A short essay on Alexander Strauch’s The New Testament Deacon: The Church’s Minister of Mercy
When I began reading this book, I had now idea what a Deacon was supposed to be and therefore had no idea there was a question about it. Having read the book, I see why Alexander Strauch calls them “Ministers of Mercy” and also why there is a question as to their roles and responsibilities. Scripture does not come right out and say; “Deacons are this and they do that”. But Strauch makes a strong argument for the roles of deacons as “Ministers of Mercy”. Unfortunately, I think he (and many others) may be coming to the wrong conclusion.
First, I have to admit that while my head is quite large, my brain is rather small, so I might (just this once) be wrong about my own conclusions. Strauch makes the connection between the Deacons mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and the Seven described in Acts 6:3. This does not seem to me to be supported by scripture but rather, inferred from the relationship between the Greek words diakonia, diakoneō, and diakonos. Since I haven’t studied Greek, I can’t confidently validate this conclusion, so I will accept this as possible so that I may address my main concern which is; the role of deacons.
If Deacons are the byproduct of the Seven from Acts 6:1-6, then the question that comes to mind is; what is the role and responsibility of the deacon? Now, my church clearly supports the connection made between the Seven from Acts 6 and the Deacons from 1 Timothy. This is seen in their own list of qualifications for deacons. Again, I do not have a problem with that. What I disagree with is Strauch’s description of deacons as “Ministers of Mercy”. Strauch clearly believes that Deacons are to serve the needs of the Church’s poor but I would be inclined to believe they are to serve the Church by freeing the shepherds from administrative duties. “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables” Acts 6:2. I find Stauch’s interpretation too limiting in scope and far too specialized.
The Seven were called to take the burden of service off the Apostles by handling the charitable distribution issues facing the church. Does this mean that they, as Deacons, are simply to serve the needy of the Church or to serve the Shepherds by reducing their administrative burdens and thus allowing them to “give [themselves] continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4)? What this comes down to is a basic example of principle and method. The principle is that the Seven took on the burden of serving so the Shepherds could focus on studying and teaching of the word of God (which ultimately serves the Church, too). Strauch is letting the method (distributing charity) define the principle (supporting the Shepherds).
What does this mean for Kaleo and our Deacons? Simply put, they are to serve the Church in many ways. Deacons are to serve the Church by taking charge of our various ministries as Strauch believes, but also by developing and updating our website and doing building and property management. Deacons are to organize and facilitate the different programs we offer from children’s study to Film & Theology. All these things and more serve the Church directly through the benefits they bring but also indirectly by allowing our Elders to continue in their studies so that they may continually teach us (and others through us) the wonderful Word of God.