In Philippians 1:1, among those Paul addressed were “ deacons .” Deacons comprise a unique office and function in the local church. God organized the church to have deacons—special servants to carry out certain tasks within the work and organization of the local church.
Humanity has craved power. Jesus observed this as a problem of the Gentiles:
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many [Matt. 20:25-28].
Yet, Jesus recognized servanthood as greatness. Therefore, deacons are special because of their ministry in the kingdom.
While some deacons in the brotherhood have a title, but no job assignments, others have job assignments but are not carrying out their duties. In each extreme case, deacons and the congregation must cooperate to fulfill each role in the congregation.
The term deacon simply means “servant” or “minister.” Their role pertaining to leadership is unique in that on one hand, they are not leaders. While they must have certain characteristics to serve in a particular function (cf. 1 Tim. 3:8-13), they are simply servants with responsibilities. On the other hand, they are leaders, because their responsibility (and the leadership inherent within such responsibility) makes them leaders. For example, in Acts 6, the apostles encouraged the congregation in Jerusalem to select seven “servants” to be responsible for the daily ministry to the widows, solving the problem that had arisen in the process. Did they serve? Of course, they did. Yet, did they lead? The position in which the apostles placed them inherently carried with it responsibility, and with such, an amount of leadership. Such is also true concerning elders and deacons in the local church setting.
To show such is true, deacons are to involve the congregation in their work, not simply do the work themselves. Proper delegation is very important in not only fulfilling the work of the church, but also executing proper organization in the entire body of Christ working as a single unit. When Paul described the church as a body in First Corinthians 12, he did so recognizing the importance of every single individual member. Therefore, elders, deacons and ministers are not to do all the work of the church. Deacons especially must involve the members in their work.
Deacons must exercise responsibility. One cannot be a deacon without understanding responsibility and dependability. The church will greatly benefit when congregations appoint deacons who understand these and exercise them in fulfilling their appointed roles.
Therefore, while the seven men of Acts 6 were not necessarily deacons, they do serve as a model for such an office. When the church properly utilizes deacons and they work diligently under the supervision of the elders, great things will happen! “ And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith ” (Acts 6:7).