Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 26, 1950

"Elders And Deacons"

Leonard Mullens, Dallas, Texas

Elders and deacons do not have the same function in the New Testament church. This admits of no doubt whatever. However, the popular misunderstanding of the functions of elders and/or deacons has led to a corruption of the functions of both elders and deacons. Many are under the impression that deacons are on a par with the elders in the local congregation. This is not true, and it never has been. Elders have the oversight of the work of all the members of the church and this includes the work of the deacons as well. The work of the deacons is to be done under the supervision of the elders, for they have direct oversight of all the work of the church. If this is not the divine plan set forth in the New Testament, then I am at a complete loss as to the meaning of human language.

Again in the church, there is no such thing as an elder who presides over what is sometimes called "The Board" of the church. No one man is above another in the work of an elder, nor should any man so be. The rule of the elders is in the elders as such, and not in any one man. Elders have no responsibility to oversee beyond the local church. Let us also be impressed with the fact that no more responsible plans can be held than that of an elder in a local church of Christ.

Deacons may properly be classified as "assistants" to the elders of the church. Let us always keep in mind that there are two distinct groups: (1) Elders; (2) Deacons. It is true that it is well upon stated times, or as occasion may indicate, for the two to meet together and to discuss the affairs of the church; however, that the deacons have as much voice as, or more voice than, the elders, is far from being in harmony with the Scriptures that govern these matters. Sometimes separate meetings may be advisable. For example, a member is in sin, and will not repent. It is the duty of the elders to discipline such a member. It is not necessary that the deacons be present at such a meeting. Then, concerning those matters that are purely material, the deacons may meet in order to carry out, or formulate, a plan to care for the needy, for example, or to go over the church finances, to see just how the money has been spent. Yet, we must always remember that these deacons are not elders, and that the final decisions in all matters will remain to the elders of the local church. If elders and deacons are on a par, and they have the same work, and an equal voice in determining all matters concerning the church, then I am at a distinct loss in understanding WHY God provided both elders and deacons.

Actually, the wise elders will see to it from time to time that all the men of the church are invited to what we call "business meetings." Such meetings are in order so that the men of the church may be informed in what the church is doing, that they may participate in it with knowledge. Elders must always remember that they are not dictators in any sense, and that the members of the church can, and do, often come up with the best of suggestions to forward the work of the local congregation. However, those men coming must keep in mind that majority vote is not in order at all, and that final decisions are up to the elders of the local church.

Too, let us remember that the local preacher is not the "church manager", although we sometimes want to make him just that. He is not an elder, nor a deacon. His work is that of an evangelist. The preacher is subject to the elders. He should be at "business meetings" on invitation only, I believe, and then when matters that concern him and his work in relationship to the local church are involved. We preachers sometimes get out of place in these business meetings. Preachers have no authority in determining the work of the local church, other than that inherent in the Word of God, and then the Word is authority, and not the man.

Of course, a preacher can be an elder, or he might be a deacon in the local group where he lives, should he meet the qualifications laid down. Local situations will determine such decisions.

These things have been said with no one particularly in view. There is food for thought in these things, brethren. It is not a question of your personality or mine, or our opinions. The TRUTH is the thing that must concern us all primarily.


To Debate Class Work

W. Curtis Porter, Monette, Ark., October 15: "I am to meet J. Ervin Waters, anti-Bible class, one-cup advocate, in a four nights debate at Quincy, Ill., beginning November 7."