Thursday, November 22, 2007

Elders & Deacons, Part 2

View the updated and more complete version here and the downloadable take-home version here.

The common questions of the church today is "who should be running the church?" and "what should our leadership look like?". By and large many pastors have been turned into deacons, spending 80% if their time doing acts of benevolence, while a large number of churches have deacon boards acting as elders, when they're not biblically qualified to do so, ruling the church and rarely diving into benevolence.

In part one we learned that deacons and elders are two different offices; one was designed to rule and one was designed to serve. So, in part two I want to take a very light look into the roles of elders and deacons just by looking at their name.

The Name Of An Elder
"From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them, '. . .Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers , to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.'" (Acts 20:17-18a,28, NASB)
This is not the only passage that contain defining points of what the role of an elder is, but this passage makes it clear that the elder is an overseer and a shepherd. So let's start by looking at the Greek to see what the meaning of these words are and what it tells us about the functions of an elder:
  1. Elder, πρεσβύτερος (transliterated as presbuteros), simply means someone advanced in years, an old man.
  2. Overseer, ἐπίσκοπος (transliterated as episkopos), sometimes translated as bishop, means a superintendent and guardian.
  3. Shepherd, ποιμαίνω (transliterated as poimainô), means to act as a shepherd, to care, to rule, and to tend.
The Name Of A Deacon
Unlike elder, the word deacon is not given multiple names that define it's role, but it has one that is very powerful:
  1. Deacon, διάκονος (transliterated as diakonos), mean a servant or minister.
What Does A Name Teach Us?
Practically everything! We learned that an elder means:
  1. . . .an old man because older men are supposed to be respected, wise, and full of experience (something not always true of today; but certainly true of an older man who has devoted himself to Christ). . .
  2. . . .a superintendent because they're supposed to direct and manage the work of the church. . .
  3. . . .a guardian because they need to be able to shoot wolves. . .
  4. . . .a shepherd because they need to huddle the sheep together, watch over them, and guard them. . .
  5. . . .care and tend for the people because because people are hurt and broken, and this especially means going to the places no one else wants to go. . .
  6. . . .and rule over the people because God loves us enough to send some who are gifted through His Spirit in such ways to direct us to places in our relationship with Christ that we could have never imagined; we need to be ruled (Hebrews 13:17).
We learned that an deacon means:
  1. . . .a servant because they're in service to someone else, in submission to other leadership, a heart to wash the feet of others. . .
  2. . . .and a minister because they are the representatives of Christ, the hands and feet.
Service is something the church must do more of. One of the church's primary functions is supposed to be about serving one another. But the work of serving is extremely time consuming and if done as the church should do it is a never ending demand. This is why deacons were created so that elders would be free to do their other obligations (Acts 6:4) such as teaching and discipleship.

Also see Elders & Deacons (Part 1) or Elders & Deacons (Part 3).


Rick Lawrenson said...

Thou speakest heresy!

TerryKM said...

*stops. . .looks. . .looks again. . .*

It's so hard to catch a joke on here sometimes, but I'm assuming your picking fun at those that would not be in favor of this little Bible study (those who love tradition more than God's Word). . .rather than I've said something truly wrong.

Rick Lawrenson said...

Since ours is a baptist church led by a body of elders, I figured you'd see my tongue in my cheek.

From another heretic.