refuse to observe it. Once the office of deacon was instituted, a church (except in unusual circumstances) would be out of order to refuse to recognize the office. Perhaps you are reading more into my post than I am saying. In the specific case you mention above (and Packer's case), it might fall under the "unusual circumstances". But if the small church also had men who could "serve tables", I can't help but think that would be better.
     
  17. Chris Temple

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    Must a church have deacons? Yes.

    God is a God of order. From the beginning, He has ruled with an orderly governing structure (The Trinity).

    He established creation in a governmental order and structure.

    He desires structure in His body, the church, with all of its parts functioning in a healthy manner together.

    I concur with the LBCF 1689:

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> The London Confession of Baptist Faith, Chapter XXVI Of the Church

    VIII. A particular church, gathered and completely organized according to the mind of Christ, consists of officers and members; and the officers appointed by Christ to be chosen and set apart by the church (so called and gathered), for the peculiar administration of ordinances, and execution of power or duty, which He entrusts them with, or calls them to, to be continued to the end of the world, are bishops or elders, and deacons.[15]

    15. Acts 20:17, 28; Phil. 1:1

    IX. The way appointed by Christ for the calling of any person, fitted and gifted by the Holy Spirit, unto the office of bishop or elder in a church, is, that he be chosen thereunto by the common suffrage of the church itself;[16]and solemnly set apart by fasting and prayer, with imposition of hands of the eldership of the church, if there be any before constituted therein;[17] and of a deacon that he be chosen by the like suffrage, and set apart by prayer, and the like imposition of hands.[18]

    16. Acts 14:23
    17. I Tim. 4:14
    18. Acts 6:3, 5-6

    X. The work of pastors being constantly to attend the service of Christ, in His churches, in the ministry of the Word and prayer, with watching for their souls, as they that must give an account to Him;[19] it is incumbent on the churches to whom they minister, not only to give them all due respect, but also to communicate to them of all their good things, according to their ability,[20] so as they may have a comfortable supply, without being themselves entangled in secular affairs;[21] and may also be capable of exercising hospitality towards others;[22] and this is required by the law of nature, and by the express order of our Lord Jesus, who hath ordained that they that preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.[23]

    19. Acts 6:4; Heb. 13:17

    20. I Tim. 5:17-18; Gal. 6:6-7
    21. II Tim. 2:4
    22. I Tim. 3:2
    23. I Cor. 9:6-14

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  18. Glory Bound

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Chris Temple:
    Must a church have deacons? Yes.
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Since I think I know why packerbacker started this thread, I have to ask this question in response to the quote above by Chris Temple.

    Doesn't it depend on how many members a "church" has? If you only have 10 members, isn't pastor and congregation enough, without having a host of officers? Do the members of the congregation have to have titles in order to do God's work within the body of believers?

    10 member congregations are rare, but they do exist.
     
  19. Squire Robertsson

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    While a given church may not have certain of her servants designated as "deacons", the practicalities of Baptist church life mean that certain church members will fulfill that ministry on a defacto basis. This is especially true of smaller congregations. Where because of a small membership, if you are otherwise qualified and are yourself willing to serve; tag you're it.
    Hoping to shed more light than heat,
    Keith
     
  20. TomVols

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR> Doesn't it depend on how many members a "church" has? If you only have 10 members, isn't pastor and congregation enough <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    No. Acts 6:4 teaches that the elders are to give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word and the rest of the early part of Acts 6 teaches us that service in (as J.L. Dagg called it) "secular matters" must be handled by servants or deacons. Even a church with 10 members will have these matters, within and without.
     

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