What are the biblical responsibilities of a deacon?
According to the New Testament, deacons are to provide material and logistical support to the church.
- Deacons are servants by definition. The Greek word diakonos, from which we get our English word deacon, means “servant.” For example, it often refers to those who wait tables.
- Whereas elders are required to be able to teach (1 Tim. 3:2) and are said to shepherd and oversee the church (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2), deacons are not given these responsibilities. This means that deacons are not those who authoritatively oversee the church.
- In Acts 6 the apostles lead the church in Jerusalem to select seven men to oversee the daily distribution of food so that it did not consume their energy and distract them from “prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). While these men are never called “deacons,” it seems that this same basic division of labor applies to the differences between elders and deacons. Thus, whereas elders teach and lead the church, deacons serve the church by caring for its practical needs.
- The way deacons function may vary from church to church based on the needs and opportunities of each church, but in every church deacons should seek to facilitate the church’s ministry by caring for its physical needs in a way that promotes unity and godliness.