The Officers of a Baptist Church
Memory Verse: 2Corinthians 6:4
Prayer: For all the officers of the church, that they might be fully surrendered to the Lord; that they might faithfully discharge the duties entrusted to them by the church.
Key Verses: Acts 6:1-8; 1Tim. 3:1-13; 5:17,18; Heb. 13:7,17; 1Thess. 5:12,13; Acts 20:28; 1Peter 5:1-4.
How many, and what are the Scriptural officers of a Baptist Church? For a church, being a society, must have not only laws, but officers to execute them. Baptists assert that the ordained officers of a church are two – namely pastor and deacons. Episcopal sects insist that there should be three sets – deacons, priests, and bishops; to which the Church of England adds archbishops. The Roman Catholic church carries the list up to ten or twelve, ending with the Pope. What was the basis of the primitive churches – the churches of inspiration – organized upon? Our Lord did not live to shape, and put in order all things for the full equipment of His church (2Tim. 3:14-17), but He did give to His apostles a spirit of wisdom by which they should be able to do all this.
In the New Testament, the words bishop, presbyter, elder are used to designate church officers. They all however, designate the same office, and are not infrequently applied to the same individual. The bishop or elder – was the pastor, or overseer of the spiritual flock, watching, guiding, and feeding it, as the shepherd does his sheep (see lesson 5).
Paul and Timothy, in their address to the Philippian Christians, specify three classes as evidently, constituting the entire body of disciples (Phil. 1;1); saints, bishops and deacons. The office of deacon originated due to a problem given in Acts 6:l-7. The members of the Jerusalem church, “had all things in common” (Acts 4:32). and a distribution was made out of the common stock as every man had need. The large increase of the church interfered with an impartial distribution of supplies. The apostles soon saw that they couldn’t serve tables and keep up with the spiritual aspects of their work. Thus the creation of the office of deacon recognizes the fact that the duties of pastors are preeminently spiritual; and that they should not be burdened with the secular interests of the churches. The word deacon means a minister, a servant – an errand runner.
As deacons were appointed at first “to serve tables,” it may be well to say, there are three tables for them to serve:
1. The table of the poor – benevolence (1Tim. 5:3-16)
2. The table of the Lord – it is proper, though not indispensable for them to wait on the members in the distribution of the elements of the Lord’s Supper,
3. The table of the pastor – It is not for them to decide how liberally or scantily it shall be supplied.
The church makes this decision. The pastor’s compensation having been agreed on by the church, the deacons must see that it is raised and paid to him. As was done in Acts 6, it would be a good idea that a deacon by virtue of his office be the treasurer of the church. There is more church work that the deacons should be involved in:
1. Personal work
3. Setting an example
4. Discipline of members – help pastor keep the church clean and pure.
Deacons are called by the church for a definite work and should perform their duties without constant urging. The deacons should serve to protect the reputation of the Pastor. Deacons naturally should be faithful in attendance at all services. A good deacon is God’s great man, the Pastor’s spiritual aid and the church’s asset. The deacon can be an asset or a liability.
Deacons should be appointed for an indefinite period and set apart to their office by prayer and the laying on of hands (Acts 6:6). Deacons should be ordained but once and then serve when and how long the church designates provided they have proved themselves worthy. There is no scripture for a time limit on deacons, yet should it be a “life term?” If it is an honor it should be spread around, if it becomes a burden it should be shared. Some churches elect deacons for life; others serve two years, one half being elected every year (no ordination). Our constitution specifies 3 years. The number of deacons should be that needed to carry out the work of the church (7 or 70). Ordination of deacons confers no authority – it only recognizes authority already conferred by God (Acts 6:3). Since it is only recognition, it can be repeated as often as a man changes his denominational relations. Ordination of deacons requires no consultation with other churches, although it might be done.
The deacons qualifications are almost identical with those of the pastor (1Tim. 3:8-13). All that the pastor is expected to be, the deacon should seek to be. Is the pastor to be better than the deacon or members? Only in degree, not in quality. Shouldn’t we all have high standards? (Titus 2:l-14). A deacon then should live up to the same high standards of thought and conduct, maintaining the same undivided interest in the work of the church. The deacons having the same qualifications as the pastor should therefore be in agreement with the pastor, their leader. The Pastor determines the will of the church and the deacons help carry out such will.
Should a board of deacons “run” a Baptist church? No! Most churches are run without the knowledge of most people in them as to who does run the church. Deacons have no right to run the church, although many Baptist Churches are operated that way. The Church is to be ruled by Christ through the Holy Spirit and be under the leadership of the Pastor (Jn. 16:l3; Acts 20:28). A Baptist church is run scripturally by majority vote rather than by a board of deacons.
While pastors and deacons are the only permanent scriptural church officers, it is good to have other officers as needed. A clerk to keep a correct record of the business proceedings of the church, to take charge of the records, keep a register of the church membership, and dispatch all correspondence authorized by the church. Owing to the requirements of the civil law in some places, it is necessary to have trustees. Trustees are generally the legal custodians of the church property, and are chosen by the church. Trustees have nothing to do with the spiritual affairs of the church. This is not always so, as some churches merge the trusteeship into the deaconship. This would mean an increase in the number of deacons. The church must select their best business men for trustees. There shall be a treasurer to record accurately all funds and expense money of the church, and shall deposit in the name of the church the money received in a bank. It shall be the duty of the treasurer to collect and disburse all funds of the church according to the expressed will of the church. The treasurer shall also make a report to the church of all finances.
Other offices of the church could be:
· Music Director
· Sunday School Superintendent
· And others as needed.
In Rom. 12:4-10, the church is compared to the human body. There are different gifts among the members of the church. Our duties vary according to our gifts and willingness to use them (Eph. 4:11-16). What is the primary purpose of any officer in the church or Sunday School? They are to so serve as to better enable the church to win the lost to Christ.