Lord willing, I will be blessed to be a minister here for many years to come. A year ago the church here selected shepherds as overseers to the flock. Now, this month, we are looking to select Deacons to deacon (minister or serve) in the church here.
The “office” of deacon is only referenced twice by such name in the New Testament (I Timothy 3:8-11 and Philippians 1:1). The word “Deacon” is not actually a translation from the original Greek language; but is instead, a transliteration. Transliteration is when you take a word from the original language and roughly adapt like letters to the translating language to form the “same word” in the translating language. “Deakonos” in the Greek becomes “Deacon” in English. The same is done with other words like “baptismo” in the Greek to “baptism” in the English.
When translating, you translate to a word from the original language into the word with the same meaning in the translated language. For example, “agape” in Greek would translate “love” in English. If you were going to translate “baptism” in Greek to English then it would actually be translated “immerse” or “overwhelm” or “wash (by dipping)”. Likewise, the word “deakonos” in the Greek is translated “minister” or “servant” in the English.
So why transliterate instead of translate the word “deakonos”? Likely to avoid confusion. For example, we typically use the word “minister” when referring to an evangelist or preacher. Though all Christians are to be ministers in the sense of serving one another, (John 12:13-17) when we speak as a society on a regular basis we do tend to associate the “ministry of the word” with the word “minister” itself. Likewise, many preachers refer to themselves as ministers and even put it on their business cards or on church signage. It helps perpetuate the exclusive association of the term “minister(s)” with the preacher(s) at a church. For example, the title to this very article, had you not already known the church was searching for deacons, may have automatically originally had you thinking when reading the title we were searching for a new “preacher”. Translators avoid that confusion by transliterating the word “deakonos” in these few passages rather than translating it.
So what is a “Deacon”? While we do not have the term defined by the Bible other than the meaning of the word itself (“minister” or “servant”), we can form a definition by examining how the scriptures describe them. “A Deacon is a faithful man of God (I Timothy 3:9&15) examined and approved by the church (I Timothy 3:10) who meets the qualifications of the Lord (I Timothy 3:8-12) and enters into service in the local flock (Philippians 1:1) to assist the overseers of that flock (Acts 6:1-6).”
Are Deacons “officials” in the church? Sometimes people think of the deacons as “leaders” in the church; however, that is only spoken of in relation to elders/overseers in the church (Hebrews 13:7&17; I Peter 5:2&3; I Thessalonians 5:12&13). The idea of “official” likely stems from the phrase “office of deacon” in the KJV (I Timothy 3:10); however, the word “office” is not in the original Greek text. It again, is added by the translators likely for the purpose of helping the reader distinguish the service of deacons from that duty of evangelists or of all Christians in service.
Deacon is not so much an office to hold as it is a work to be done. Deacons are selected to do a particular work in assisting the shepherds. Like shepherds or preachers, if they are ever unable to fulfill that duty/work then they should no longer serve as deacons. In their service, those who serve well, are worthy of honor (I Timothy 3:13). The work of deacons is a special and needed work within the local church. The Lord favors those who desire to serve in such a manner, and so should we. (I Timothy 3:1&13)
May our congregation be blessed with men with the desire, ability, and conviction to be these special ministers and may God bless us in this selection process.