Tuesday, August 14, 2012


A new believer in Christ wrote me asking about the difference between an elder and a deacon.  I have found, as a former Pastor of a Southern Baptist Church, that even the most seasoned of the brethren often fail to make the distinction.  The head elder of an assembly is also known as its Pastor, its Shepherd, or its bishop. By calling the Pastor the head elder, obviously he serves with other elders (there must be a plurality of elders as the office is always written in the plural).  The best passage of Scripture for understanding the the qualifications and roles of each is 1 Timothy 3:1-13.


[1] This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
[2] A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
[3] Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;
[4] One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;
[5] (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
[6] Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
[7] Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.


Deacons, on the other hand, are not authority figures, but rather, they are servants in the sense that they are responsible for the day-to-day operation of the affairs of the church, such as maintenance, benevolence, budgets, serving the needy, etc. (see Acts 6:1-6).

[8] Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre;
[9] Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
[10] And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless.
[11] Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
[12] Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
[13] For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

God wants all believers to serve one another, and He has gifted a few to lead.

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