Elders and Deacons: What's the Difference Between the Two?
IN LIGHT OF THE PROPOSED REVISION of the Constitution and Bylaws, last month we talked about the role of Elders in the life of the church. This month we want to talk about the role of Deacons in the life of the church. What is the difference between the two?
An Elder serves the church by providing governance, direction, teaching, discipleship, discipline and equipping the church to do the work of ministry. A simple way to put it is that an elder is responsible for overseeing the spiritual needs of the church.
1 Peter 5:2-3 describes the role of an Elder by saying, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”
A Deacon, on the other hand, facilitates taking care of the physical and practical needs of the church. Whether it be acts of mercy, visitation, facilitating with setting up for baptism and communion the Deacons seek to serve the church through caring for a variety of practical needs that emerge within the church body.
A great example of the difference between an Elder and a Deacon is found in Acts 6. There was a problem in the church. A certain group of widows and their needs were being neglected. When this problem was brought to the Apostles, it was agreed that this is a problem that needs to be resolved. The very practical needs of these widows were a legitimate concern to the church.
But the Apostles could not add this responsibility to their list of things to do and still do everything else they needed to do. Their primary task was to teach the Scripture and to pray. They were to give spiritual oversight to this young and growing church.
What did they do to meet this very practical need? They identified seven people who were full of the Spirit and appointed them to meet this need. While the Apostles continued to care for the spiritual needs of the church, this group of “Deacons” met the practical needs of the church.
Under the proposed revision of the Constitution and Bylaws, “The Deacons assist the Board of Elders in caring for the congregation by overseeing and developing ministries to meet the physical and practical needs of those within the church and the surrounding community.”
It is our prayer that as the Deacons give oversight to the meeting of the practical needs of the congregation, the love of Christ will be expressed in tangible ways and God’s people at WEFC will be well cared for among the challenges and hardships of life.
Here is a link to a sermon that addresses the role of the Deacons. What is a Deacon?
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