Without a doubt, deacons were indispensable to the early church in Jerusalem. And they still are today! In both times these godly men are God’s agents to keep the church away from detours.
Still, questions exist, and several came in this week during our service. But since we weren’t able to answer all of them live, here’s the remainder of the questions with some insight. No doubt this will spark some good discussion as all six of these questions will have varying opinions (but since this is my blog, you get mine). Maybe mine will simply light the fuse of conversation…we’ll see.
1. Is the word “deacon” ever used to describe a woman in the New Testament?
Yes. Phebe is described with this word (Romans 16:1). I personally believe this word was used to describe her character, not her office, which is partly why I don’t see official “deaconesses” in the New Testament. Admittedly, she very well could have held this title and office, but it seems that if she had, the New Testament writers would have seen fit to give us further guidelines and descriptions for this office, just as they did for men who are elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3).
2. Seems like a lot of churches use the word “deacon” to refer to both the office of elder/pastor and deacon. Is that just an issue of semantics or an actual problem?
You are quite perceptive in your observation. And in my opinion, it is problematic. Maybe not sinful or dysfunctional, but for sure a potential area for potholes. Granted — if a set of “deacons” are exercising godly plurality and shepherding/teaching, you’ll probably end up okay, even if the semantics are off. But in that case, why not just call them what the Bible calls them — elders/pastors!?
I would always recommend clarity over obscurity, and distinguishing between elders/pastors and deacons in name and function is a good move for any church.
3. People claim there is no clear-cut way to do church government (i.e., elders and deacons) and that its really just an issue of preference. Is that really the case?
I don’t think so. While there may be lots of freedom surrounding elders/pastors and deacons (how many, when they meet, etc.), I don’t think a church serious about following the pattern of the New Testament can avoid the clear direction given in multiple places in Scripture: elders/pastors and deacons are the two offices of the church, and they lead and serve the body of Christ.
4. Could the complaint/division in Acts be related to to the division we have today of people who think every one should carry guns and those who don’t?
I don’t think so. Though the issue in Acts 6 has cultural factors (i.e., Hellenistic vs. Hebrew), it was rooted in biblical expectations founded in the the Mosaic Law — widows were to be cared for. So when there was a complaint, action was necessary. Perhaps this is why, later in 1 Timothy, Paul restated the protocol and procedure for taking care of widows. So both early and later, there is Scripture in play regarding the issue at hand.
This would not be case specifically with guns. There is freedom to hold to differing opinions regarding this issue, so to conclude that these are analogous situations is not a proper deduction.
5. I have read that the “widows” issue was just the tip of the iceberg in Jerusalem and was a symptom of other issues. Do you agree?
No. Why? 1) Because Scripture doesn’t give any sense of that in any of the surrounding context, and 2) the result of dealing with the widow issue was actually greater growth in and to the church.
6. What is your theory on no women deacons or no women elders at First Family?
Perhaps the questioner meant “why” not “what,” as the wording assumes our positions. Furthermore, this seems to be a question about what our church believes. So let me take a shot at this from that angle.
Regarding women elders, we feel the Bible is quite clear on this and commands that, regarding the office of elder and the teaching of God’s Word to the assembled church, men are to embrace this responsibility (1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Timothy 2:11-12). I recommend you check out our position paper on this very topic as it contains more detail and Scriptural reasoning; you can access it at www.firstfamilyministries.com.
Concerning women as deaconesses, though our church currently has none (perhaps because we see Romans 16:1 as a character trait and not an office description), we actually hold this issue rather loosely and have no official policy on it. So while we haven’t embraced the title practically, we don’t consider it unbiblical. We would, instead, say it is an area of freedom and we have elected, thus far, to structure this local body without the term deaconesses.