Bible Q&A – Why Are Some Congregations Doing Away With Deacons?

Question: I am a member of the church and I’m starting to see where many in the brotherhood are doing away with the role of Deacon. I know that other than the qualification of Deacon, deacon/deaconess is not mentioned much in the Bible. I would love your thoughts on this. I think the role of deacon needs to stay in the church and I’m not liking what I’m seeing or hearing. Thanks, Mark D.

Thanks for writing. I, too, have seen this trend taking place in some congregations across the country. There’s really several points to consider when looking at this topic. Let’s look at some possibilities (some valid, some not).

Some congregations might be doing away with their deacons because they aren’t qualified.

Sometimes congregations get in a hurry to select elders or deacons and don’t concentrate as much as they should on whether or not the people are qualified. The Bible does indeed give qualifications for a deacon, and if a man doesn’t meet those qualifications, he has no business fulfilling that role.

Deacons likewise must be honorable, not double-tongued, not giving-heed to much wine, not covetous; holding the mystery of the faith in a clean conscience. And also, let these first be proved; then let them minister, if they are irreproachable. Their wives likewise must be honorable, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be husbands of one wife, governing their children and their own houses well. For* those who have ministered well acquire for themselves a good grade and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 3:8-13, Modern Literal Version)

Some congregations might be doing away with the deacons because there is no work for them to do.

The word deacon means a servant, but it stresses his role, work, or function. The root of the word comes from an old Greek word which means “to run an errand.” When there is no specific work for a deacon, you have a servant with no role. Some smaller congregations had a deacon whose role was to take care of the educational material for the children’s classes. But what happens when there are no more children? When something like this is the case, it wouldn’t be wrong for that person to no longer have the title of deacon because he’s no longer got a specific job to fulfill (outside of the roles that are universal to every Christian).

Some congregations are doing away with their deacons because they think deacons are not necessary.

Unlike the first two, this isn’t a valid reason to do away with deacons in a congregation. God divinely ordained that congregations should have deacons (literally, servants or ministers). The apostle Paul wrote to the saints in Phillipi “with the elders and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). He also was inspired by God to give qualifications for deacons—something God wouldn’t have given if deacons are unnecessary.

Some congregations are doing away with their deacons to circumvent the Scriptures.

There are some congregations that have several women “ministers” on staff. At one point, some of these same congregations were pushing for deaconesses—women deacons. But the firestorm of controversy erupted, and most of them backed off. Instead, they just started hiring women staff members and called them things like “children’s education minister” or “senior members’ minister” or something like that. Remember what the word “deacon” actually means? It’s a servant or a minister with a specific job/role/function apart from the normal Christians’ work.

In order to try to stop the controversy, some congregations have dropped the title “deacon” completely from their work. Each person who would normally be called a “deacon” is now called a specialized “minister.” This way, they figure, no one can say that they’ve got female deacons because they don’t have any deacons at all—at least, they don’t use the word deacon. Even though it’s the same thing.

Some congregations have stopped using the word elders, in favor of the word shepherds. There’s nothing wrong with this, just like there’s nothing wrong with using the word ministers instead of deacons. But let’s not do it with the purpose of trying to circumvent God’s word. Having female ministers in the church is the same as having deaconesses in the church—changing the name you use doesn’t somehow make it right in God’s eyes.

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