“Those who are deacons of the mysteries of Jesus Christ must please all men in all ways. For they are not deacons of meats and drinks [only] but servants of the church of God” (Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, 2nd century).
The topic this quarter is about the office of deacons. It is a very important subject, and I am convinced that if it were understood and taken more seriously, the gospel work would operate much more smoothly and congregations would be in better condition. It was not until I was in the middle of research and study that I concluded it is a difficult subject. Shortly thereafter, I was reading in The Apostolic Church and found where C. E. Brown came to the same conclusion: “The study of the office of the deacon is perhaps the most difficult of any phase of the constitution of the early church.”
The difficulty arises because there is very little said about the official office so we must couple our reading of the few scriptures with history to gain understanding of the issues. Deacons are vital to the well-rounded operation of the Church of God. While everyone is called to serve, it is evident that there are people serving as deacons in many congregations that may not have been ordained to the office. These are the individuals that have a special call of God to service and spiritual leadership that supersedes the limited term of a trustee or treasurer. These are those few faithful members who are steadfast and diligent, laboring in the temporal affairs of the congregation and also providing a spiritual, steadying hand to the work. A deacon by any other name is still a deacon, but there is value in recognizing the call of God to this divine office in the local church as exemplified in scripture. Let there be no confusion, God’s church does not have a titled ministry, nor does it have titled deacons. These offices are about service to God, not about status, recognition, or position. What is more important than the official office is the humble spirit of love and servitude.
While the subject has been polluted by the apostasy and organization of man by the Roman Catholic Church, the office of deacons has been part of God’s church since the apostles; and it is important that the teaching and practice continue. There are misconceptions when people think about deacons. Many think of a deacon as an old man who has been forever in the congregation, tenaciously holding on to authority; for it is usually true, when the pastor is gone, no longer serving in that capacity, the deacons remain. However, a deacon is a servant who faithfully assists the ministry for the temporal and spiritual edification of the congregation. Deacons are to be subject to the authority of the ministry and respectful of the people, serving the Lord in humility. A good deacon is steadfast and diligent, setting an example of service to all.
May God bless the Church of God with greater understanding of the practicalities of the office of the deacon.
Michael W. Smith