Deacons in a Bible-Presbyterian Church

Dear BPCWA worshipper, The office of deacon may vary depending upon the understanding between churches since the duties and roles of deacons are different in different denominations. To bring everyone to the same page, I will explain our practice and the qualifications for deacons in BPCWA i.e., in a Bible-Presbyterian denomination. This will help everyone view these offices properly. Moreover, understanding the Biblical qualifications will also enable members to vote correctly.

What is not expected of deacons. Deacons are not “elders in waiting” i.e., they will definitely be an elder in a matter of time. Neither are they “miniature elders”, functioning almost like elders. Some have the mistaken idea that deacons must be good teachers of the Word. But God, in 1 Timothy 3, does not require deacons to be teachers of the Word.  A deacon may be assigned to teach just like any other ordinary member may be. As explained in the previous pastoral, deacons are to “serve tables”. Appointment to roles such as Sunday School teachers or facilitators or Nursing Home speakers is not part of God’s qualifications for deacons in the Bible. Hence, we must not have the mistaken idea that Sunday School teachers, facilitators, or Nursing Home speakers should be deacons simply because they are serving a lot in the teaching ministry.  Also, deacons are not expected to exercise spiritual care over others (or even a group of people) in the church. In some circles, people are not concerned if a deacon is diligent, dependable, and dedicated. Instead, they look more for charismatic people who have the gift of the gab and have exciting ideas. In thinking such, the quiet and low-key workers who get the job done without any fanfare end up getting overlooked or may even be perceived as being “not deacon material”. Deacons are servants, not salesmen who excite you and make you gravitate to them.

What is expected of deacons. This section will outline the “must haves” of a deacon. Having understood that teaching duties are not required nor expected of deacons, candidates for deacons however would be expected to be diligent in the personal and public (through regular attendance at church fellowships and Bible studies) study of God’s Word. The Bible requires them to be “holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience” (1 Tim 3:9) and one who shows little interest in learning God’s Word does not demonstrate much interest in the faith! A deacon is not just someone who likes “doing things” but especially as a church officeholder, must want to do things according to God’s will and way. As the primary role for deacons are servants who serve, then a non-negotiable requirement for deacons is a good track record of service. Many aspects of a deacon must “also first be proved” (1 Tim 3:10), and the proving includes their ability to serve well. They are not “jack of all trades and master of none”. We do not expect perfection, but if they are often tardy and must be chased to do something, are half-hearted, careless, disorganised, and don’t satisfactorily complete a task assigned, then they do not demonstrate that they have the gift of service in this function. Even if they seem to you as nice and sincere people, they just don’t fulfill the qualifications of deacons according to God’s preceptive will. The difference between someone who is in charge of a ministry and a deacon is that the latter will be able to handle more demanding projects for the church. Hence, they must be people who have the aptitude to think and plan. At the same time, a good mind is not all there is. Character is of prime importance when it comes to serving in the church. Deacons must be “not doubletongued” (1 Tim 3:8), i.e., saying one thing with one person and another with another, with intent to deceive or deflect. At the root of this requirement is that deacons must be absolutely trustworthy and people of integrity. Knowing what is right (through the study of God’s Word) is insufficient. They must be transparent in their dealings and honest in their speech. The church would operate like the world if those in church office speak in veiled “half-truths” to hide what is not to their advantage. Such a person can be a smooth talker in front of people that they want to please, but bad mouth the same person behind their back when it is more convenient for them to do so. They can say something in front of the elders and another thing in front of members or their families. This trademark of honesty is evident in all aspects of their lives – job, church, and families (where they must be a faithful “one woman man” with no divided affections after marriage). Ruling their house well is an important criterion because the spouse or children can disqualify a person from being a deacon. Very importantly, a deacon must not be greedy of filthy lucre. A person who is greedy for gain will serve dishonestly to benefit himself, not God’s church. The last aspect I want to touch on is that the deacon must be “grave” (1 Tim 3:8), i.e., they must be honourable people who are worthy of respect. This respect is not because of their church office or their position in the world but is about their character. Such Christian character should be something that others recognise and command honour.  

I thank God for the men who are willing to stand as deacons in this round of elections. They have been tested to be men who serve diligently. It is a ministry of service. But at the same time, God gives us the encouragement that “they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 3:13). It is an important office because it is an office in God’s church. I pray that though they stand with great trepidation in their hearts, they will do it joyfully, honestly, and to the best of the ability that God gifts them with, knowing that even giving our best is not worthy of the High King that we serve. 

Yours in our Lord’s service,