Almost all churches have deacons. They ‘serve the tables’ or assist with the Lord’s Supper, they take in the offering, and church members with financial difficulty can turn to them.


  • Deacons are mostly doing practical things

  • Deacons take care of the poor

  • There is not much to say about deacons, the Bible is pretty clear about it.

How you can also look at it:

The word deacon, ‘diakon’ appears in a lot of shapes in the New Testament and mostly has to do with serving and ministering.

In Acts we see the apostolic ministry (1:25), the daily ministration or serving of the tables (6: 1,2) and the ministry of the word (6:4). 2 Corinthians 3:6-8 is about ministers of the new testament and the ministration of the spirit, in chapter 8:4 and 9:1 it is about ministering to the saints.

Paul calls himself and Apollos ministers (diakonos) (1 Corinthians 3:5), as well as a Stephanas, who has devoted himself to the service of the Lord’s people. This serving isn’t a subordinate position, but a form of leadership. Paul calls on the Corinthians “to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it”. (1 Corinthians 16:15,16).

Looking at it this way you can wonder what deacon Febe was going to do in Rome (Romans 16:1-2) and what exactly was the task of ‘the seven’.

We call the men who were appointed to assist ‘the twelve’, deacons, but the bible just calls them by their name or talks about ‘the seven’. What was going on in the early church we don’t know exactly, but the Greeks complained “because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution or ministration” (diakonia) and the 12 apostles said they didn’t have the time to ‘serve tables’.

“Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip,” and five others. (Acts 6:3-5).

If this only was about serving food -which comes to mind when they talk about tables, why look for seven men ‘full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom’?

And why is the first you read after the seven are appointed; “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” (verse 8)?

The first we read about Philip is that he arrived in “the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.” (Acts 8:5-7).

This does looks like supporting the apostles (see my blog about apostles and evangelists), but it doesn’t look like feeding poor widows.

Paul gives us a list of marks for a deacon in 1 Timothy 3 and closes with: “For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (verse 13) What that service is about exactly isn’t told here either.

2 Corinthians 8:4 and 9:1 is about ministering to the saints. With this Paul refers to the collection for the church in Jerusalem. Here we recognize ‘our’ deacons a little bit.: taking in the offering and taking care of support for people in financial need.

But a deacon, a minister, can be so much more than that. Stephen and Philip were wise and full of the Holy Spirit. They preached, told the good news and signs and wonders followed them. They had a leading position in the church and worked side by side with the apostles. The apostles ministered the word, the deacons the tables, among others.

So, also the way deacons manifest in the New Testament isn’t uniform, just like all the other roles and positions we addressed. The early church was certainly structured and organized, but mainly because it appeared to be necessary, not because of a theology about offices. Apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, overseers and deacons had two goals; spread the good news of the coming of the Messiah and the redemption of evil and support and educate the believers so they would also be capable to spread the good news.

If we want to take an example in the early church, let it be their pragmatical solutions to the questions and problems they encountered. And let it be their gigantic enthusiasm about the message they spread and their passion for Jesus Christ that was bigger than the love for their own life.