God has designed the local church to be led in a particular way. And at the heart of His design is having qualified pastors and qualified deacons joyfully working together to care for and shepherd a congregation. The question is, what exactly does this look like, practically?
Sadly, in many churches, the pastors and deacons function very independently of one another. This seems out of step with the vision the Bible gives us in passages like Acts 6, among others. God’s design is for these two groups of leaders to work closely together. In fact, the closer pastors and deacons work together, the more effective each of their ministries will be. Moreover, the joy each will experience as they serve God’s people will increase!
As the lead servants of a church, the deacons are called to assist the pastors in meeting the congregation’s needs. Let’s consider four ways this should look in a local church. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Every church is different and the specific ways deacons assist their pastors will be determined by the particular needs of each congregation. However, I do believe the following will serve as a starting point from which to grow and expand.
Deacons joyfully assist the pastor-elders by:
1. Caring for the physical needs of the body
One of the most important ways deacons can assist the pastors is by dealing with physical needs that arise. These can range from seeing to it that the person without a car has a ride to church, to helping a young family who just moved to town has the help needed to get their furniture moved in, to making sure that the elderly shut-in who is no longer able to make it to church is still able to partake in the Lord’s Supper.
Perhaps the primary way this type of assistance can be exercised in a local church is by giving the deacons the responsibility of administering the church’s benevolence. This is a critical ministry, even though it has the possibility of being one of the most difficult. The deacons, as the local church’s ministers of mercy, have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very unique way. They are invited into people’s lives at times of great need for grace and help. Often, because of the various types of difficult situations that arise, the deacons have an opportunity like very few others to show Christ to those in need and, by extension, to the world. In assisting the pastors this way, the deacons are performing a duty vital to the church that brings much glory to the Lord.
2. Helping create an atmosphere of worship for God’s people
One of the very practical ways deacons help the pastors focus on shepherding the flock is to assist with a wide-ranging set of responsibilities in preparing the church for worship. While simple things, like turning on lights and making sure the building is ready for use, seem like menial tasks, they go a long way in creating a comfortable environment that allows the pastors to focus on the sheep. At the same time, this also allows the flock to come in prepared to worship God passionately without concern.
Another incredibly important aspect of this is the work deacons do to prepare, manage and help serve the Lord’s Supper in a worship gathering. Again, the ability of the congregation to come and celebrate the Supper together is a result of the faithful service of the deacons as they remove obstacles and make sure the environment is set for that vitally important time.
3. Representing the pastors as fellow leaders in the church
As agents or emissaries of the pastors, the deacons play an important role of representing the pastors in times of need. As one of the two offices ordained by God to care for the church, the deacons should be empowered to serve on behalf of the pastors when circumstances or situations arise. It is the responsibility of the pastors to make sure the deacons are equipped to serve in these times. This is why a close relationship between the pastors and deacons is so important. In spending time with each other and serving with one another, the deacons are trained in how to best represent the pastors when church leadership is needed. Deacons should never be expected to fulfill the role of a pastor, but in their absence, a deacon should be prepared to step in and help until a pastor is available.
4. Keeping the pulse of the church as the eyes and ears of the pastors within the body
Lastly, but definitely not least, the deacons help the pastors greatly by working within the congregation to help them keep the pulse of the body. Here is what we mean. In their role, the deacons have unique opportunities to hear about and identify things that are going on in the church that might be unseen by the pastors. The deacons can serve as extra eyes and ears for the pastors. For the pastors to shepherd the flock well, as the Bible calls them to, the flock must be known well. With so many things going on in the lives of those in the congregation, there is simply no way for the pastors alone to know every spiritual need at any given moment. The deacons can be a huge help with this as they interact with and serve the flock. As they seek to know the flock intimately in this way, the deacons help the pastors fulfill their biblical calling to lead, feed and protect the church.
Pastors and deacons: Better together
God did not create us to do life alone. He created us to do life in relationship with others. Whether it is in our marriages, our places of work or the church, we are always better together. This is how God designed it. This is particularly true when it comes to pastors and deacons working together, hand in hand, to care for God’s people. We are a team!
Working as a team, pastors and deacons who humbly seek to work alongside one another, fulfilling their specific, biblical roles, will help churches experience the health and vitality the Lord desires.
This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog.
Published November 1, 2022