Acts 6:2-4…”So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.'” These seven men were the first officially appointed deacons. To be clear, elders lead ministry (teaching/preaching), deacons facilitate ministry (practical needs), the congregation does ministry (loving each other by caring for spiritual/emotional/physical needs). This is the New Testament model, and biblical clarity in the deacons’ role and function is invaluable for promoting peace and unity in our congregations.
According to the New Testament, a deacon is two things:
1) Deacons are shock-absorbers: the seven men chosen by the church in Jerusalem to care for widows, who seem to be precursors to deacons, were chosen to preserve unity at a time when botched administration was creating fissures in the church (see entire context of passage above – Acts 6:1-7).
2) And deacons are servants: their very name means servant, and their precursors in Acts 6 were chosen to handle the practical needs of the church. That way, the apostles could devote themselves to leading the church through prayer and the ministry of the Word.
Ever wonder why your church seems disorganized? In addition to the fact that we’re all sinners, and will create disorganization, chaos, and disunity because of our nature, maybe the disorder you’re seeing is because the biblical model for church is being ignored. Encourage your pastors to look to scripture and not the latest church growth fad for instruction on church structure and order. Pastors/Elders, please know that you’ll be held accountable for the quality of disciples under your care (Hebrews 13:17), and that focusing mainly on quantity could be slippery.