Why do we have Elders and Deacons?

We thank God that we recently concluded our annual congregational meeting in an orderly fashion. We also praise Him for blessing us with successful election and re-election of elders and deacons to serve in the church.But why do we have elders and deacons? The doctrine of the plurality of leadership is a necessary ingredient to a healthy church. The Bible calls for a plurality of leadership, which requires two or more elders and deacons to fulfill those tasks which if not done would keep the pastors/elders away from the study of God's word. Each church should strive to develop and mentor men to fulfill this divine office of leadership and for the governance of the church. The Bible maintains a distinction between the roles of an elder and a deacon. Keith A. Sherlin of Essential Christianity draws the following distinction. Elders serve by governing the church in Christ's name. They received this task when Christ entrusted the apostles and their successors with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:19). Pastors/Elders are thus responsible for the spiritual well-being of God's people. They must provide true preaching and teaching, regular celebration of the sacraments, and faithful counsel and discipline while keeping in confidence those matters entrusted to them. And they must promote fellowship and hospitality among believers, ensure good order in the church, and stimulate witness to all people. Deacons serve by showing mercy to the church and to all people. They received this task in the early church when the apostles designated special persons for the work of mercy (Acts 6; 2 Cor.8-9). In Christ's name the deacons relieve victims of injustice. By this they show that Christians live by the Spirit of the kingdom, fervently desiring to give life the shape of things to come. Deacons are therefore called to assess needs, promote stewardship and hospitality, collect and disburse resources for benevolence, and develop programs of assistance. They are also called to speak words of Christian encouragement. Thus in word as well as deed they demonstrate the care of the Lord himself. We also, rightly, proclaim and teach that the Bible alone is the rule of faith; and thus we would expect that it would provide the main structure and the essential essence of how a church should function and how it should be governed. Those who subscribe to the sufficiency of Scripture must realize that Scripture has given to us all we need to construct a healthy, viable, biblical, and effective form of government for a New Testament Church. The Bible gives us the qualifications of church leaders (see 1 Tim 3: 1-10, Titus 1: 5-9) and some clear principles for healthy church government. One of those principles rests within the concept of a plurality of leadership. This is why we have elders and deacons. I want to end with a word of exhortation: elders and deacons are appointed by God to serve His Church. They need to be supported and upheld in prayer by the flock they serve – and that is the duty of the flock.

Pastor Robert Chew