Admittedly, in many churches deacons and elders are interchangeable and usually the same people. But the Bible does differentiate them.
1 Timothy 3:8-13,”8Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.
11In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
12A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.”
I can’t help but wonder how much of the churches’ reputation would be saved if people in positions of leadership were tested before being accepted. Not in that “the test is in the pulpit” kind of way but a thorough inquiry as to the sort of person you’re dealing with. Now I know it doesn’t sound particularly nice to tell a former embezzler that he can’t be the church treasurer, but since we’re not allowing the guy a position of temptation you can think of it as doing him a favor.
Now it appears in a great many churches there is a bit of a conflict about the role of deaconess. Is she just the wife of a deacon? Does she have her own responsibilities? I find it interesting that if she’s just the wife that the Bible happens to go so far as to mention what ought to be expected of her, just like elders and deacons. One thing I do know is that Jesus had a tendency to pick up, crumple up, and cast aside the traditional gender barrier of how a rabbi ought to treat women. He gave us a daring example to follow. Perhaps it was intended that women should have role in church when the culture at large was ready for them.
Awhile ago, I happened to see a special about women preachers who had bucked authority to get something of their own going. Unfortunately the featured priestess mixed Jesus and somewhat unorthadox beliefs that disreguarded what the Bible actually said. I’m all for a lady preaching what the word says provided it is actually what the word says and means. I’m afraid things could get much worse if what is being preached is so contradictory and going unchecked. I feel the same way about male preachers who take it upon themselves to rewrite the good book.
It’s not easy to choose to give up the back row and take up a central position in the church. It’s harder to lend your wisdom as an elder, fill the role of a deacon, or be the deaconess, but denying that the Bible has these positions available wouldn’t be doing us any justice. We are a body of believers with responsibilities to each other. Perhaps we’ll be a more complete church should we accept our responsibilities.