This article is about the necessary qualifications of deacons.

Source: New Horizons, 1996. 2 pages.

Choosing Deacons

When more help is needed, it is time to elect one or more additional deacons. But how should a session evaluate the potential candidacy of a man for this office? We should start with the godly men of the congregation. The Form of Government requires us ordinarily to look only at those who have lived among us as members of the congregation for at least a year. This gives us enough time to observe a man and see how he walks before the Lord.

We should consider his church attendance. Is he usually present at the regular services of the church: Sunday school, morning worship, evening worship, and midweek services? I would be willing not to insist on attendance at midweek services, since only Sabbath services are mandated in Scripture. Attendance at a midweek service, however, does indicate a real zeal for prayer, Bible study, and Christian fellowship. Nonattendance may indicate a lack of these qualities. Attendance at Sabbath services does indicate a person's love for the fellowship of the saints, for Scripture teaching, and for public worship. The Psalms teach that a godly believer loves the people of the Lord, loves the Word (or law) of God, and loves to be at the public worship of God.

Another thing we should look for in a man is how he deals with problems. It is helpful if he is married and has children. This is not a requirement for the office of deacon, or else Paul would disqualify himself and Jesus, but it does help us to see how he deals with tension and other problems. It also allows us to see how he raises children (one thing Paul says to look for).

We should also see if the man is involved with the ministry of the church. Is it his inclination to do the many things that must be done around the church? Is he a man who serves as a spiritual duty and not simply because he has been elected to an office? Is he willing to help in the care of the physical plant? Does he volunteer to move chairs, mow the lawn, etc.? Where are the helpers? It is among these men where we should look for possible deacons.

Paul, in 1 Timothy 3, details what has just been suggested. He begins his list of the characteristics of a potential deacon (1 Timothy 3:10) with “reverence.” This means he has a proper attitude toward God and the worship of God. He loves the Word of God and the public worship of God. He is a man of prayer. Prayer is his habit and custom. He may not be skilled in loading public prayer, but he must be faithful in the privilege and duties of prayer.

Paul tells us that a potential deacon must not be double-tongued. He must be a man who pursues truth in what he says. Such a man does not say one thing and do another. He must be a man who does not speak in a friendly manner to us (and it is a Christian duty to do so), but speaks differently behind our backs.

Next, he must be a man who is not given to excessive consumption of alcohol. I believe that wine is addressed among life's possible excesses because excessive alcoholic consumption constitutes another lord in one's life. A deacon must be focused on the Lord.

Also, a deacon must not be greedy for money. I believe this requirement is set forth because a deacon will probably be handling the church's money, just as did the first deacons mentioned in Acts 6. How does one tell if a man is greedy? This is not always easy to discern. One indication will be how much he gives to support the ministries of the church.

I believe the Bible requires Christians to tithe. A nontither, therefore, has some kind of financial or educational problem. Perhaps he needs proper instruction on tithing. Perhaps he is or has been unwise in how he manages his own funds. If so, he is not a good candidate for the office. Perhaps he does not tithe because he is holding back from supporting the Lord's work in favor of his own personal desires. If so, he is greedy. But it is very difficult to tell if a man is greedy.

Paul also tells us that a potential deacon must hold the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. To me this means he must be a self-conscious Calvinist. He must hold to this faith that is in a sense a mystery. This does not mean that the entire faith is a mystery, but that although there are many very clear parts of the faith, there are some aspects that are beyond man's ability to put together logically. An example of this is the Trinity. This doctrine has been a stumbling stone for many unbelievers because they cannot make it agree with their logic. There are many other such doctrines.

A potential deacon must be a man who is willing to submit his own thoughts to the thoughts of God as set forth in the Scripture. He must grasp the basics of the faith, even though those basics are a mystery.

Paul tells us that a potential deacon must be the husband of one wife. I understand this to mean that he may not be a polygamist. If married, he may have only one wife.

Finally, Paul tells us that a potential deacon's children (if he has any) must outwardly adhere to the faith.

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