Thursday, 8 January 2009


On Sunday morning both Kat Starling (for musicians) and Kat LaFontaine (for creche) were proposed as deacons and you were invited to consider their appointments over the next month. I thought it would be helpful to lay out some of my thinking on deacons to help you as you prayerfully consider the elders proposals.

A local church has two distinct leadership offices who work closely together: elders and deacons (Phil 1v1). To understand the role of deacons it is helpful to see how these two leadership offices compliment each other.

Elders: Elders are a team of men who are set apart by God to shepherd the church, the bible refers to these men as bishops or overseers or elders (terms used interchangeably). They have a biblical qualification as outlined in 1Tim3v1-7 and Titus 1v6-9. Functionally, I like to break what they do by the 4D’s:
Doctrine – elders govern, teach & guard the doctrine that the church holds to.
Direction – elders seek to shepherd the church in the direction that God is leading them.
Discipline – elders seek to ‘discipline in love’ wayward church members to win them back to repentance and restoration.
Display – elders seek to display a Christ-like character worthy to be copied.

Deacons: As a church matures so the two separate leadership offices of elders & deacons will emerge. The letter to Philippians was written to a church approx 10 years old and by then these two offices were in place. Deacons differ from elders primarily in that elders have preaching and teaching responsibilities. Deacons are a team of men and women who are set apart by God to serve alongside the elders to oversee areas & ministries of church life.

Deacons have a biblical qualification as set out in 1Tim 3v8-13. I don’t see age as a biblical qualification or marital status. The primary biblical qualifications centre on character. However, it is imperative that they can carry ministry responsibility which is the root of the word for deacon.

Both men and women can serve as deacons – I have found Grudem & Driscoll helpful on this and have listed the most helpful pages in the further reading. To keep the post short I won’t add my reasoning but will quote Grudem: ‘If deacons simply have delegated administrative responsibility for certain aspects of the ministry of the church, then there seems to be no good reason to prevent women from functioning as deacons’

Acts 6 may well be the appointing of the first deacon team, certainly they functioned as servant-leaders freeing up the early church leaders. Once the seven were in place the church powered on ‘So the word of God spread. The number of disciples increased rapidly …’ Acts 6v7. A great progress report and one that is linked to the appointment of the seven.

It is equally important to honour the biblical office of deacon as it is to honour the biblical office of elder.

I have no concerns that both Kat Starling and Kat LaFontaine meet the biblical qualifications for serving the church as deacons. I unreservedly recommend them for your prayerful consideration to join our existing deacon team.

Further reading on deacons:
The world needs more elders p50 – PJ Smyth
A book you might actually read On Church Leadership p50 – Mark Driscoll
Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth p263 - Wayne Grudem
Systematic Theology p918-920 & p944-945 – Wayne Grudem
Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood p219- John Piper & Wayne Grudem
Biblical Eldership p36,174-176, 283 – Alexander Strauch


beatthedrum said...

Just a quick question how do you get around the references of a Deacon being a husband of one wife. Surely this points to a man not a woman?

Sean Green said...

If you look at the footnotes on 1tim3v11 it says 'wives' or 'women' (the ESV) or 'deaconesses' (NIV). There has been a huge amout of technical discussion on these variants and i have inluded the relevant pages in the further reading.

Probably the most pragmatic explanation is Driscol who argues that if v11 is 'wives' the a deacon has a more stringent qualification than an elder which doesn't make sense.