Last night, we had an ordination service for three men who were chosen to serve as deacons in the life of our church. The Greek word διάκονος simply means servant. A deacon is one of two offices in the church (elder and deacon) and is designed to do two primary things: (1) free up the elders to give themselves fully to the Word of God and prayer, and (2) to make sure the practical ministry needs of the church are being met on a corporate and individual level.
As we consider the office of deacon, it becomes apparent that for the sake of unity, joy, and growth of the local church – God ordained this office for His glory. I recall meeting with a group of pastors a few years ago and one man was taking a very negative tone toward the office of deacon. He told many stories of how they had caused division and problem in the church he served as pastor. This man went on to say that they had decided not to have deacons in the church he now serves in order to prevent such problems. As I left that meeting, I was reminded of the need for caution in making such decisions. We can’t throw out the baby of blessing with the bathwater of sin. The local church needs deacons.
In Acts 6:1-7, we see the early church growth pains. From 120 in Acts 2 to approximately 20,000 by the time you reach Acts 6, and it should come as no surprise that division and problems soon followed. The Greek speaking Jews were complaining that their widows were being neglected in the care of the church. Therefore, there was a division between the Greek and Hebrew speaking Jews. The solution centered upon the establishment of the office of deacon. Although the official title and qualifications of the deacon office isn’t mentioned, that’s natural as the church was developing and growing. The fact remains, the men were set aside and recognized as occupying an official role of service within the church. What we learn from this passage is that faithful deacons are in many ways front line soldiers and the catalyst for God glorifying ministry. Notice these two big goals that these faithful deacons accomplished in the early church:
While the early church was divided over membership care, the apostles (who were serving as elders) could not pray and preach the Word faithfully. As the apostles said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables” (Acts 6:2). Once the deacons were appointed and set apart for that service role, the church apparently was brought back to a state of unity. This is heavily implied by the statement in Acts 6:7 – “And the Word of God continued to increase.” The apostles who were once leaving behind prayer and preaching to serve the tables were now freed up to give themselves fully to the proclamation of the gospel. The Word of God increased. Mark Dever, in his book titled, The Deliberate Church, writes:
Deacons…serve to care for the physical and financial needs of the church, and they do so in a way that heals divisions, brings unity under the Word, and supports the leadership of the elders. Without this practical service of the deacons, the elders will not be freed to devote themselves to praying and serving the Word to the people. Elders need deacons to serve practically, and deacons need elders to lead spiritually. 
Multiplication of the Church
As the natural outflow of the increase of the Word of God in preaching and evangelism, the number of disciples began to grow. First, the apostles were preaching the Word and unbelievers were hearing it and coming to faith in Christ. Secondly, the church that was once inwardly focused and divided became upward focused and unified. They were able to hear the message of God proclaimed without divisive distractions that once stifled their zeal for evangelism. Once the church was unified – their evangelism increased and the number of disciples greatly increased.
As the church began to grow once again and the church was unified, it even caught the attention of the priests. Once committed to the religious establishment of Judaism, they came to see that Jesus is the Messiah – the Christ of God. They were willing to walk away from their post as a priest and bow their knee to Jesus Christ as Lord. We must not overlook the reality that this wasn’t happening when the church was divided. Only in a unified church do we see great growth and a lasting impact upon the lost community.
May that be the goal of all deacons – to serve well so that they would gain a good standing among the church and great confidence in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who knows how many demons have been rerouted by faithful deacons?
1. The Deliberate Church, Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, 2005, p. 132.