Deacon - Body or Board?
Howard Foshee listed three evidences that deacons are operating under the concept of a board:
When all major recommendations from church operations and church committees are screened
by the deacons as to whether they should go to the congregation.
When the pastor and staff members are directly responsible to the deacons rather than to the church.
When the use or expenditure of major church resources, such as facilities and finances,
must first be approved by the deacons.
(The Ministry of the Deacon, Howard B. Foshee, Convention Press, 1968, page 33)
The Biblical Concept of Deaconship
In 1955 Robert E. Naylor, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, warned that:
"There are churches where deacons have appropriated to themselves authority
which is contrary to New Testament teaching.
That may have gone so far that bossism has developed.
There is a 'board' complex and a general feeling that deacons are 'directors' of the church.
Nothing could be farther from the Baptist genius or the New Testament plan.
Anywhere this condition exists, there inevitably are those who say that deacons are not needed.
The truth is that such deacons as this... are not needed in churches."
(Robert E. Naylor, The Baptist Deacon, Broadman Press, 1955, pages 3-4).
In the 1970's, Howard Foshee stated:
"The unfortunate term, 'board of deacons' ...is foreign to the way Baptists should work
together under the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
A Baptist congregation makes corporate decisions as each member seeks to vote
his conviction under the leadership of the Lord."
(Howard B. Foshee, Now That You're a Deacon, Broadman Press, 1975, Page 13)
Wayne Dehoney wrote, "The first responsibility of these men was to assist the pastors
in the spiritual ministry of shepherding and caring for the flock and to free the pastors
for the ministry of prayer, preaching, and training.
Actually, these seven were selected to be 'under-shepherds' of the flock."
(Church Administration Magazine, November, 1959, cited by Foshee)
In 1997, Jim Henry, pastor of First Baptist Orlando Florida presented the work
of deacons as that of serving three tables (the table of the Lord, the table of the minister,
and the table of the poor) as part of his video training materials.
(Deacons: Partners in Ministry and Growth; Sampson Ministries, 1997,
distributed by the Sunday School Board of the SBC).
There are several reasons why the "Board of Directors" model persists in Baptist life:
It is a carry-over from rural churches and the days when they had bi-vocational,
or half or quarter time "preachers," who were not on the field to tend to day to day ministry
There are others who believe that it is better to hash things out behind closed doors
before bringing them out to the floor for a church vote, and so the deacons became
the ones to hash things out.
For some church leaders this was the only model with which they were familiar.
Then, there are some deacons who do not know enough Bible to understand the New Testament
teaching on the office of deacon.
Some churches have attempted to return to Biblical terminology and drop the language
of the business world.
They no longer refer to the deacons as a ""board," but as a "body."
This is a move toward a more servant-ministry approach.
There are some churches that organize their deacons to take care of administration
and ministry with different deacon teams.
This is really a variation of having elders and deacons.
Some churches have a deacon family ministry in which they serve as under-shepherds.
They leave all administrative functions to the staff and the committees of the church.
In some churches the church council has become the equivalent of ruling elders.
The Lord's work must actually be done in the Lord's way!
Every church should determine to be a church under the authority of God's Word.
Deacons are to serve the Lord by doing the work of the ministry, visiting the sick,
being alert to the spiritual needs of the congregation.
Every deacon must promote unity within the church.
Deacons must free the pastor to focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word.
It may be necessary to add other responsibilities to meet the needs of the modern world,
but never forsake the original responsibilities and functions of the office.
-- Adapted from several sources