The Bible uses the term "deacon" to signify a role for ministry in the church. The term "deacon" is a transliteration of a Greek word that means ministry or service. There are only a few sentences in the Bible that describe this role, and these deal more with the character than specific works. This is likely because the role of the deacons would differ by the needs of the church and the community at different times in history.
In our church, deacons are not decision-makers of church policy; they are partners with the pastor for taking care of our congregation. They are very active in visiting and praying for the sick, and they seek to guard the unity of the church as we do out best to follow Jesus Christ. They also take a leadership role in some of the ministries of our church for the community. For instance, our deacons currently take the lead for our community blood drives. Each family in the church has a deacon who desires to be a help in any way possible.
There are some differences of interpretation among those who take the Bible seriously about who can serve as deacons and what they are to do. For instance, some believe the Bible limits the role to men, and others believe that the Bible speaks of a similar role for women that is parallel to that of men. In church history, we see both deacons and deaconesses mentioned in writings from the second century on, and the Bible itself identifies a woman named Phoebe in Romans 16 who was either a "servant" of the church or a "deaconess." Since the word is the same, we don't know for sure which Paul means. The word often translated as "wives" in another passage can also be interpreted as "women" who serve a similar role. Another difference in interpretation is over marital status, and there are several "right" interpretations that sometimes have led to controversy in churches. The ironic thing is that the early forerunner of the deacons was instituted to bring peace by solving problems in the church rather than bringing differences! Therefore, we have determined since this is not the most important issue of our faith and since there are legitimate alternate interpretations of some of these issues that we will not let it detract us from the main ministry of our church.
At Clairmont Hills Baptist Church, we have both deacons and deaconesses serving, and we believe that any differences in interpretation are not as important as the ministry itself.
Click here to download a manuscript of our pastor's message, "Who Is a Deacon?"