How do elders relate to deacons?
Since deacons function like elders in many churches, the relationship between them can get confused. But we can see how they should relate to one another by again considering their distinct biblical responsibilities:
- Elders are to shepherd the flock by authoritative biblical teaching and oversight (1 Tim. 3:2; 1 Pet 5:2).
- Deacons are to care for the physical and fiscal needs of the church, to create unity in the body, and to support the work of the pastors and elders. The word “deacon” means servant, and the roots of the office seem to lie in the need for a group of people to care for the physical needs of the church.
- The deacons do their work, in other words, so that the elders can devote themselves to the ministry of the word, prayer, and oversight (Acts 6:1-6; Acts 20). This means:
- The elders and deacons are not like two houses of legislature, who work together to govern the church. Deacons don’t provide oversight over the whole church and its spiritual well-being. The elders do.
- The deacons then serve the church by carrying out the vision of the elders. They may be charged with administrative oversight over a particular area of the church’s life, but they are given the charge in order to follow the general instruction and guidance of the elders.
- Ultimately, deacons are called to submit to the leadership of the elders like every other church member is (Heb. 13:7; 17).
(Some of this material has been adapted from By Whose Authority by Mark Dever, 38-39)