While there is sufficient textual proof that the church was organized with elders as overseers and deacons as special servants (1 Tim. 3:1-12; Ti. 1:5-11; Phil. 1:1; etc.), God never intended one Christian to do the work of another. Why do we not have a choir to do our singing for us in worship? In part, it is because one Christian cannot obey what God commands all to do. Likewise, deacons cannot obey what God intends the whole church to do. All of us are to minister and serve (Matt. 20:26; Rom. 16:1; Gal. 5:13). It may be helpful, thinking along these lines, to remember what deacons are not.
Deacons are not junior elders. Elders are overseers and shepherds. Deacons are special servants. A deacon’s authority is limited to that which elders delegate to him. We may know that intellectually, but we must remember it practically.
Deacons are not the church’s indentured servants. Their job is not just physical in nature. A simple reading of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 shows that they are to be spiritually strong men. Some tasks in the church are physical, but the men are to be spiritual. Though servants, they are not the church’s slaves to be considered as pawns or self-serving tools. They are spiritual warriors tasked by God’s mighty shepherds to strengthen His church.
Deacons are not less important than elders. This kind of thinking leads to pride, strife and jealousy. The body of Christ has different members, but all are vital. 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 emphasizes that each member is indispensable. Service to Christ offsets any need for power struggles.
Deacons are not in elder training. Men who work as deacons may and should (if possible) develop qualities that will help them later be elders, should desire to serve God as best they can, and should develop real relationships with the people they serve, but serving as a deacon is not some sort of “elder training.” The work is about working where they are asked to work.
Deacons are not flying solo. Good deacons themselves will be “great delegators.” They are great enlisters. They take responsibility for their area of work, but they involve as many people as possible. As members, we should be less the critic and more the coworker. If a deacon asks for your help, give it to them!
It is exciting to see men take up the cross of service. Never forget that Satan is always lurking in the shadows. He wants nothing good and productive done within the congregations of God’s people. What a blow to him when we become more efficient and aware of how God wants His church to work and operate. Part of that includes remembering what deacons are not. — Neal Pollard