sheep in pasture

The Office of Deacon

The word deacon is derived from the Greek, diakonos, meaning servant. Deacons are trusted servants, helpers, assistants, and administrators within a well established framework that ministers to many needs within a congregation. The OPC Book of Church Order (BCO), Form of Government (FG), Chapter XI describes the office of the Deacon and his responsibilities as:

1. The Scriptures designate the office of deacon as distinct and perpetual in the church. Deacons are called to show forth the compassion of Christ in a manifold ministry of mercy toward the saints and strangers on behalf of the church. To this end they exercise, in the fellowship of the church, a recognized stewardship of care and of gifts for those in need or distress. This service is distinct from that of rule in the church.

2. Those chosen to this office should be of great faith, exemplary lives, honest repute, brotherly love, warm sympathies, and sound judgment.

3. In order to facilitate the performance of the duties of their office the deacons of each particular church shall be constituted a board of deacons. The board shall choose its own officers from its membership.

4. The board shall oversee the ministry of mercy in the church and shall collect and disburse funds for the relief of the needy. Other forms of service for the church may also be committed to the deacons.

5. In the discharge of their duties the deacons shall be under the supervision and authority of the session. Accordingly, the board shall keep a record of its proceedings and of all funds and their distribution, and shall submit its records to the session once every three months, and at other times upon request of the session. If it seems to be for the best interest of the church, the session may require the board of deacons to reconsider any action, or may, if necessary, overrule it.

6. It is desirable that the session and the board of deacons meet together at regular intervals to confer on matters of common responsibility.

7. In a church in which there are no deacons, the duties of the office shall devolve upon the session.

It is helpful to understand the Covenantal provision of deaconal care of God’s people from the earliest days. The Lord providentially provides for his people both in respect of their earthly needs, as well for their spiritual needs. The great spiritual need all men share has been the same from the first Adam – we are commanded to walk before the Lord in fidelity and without blame. As a consequence of our fallen condition, the maintenance of fidelity necessitates great effort of nurture, self-discipline, and externally applied discipline where needed. All we are needed for body and soul are provided1, even when the saints fail to recognize this, or are in the middle of serious troubles.

Qualifications for the Office of Deacon

Deacons are to be mature and respected members of the congregation who have been tested by the qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:8–13 before being ordained. They must have the skills needed, the inclination to do the work needed, and be both good stewards as well as willingly be led.

It seems proper to consider the mention2 of the gifts of healing, helping, administrating, as being part of the work of Deacons. Those who worked at helping God’s people had to do so with great zeal, fidelity, and in order to be respected were out of place if they did not have a good3 reputation. The elements of a good reputation includes: credibility, reverence, being of temperate disposition, having a great testimony in his labors, honest, demonstrating a holiness of walk of life, and more.

Deacons must be living examples of fidelity of faith. Holding to the mystery of the faith means that they must understand the teachings of Jesus (doctrine), and be able to explain them in each fitting circumstance into which his ministry may take him. This thus excludes a recent convert from holding the office of Deacon.

In the works of office, as the Deacon interacts with the congregation, he is effectively the eyes and ears of the Session. It is his duty to minister to the people of God, to be aware of their earthly and spiritual needs, to minister to both as he is able, and to engage the Session in respect of deeper spiritual occasions that require additional care. In every way, the ministry of the Deacon mirrors and compliments the work of the elders.

A deacon must be a good manager of his time, must be efficient in management of limited resources, and must be conscious in his labors that he represents the ministry of physical comfort as a good steward of the things the Lord entrusts to him.

1 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Leviticus 17:11

2 1 Corinthians 12:28

3 Proverbs 22:1