CHURCH GOVERNANCE PROCEDURES
We believe that:
- Christ is the head of every local church. There is no human head of the church.
- The Bible is the only written creed for each local church, rather than a man-made written creed.
- Each local church is autonomous and self-governing. No outside interference from others.
- The Bible uses Elder, Presbyter, Overseer, Bishop, Shepherd, Pastor interchangeably and they all refer to a single office in the church.
- Local churches appoint their own plurality of elders using 1 Timothy 3, and Titus 1 as guidelines for the qualifications.
- Elders have authority only over the members of the local church, not members from outside congregations.
- Accountability provides protection for everyone
Deacons and Elders Are the Two Distinct Offices in a New Testament Church
The Role of Deacons
In the original language, the word, Deacon, means Servant.
The title itself, is as descriptive as any job description could be. In the Bible, words have meanings and the word “deacon” means servant.
The Early Deacons Were Selected for Their Spiritual Qualifications.
1st Timothy 3 and Acts 6 expound the qualifications for the office of deacons; the later contains what could fairly be called the “core qualifications”:
- “Men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” — Acts 6:3
- “And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” — Acts 6:5Often, when someone is discussed as a possible deacon one hears a remark such as, “He attends regularly and is a good giver.” But God is looking at men with an internal dynamic, which cannot be determined in a superficial way.
Deacons Are to Be Capable of Serving the Lord in Spiritual Ways.The original seven deacons were people who were able to serve the Lord in ways which were more spiritual in nature than merely delivering food. Stephen was a man of spiritual power: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8 NJKV). Philip was not only a deacon, but also was gifted in evangelism (Acts 8:5-7).
The Office of Deacon Requires a Firm Grasp of Sound Doctrine:
A church is content oriented. It is a doctrinally driven community, built upon truth. Every member should have this approach in this fellowship; leaders such as deacons, not less but, more so. “They must possess the mystic secret of the faith [Christian truth as hidden from ungodly men] with a clear conscience” Acts 6:9 (Amplified)
In the second through fifth centuries, deacons were the real agents of the charity provided through the church, providing for widows and orphans. They visited the sick and, as early as the third century, had deacon family ministry plans. They visited the martyrs in prison. Deacons helped to train new converts. They kept watch over the church members, reporting to the bishop any who seemed about to fall away. They attempted to restore the excommunicated. Deacons carried out administrative assignments given them by their bishops and met daily to receive instructions from him. Failure to carry out their assignments was cause for removal. If they had the authority from a bishop and a presbyter or bishops were present, they could baptize. They also assisted with the Lord’s Supper. (Compiled from Charles W. Deweese, The Emerging Role of Deacons, Broadman Press, 1979, pages 12-15)
The purpose of deacons is to serve the Lord by
- conducting the caring ministry of the church –
- doing the work of benevolence,
- visiting the sick,
- being alert to the spiritual needs of the congregation – and
- by promoting unity within the church, thus freeing the pastor(s) to focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word, and
- facilitating the spread of the gospel.
How to Know if Your Church is Off Track
Howard Foshee listed three evidences that deacons are operating under the concept of a board:
- When all major recommendations from church operations and church committees are screened by the deacons whether they should go to the congregation.
- When the pastor and staff members are directly responsible to the deacons rather than to the church.
- When the use or expenditure of major church resources, such as facilities and fiancés, must first be approved by the deacons.
(The Ministry of the Deacon, Howard B. Foshee, Convention Press, 1968, page 33)
The Presence of Deacons Should Advance the Unity of a Church
When the Apostles laid out the plan for the creation of this office, “The saying pleased the whole multitude” (Acts 6:5 NKJV). The complaints about the benevolence ministry stopped. And the complaints were by the Greek speaking Jews, the Hebrew speaking Jews obviously bent over backwards to preserve the church’s unity, for all the men selected had Greek names. It is still true today: Any time a church has deacons who are properly doing their jobs; the church is more likely to be at unity.
The Presence of Deacons Should Advance the Cause of Evangelism
The immediate impact of the creation of the office of deacon was to eliminate the controversy in the church and to get the church back on course in fulfilling its mission. The Bible says that, “Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:8 NKJV). Again, it is still true. When a church has deacons who are in God’s will, the cause of world evangelization will be aided.