Deacons-How Many Do
We Need and For How Long?
First, as to the question that ought to be asked by the church body who are considering the choosing of a deacon to serve within the body of the church, and that question is “how may deacons do we need to have?” How can we know for certain how many deacons will be necessary and appropriate to effectively serve the church body and membership?
I believe that we ought to be able to go back once again to the original pattern in Acts chapter six, and let the Holy Ghost by and through the holy scriptures be our guide. Let’s go back again and take a look at the seven who were chosen by the church at Jerusalem and set before the apostles who were to lay their hands upon them. Remember the church chose out seven brethren and they chose “Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch.” But we are quick to notice that the number that were selected were not dictated to them by the scriptures. There are no hard set rules that would instruct any church today as to the number that would be necessary within any particular church membership. So again how many do we need?
I will venture to say here that it seems clear that the emphasis that we find in the sixth chapter of Acts has more to do with the number of men required to take care of the “business” of the church rather than the number of the men themselves that were selected by the church body. I know that this must seem a little hazy, but often there are far more needed in a church with a greater membership, than would be required for such with a smaller membership. Common sense dictates to us that the larger the church membership, the greater the needs of the body.
Do you see where I’m going with this? The number of deacons is a direct reflection of the demands of the office. In order to determine the number of the deacon’s that are needed, there must first be a prayerful consideration made to determine the needs of the church body. As we consider the first church in Acts chapter six. They had a need, remember that the church had determined that the “widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” I am certain that the membership must have taken out the proper time for prayer and making their request known to God concerning their needs. And it was determined that in order to meet the needs of the body to care for the “daily ministration” for the care of these faithful widows the number seven was set in the minds of the church. Therefore they called the seven, and set them before the elders of the church.
I don’t know, and we are not told how many that there were in that church, but they were able to say how that they needed to undergo the proper service in the body. And so I would think that it would be safe and proper to say that the “business” of the individual church that is to be carried out by the deacon or deacons that he or they are to deal with will determine the numbers on a very personal level. And therefore the number of deacons ought to directly reflect the size and service of the church, as well as the number of male members that are available to fill the office.
But now a word of warning! I must emphasize this once again…the church should never be tempted to elect and set apart men who are not qualified just because a certain number of men are needed to deal with any work. Oh, beloved let me say that it is far better for a church to do with only a few deacons or none at all, than it would be to place the wrong men in the office. The truth is that the church should always be watchful for men who do qualify for the office and who are willing to serve.
And as to the second question, “how long will they serve?” Before I answer that question let me remind the church of just how important that each and every “quality” of the person that is being considered for the office must have been prayerfully considered and that the body must have followed with much patience all of the proper steps before setting someone into such a responsibility that is to be laid upon them. All the care must be taken to NOT take any short cuts in this most holy matter. Remember we are about to call a deacon into one of the most high offices that a mortal man will ever under take in this life. The offices within the church are greater than that that is held by the president of the United States. This office is to be held for their entire life! The phrase, “Once a deacon, always a deacon;” so when a man is set apart by the church and ordained by the laying on of hands he is, as it was with the Old Line Baptists churches from the beginning to serve as deacon until as in the marriage “till death.” With the only exception or limitation being that the man’s ordination may be revoked for wrong conduct.
So now we can clearly see how that we must have God’s guidance in such a matter that will not only effect the church for years to follow, but will have a great and lasting effect on the life of the man chosen as well as his natural family. Therefore let us do as the Apostle admonished the church at Corinth in 1 Cor. 14:40, were he said, “Let all things be done decently and in order”