I’ll not go over all the biblical qualifications of deacons. The basic requirements are in the Bible. Depending on your interpretation of those passages, and your individual church situation, those qualifications may vary.
I know believers are divided about whether a divorced man may serve as a deacon. My church, long before I became their pastor, made the decision that their deacons not be divorced.
It should be noted, however, that a man may do the work of a deacon without holding the office of deacon. I know of a divorced man who was a wonderful Christian leader. He never complained about not being a deacon; but he was a deacon in every sense of the word except holding the official title of deacon.
A man should hold the office of deacon. The Bible teaches a man should occupy the office of pastor and deacon in the local church. A man should be the loving leader in the home. Other than these areas, we have no strict requirements about the roles of women and men. Obviously men and women are equal before God and of equal worth. Both are qualified to minister in numerous ways.
Pastors and deacons should believe in and practice tithing to their local church.
Do not lay hands on a novice. Take your time. Don’t ordain someone too soon. 1 Timothy 3:6 (novice) speaks directly to pastors, but I think it can also apply to deacons. Notice that 1 Timothy 3:8 says “likewise deacons.” The rules for pastor generally apply to deacons as well.
A pastor should have a general sense of who qualifies as a deacon and who doesn’t. In Acts 6 the church chose the deacons. But a pastor can guide the church and even veto some that are clearly not qualified. This can most easily be done early on in the process. The details will vary as to how an individual church goes about choosing deacons.
In our case a deacon mentioned to me two men he felt qualified. I thought about it, prayed about it, and agreed. We talked to the other deacons and they agreed. I talked to the potential candidates and they agreed to serve if the church approved. Neither of the candidates had in any way sought the office. That is a big plus in their favor. The person who gets mad because he was not chosen as a deacon, has just demonstrated that he was not really qualified in the first place.
The deacons then brought a recommendation to the church that we begin the process of ordaining these two as deacons. The church so voted. (We are a small church. At the beginning of this process we had 3 deacons. One of those deacons had been in the hospital, and died before the ordination service.)
I personally, informally met with the candidates. The current deacons, pastor, and candidates all met together. We went over the statements of The Baptist Deacon and Baptist Doctrines (these will be presented in future posts). We also had the opportunity to fellowship and ask questions back and forth. We prayed together. In previous years, I had had the honor of baptizing both of these candidates.
We discussed possible questions that would come up during the Ordination Service. Deacon candidates should know the basics of our beliefs, but don’t expect them to have an advanced seminary degree. Don’t try to embarrass or trip them up with an obscure theological question. (Theological questions should be a little more detailed when ordaining a pastor.)
The deacons we chose are not perfect, but neither is their pastor. I have no doubt, however, that God led us to the right men.
We also talked about a date for the Ordination Service. We chose a date that allowed the deacon candidates to have their family and friends in attendance. We set the time for a Sunday afternoon so neighboring pastors and deacons could attend without missing their own church services. Because of this afternoon service, we cancelled our usual 6 pm Sunday Evening Worship Service.
Note: Go to a LifeWay or Christian Bookstore and purchase or order (bhpublishinggroup.com; 800/458-2772) Deacon Certificates of Ordination. Get twice as many as you need; you may damage one and need to start over. Buy nice frames for the Certificates. More on this later.
NEXT: Deacons - Baptist Doctrines
-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, May 24, AD 2010.