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  • by Torema Thompson.

Elders and Deacons

This is a short article to bring some clarity concerning the roles of elders and deacons in the church today. Do we still need them and what do they do?


“Elder” / “Bishop” / “Overseer” are interchangeable terms used in scripture to describe an individual in a position of leadership within the church. In today’s church, the term “pastor” has come to carry the same meaning. Individuals in the leadership position of ‘pastor’ may in fact be apostles, prophets or evangelists, and so, how the individual teaches and equips the saints will enable you to recognise what their office actually is. When an individual is publicly ordained as a “pastor” it is a public recognition of the authority God has given them to lead / oversee their own ministry and teach His church.

The fact that Paul lays out qualifications for this leadership position (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9) shows that even though an individual may be a fivefold minister by function, there is still a level of spiritual maturity and training necessary before an individual is publicly ordained as a leader. 


Now as we know, the Body of Christ doesn’t just have spiritual needs. We live in a physical world and therefore, the physical needs of the Body of Christ are just as real as the spiritual needs. Those individuals who manage and coordinate the practical needs of the Body, are called Deacons. To be a Deacon is a prestigious position as mentioned in scripture (1 Timothy 3:8-13).

Just as there is a process of qualification before the Lord places an individual into a position of spiritual leadership (i.e. the office of an "elder”), there is also a process of qualification for the Deacon (1 Timothy 3:10). The office of a Deacon is a public recognition of an individual’s authority to lead in practical ministry.

As laid out in the article "Priesthood Office vs. Calling", there are four fivefold callings (Membership, Missions, Movement and Marketplace). Within each of these ministry types, there will be practical and physical needs; therefore, Deacons could be appointed as a ministry expands and grows. Examples of the work Deacons could be appointed to fulfil include: distributing food and clothing needs, taking care of the finances of the ministry, managing ushering teams, volunteers, technical teams, or event planning etc.

So in short, Deacons:

  • May also be fivefold ministers (just a Philip was an Evangelist and Deacon – Acts 6, 8, 21:8).

  • Do not have to be able to teach/labour in the word and doctrine as elders / “pastors” do (1 Timothy 3:2, 5:17).

  • Free up “pastors” / ministry leaders to pray and minister the word (Acts 6:2).

  • Take care of the business of the church / ministry (Acts 6:3).

  • Receive the authority for their role from their ministry leaders (Acts 6:6).

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