HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
Leadership in the Church
An Examination of Offices
The New Testament mentions a wide variety of leaders in the church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, bishops, elders and deacons. What are these offices? Are they commanded for the church today? Let’s examine the evidence, starting with the titles given in Ephesians 4:11: “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers.”
The word diakonos means “assistant” — someone who works to help others. The word is used in a general sense to describe apostles, preachers, servants and other workers. It is used in a more specialized meaning in Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13 to denote an office in the church.
The word diakonos and the verb diakoneo often mean manual labour. 1 Peter 4:11-12 makes a contrast between those who serve by speaking and those who serve (diakoneo). Those who have been given a gift of (manual) ministry (Diakonia) should use that gift (Romans 12:7). The seven men of Acts 6:3 have often been understood as deacons (although they are not explicitly given that title) because they served by diakoneo — waiting on tables (verse 2). Physical service has traditionally formed the core of the duties of a deacon.
We are given a list of qualifications for deacons, but not a list of their duties. The qualifications suggest that deacons may have had some teaching and ruling functions. “They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith” (1 Timothy 3:9). This concern for doctrinal accuracy may have simply been part of the concern for a good example (verse 8), but it may also suggest that deacons helped teach.
Deacons must manage their children and households well (verse 12). The same qualification was given for bishops in verse 4, with the explanation given that bishops must manage the church (verse 5). If the same rationale applies to deacons, it implies that deacons helped direct the church. However, the New Testament does not mandate the specific duties of deacons. The church today is free to assign duties based on current needs.
CONTINUES TOMORROW …