Article by Jake LeFave
One of the areas we’re excited to grow into in 2022 is in the areas of identifying and appointing deacons to serve the Christ City community here in East Vancouver. For some of you, the language of deacons might be new. Below you’ll find some basic information about what a deacon is, who can be a deacon, and the specific need for deacons at Christ City East Van.
What is a Deacon?
The word Deacon is derived from the Greek διάκονος (meaning waiter, servant, administrator). And while every member of the church is to be a servant (consider, Philippians 2, as an example: Jesus’s humility and servant role is something all of us are to imitate), not every member of the church is to serve in the office of deacon.
Deacons are officers of the Church who are specifically called to serve the church with their time, energy, and resources for the building up of the church. Deacons may be employed by the church as a staff member but this is not a prerequisite or an expectation. Deacons are not paid for their office of Deacon.
The main function of Deacons is to facilitate and manage the details and various tasks within the church, freeing up the Pastors and Elders to be devoted to the ministry of the word and prayer. This is why the role of deacon was established in the first place. Look at Acts 6:1 – 6
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
In this passage, 1) deacons were appointed by the elders, 2) to serve in a particular area of need, 3) in order to allow the Apostles to focus on preaching the word of God. This has nothing to do with a hierarchy of value, but a best use of giftedness within the church. God has appointed some within the church to teach and preach the Bible (and who are also servants, by the way!), and some to serve through practical means like the organization and distribution of goods to those in need (as in Acts 6).
Apart from Acts 6, the Bible doesn’t say much about the specific function of a deacon in the local church, aside from the fact that they are to serve in an area of need, caring for people in a way that unifies and strengthens the church, and advances the mission of God. As we seek to implement this office in our own local context, we realize that the functions and roles of deacons may change from time to time as the church matures and grows, but the baseline expectation remains the same: deacons are here to serve.
Who Can Be a Deacon?
In Acts 6 we see that “seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom” are chosen for the task. As we interpret Scripture, one thing we need to be careful about is recognizing when something is descriptive (telling us what happened) rather than prescriptive (telling us what must happen). In Acts 6, though there are principles here for us to learn from, the passage is a narrative—it’s part of a descriptive story about what happened at that time.
Paul, on the other hand, writes to Timothy about how to choose deacons. This letter was written by Paul for a particular purpose—to help Timothy as he pastored the church in Ephesus. In this letter, Paul gives many instructions that are helpful for us today in our own churches—including the requirements for deacons serving in the church:
Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:8 – 13)
The qualifications that Paul highlights are these:
- Dignified (1 Tim 3:8)
- A deacon is someone who has earned the respect of people inside and outside the church.
- Integrity of speech (1 Tim 3:8)
- A deacon is not double-tongued but can be trusted to speak and intend the same thing (alignment of heart and speech).
- A deacon will not say one thing to one person and another thing to another person, but rather has credibility when speaking and is not two-faced.
- Not addicted to much wine (1 Tim 3:8)
- A deacon does not overindulge in alcohol, and avoids behaviours that fuel addictive responses.
- Spirit Dependence (Eph 5:18)
- A deacon will reflect a life dependent on the Spirit of God not having patterns of dependence on created things, overindulgence, or self-medicating with substances.
- Financial integrity (1 Tim 3:8)
- A deacon is not greedy for dishonest gain and is financially content and upright.
- True to the Gospel (1 Tim 3:9)
- A deacon who “hold[s] the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” is one who knows with clarity how the gospel shapes them in their new identity and causes them to live a life of worship in their everyday lives.
- Blameless (1 Tim 3:10)
- A deacon will humbly submit to a testing process and will prove to be “above reproach” in the character qualities expected of a deacon.
Female Deacons (and wives of deacons)*
- Dignified (1 Tim 3:11)
- They are someone who has earned the respect of people inside and outside the church.
- Not slanderers (1 Tim 3:11)
- They do not speak lies of others, gossip about them or defame their character.
- Sober-minded (1 Tim 3:11)
- They are temperate, sensible, and stable.
- Faithful in all things (1 Tim 3:11)
- They have proven trustworthy over time to handle any task they’ve been entrusted with.
- Devoted to his wife (1 Tim 3:12)**
- His marriage illustrates Christ’s love for his church.
- He must love his own wife exclusively with his mind, will, emotions and body rejecting inappropriate or compromising relationships with all other women.
- He must be sexually pure, meaning he is free from any kind of marital unfaithfulness and is free from habits that may lead to marital unfaithfulness.
- Manages his children well
- A deacon’s primary testing ground is his home. A man who manages his home well may be qualified as deacon, but a man who does not is disqualified.
- This includes making sure his family is provided for spiritually, physically, emotionally, and financially (not necessarily meaning that he is the primary bread-winner).
- His home reflects the picture of Christ and the Church in that he is the head who loves and sacrificially serves his wife as Christ does the Church (Eph 5:22-33).
We take the office of Deacon seriously at Christ City Church. The office of Deacon is appointed to women or men who meet the qualifications, submit to the process, and fulfill the expectations as laid out in this document. The process will entail:
- elder affirmation of someone’s calling as a deacon,
- congregational approval formalized by a congregational vote.
Serving as a Deacon is not a popularity contest, or an opportunity to get some recognition. It is a church office that bears honour and responsibility and must be approached with a sense of humility.
“And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.” 1 Timothy 3:10
The Need for Deacons at Christ City East Van
It is becoming more and more apparent that we need deacons to meet specific needs at Christ City East Van. Currently, we’re looking to identify and appoint members for three deacon roles (click the link for descriptions outlining the role of each of those deacon positions):
What we are asking each of you at this time is to begin to pray through the relevant passages of Scripture, quoted above, to begin to seek God’s will together as a church. If you sense that God might be leading you to serve as a deacon in any of these areas (or perhaps in another area that you would like to suggest to us as elders), then please reach out to us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be sure to forward it to Heath as well. Also, we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.
In September, we will have an info session and Q&A about deacons outside of our Sunday gathering, so stay tuned for more information. Our desire is to move toward a healthy, intentional, fruitful deacon ministry at Christ City Church together as a church family.
Please be praying for us always that we might lead Christ’s church well, in a way that pleases God and brings Him much glory in East Vancouver and beyond.
On behalf of the East Van Elders,
*It is expected that the female deacon (and wife of a male deacon) be devoted to her husband as well.
**A deacon is a “one-woman man,” that is, a man who is faithful to his wife, if married. This isn’t to say that an unmarried man, a widower, a divorced or a remarried man is disqualified. Paul was an apostle, and was single, after all.