In part one of this series we discovered that the biblical role of a deacon is that of an attendant, servant, waiter, or one who runs errands.
There is a vast difference between knowing what you are (your role) and knowing what you are supposed to do (your responsibilities). When I first got married I knew that I was a husband. However, I had no idea what I was supposed to do! Now that I have been married for over thirty-two years to my wonderful wife, I still have no idea about what I’m supposed to do, but I enjoy it much more. Ah, ignorance is bliss, and I’m a happy guy!
A responsibility can be defined as something for which one is held accountable. I am liable for any damage that my car does to someone or his property. It is my responsibility. That is why I have liability insurance. Humm (an expression of deep thought), I wonder if churches could get deacon insurance? I’ve known many pastors who wished they could!
Much of the confusion over the office of a deacon revolves around its purpose. We know that deacons are servants in the church, but exactly what are they supposed do?
It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention. That was the case in the church at Jerusalem. A need arose that necessitated the establishment of what we now call the deacon ministry.
“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. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.” Acts 6:1-2
These verses reveal the dual responsibilities of the deacon ministry. We see that the deacons had the responsibility of meeting the needs of the people (their widows were neglected) and the pastors (it is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables). There are two distinct responsibilities of a deacon.
Responsibility to the Pastor of the Church
The primary responsibility of the deacon is to the pastor. The needs of the people could have been met by the pastors. They could have distributed to the widows. However, the pastors’ need to spend time in the Word of God and in prayer could not be met while they were meeting this particular need of the people. I guess you could say that there was a conflict of needs. The primary need of the two was for the man of God to continue to seek the face of God that he might lead the church of God to the glory of God. “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
The church at Jerusalem was being blessed with tremendous numerical and spiritual growth because of the ministry of these men. The problem was that the spiritual momentum of the whole church could have been stalled in order to meet the physical needs of a few. Therefore the primary responsibility of the deacon is to ensure that the pastor is able to spend time with the Lord in order to fulfill his role as the spiritual overseer and edifier within the church of God.
Responsibility to the Pastor
This involves the time and wellness of the pastor. The deacon should always be looking for opportunities to free his pastor from tasks that could hinder his time with the Lord and his family. We have already seen the importance of the pastor’s time with the Lord. It is also very important that the pastor have time to nurture his relationship with his wife and children. The Bible is clear that his first ministry is to his family. “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife…One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1Timothy 3:2-5)
The deacon should also be aware of the heavy spiritual and emotional load that the pastor carries, and make sure that he is given opportunities to get away for some rest and rejuvenation. The uniqueness of a pastor’s heart is sometimes hard for us to comprehend. He never truly “clocks out.” Whether he is at church, driving down the road, lying in bed, or on a family vacation, you and I are continually on his mind. Many of the burdens he is bearing can only be shared with the Lord. I have served with my pastor long enough that I am now able to discern when he is running on empty or dealing with a difficult situation. When deacons sense this in their pastor, it is imperative that they provide him with the opportunity to pull up to the pump and refuel his tank.
Responsibility to the Pastor
It is also the responsibility of the deacons to make sure that the pastor has the resources to take care of himself and his family. “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14). I don’t know of any man that could give himself continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word when his family is lacking the necessities of life. Every year the deacons should evaluate the pastor’s compensation package and make sure that his needs are being met. This should minimally include salary, housing, and transportation, as well as health and life insurance. It always amazes me when I ask folks if their pastor has health insurance. More often than not I just receive a blank stare in reply. Yet they would never think of going into their workplaces tomorrow and canceling the health insurance plan for their families. The Lord will take care of those who take care of the man of God. The poor widow at Zarephath experienced this wonderful truth (see 1 Kings 17:8-16).
Responsibility to the People of the Church
A wonderful part of helping the pastor fulfill his ministry is the opportunity that deacons have to minister to people. These responsibilities should be identified and appointed by the pastor. Every church is different and every pastor’s needs in this area are different.
Below are four major areas that are often blessings to a pastor:
- Caring—meeting the physical and emotional needs of the widows and others within the church family
- Counseling—assisting at the altar, front door, and other occasions as needed
- Counting—taking care of the tithes and offerings of the church
- Committees—Standing committees such as finance, building, missions, etc. that can be called into action to assist the pastor as needed
The Word of God identifies the role and responsibilities of a deacon. Deacons are scripturally qualified men who are chosen by the church from among its membership and appointed by the pastor to serve specific needs within the church that would otherwise distract the pastor from prayer and the ministry of the word.