He is a servant of the church
Paul lists the qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3, right after those for elders. The pattern for New Testament leadership in the church is clearly a plurality of elders, not a solo pastor. Deacons are chosen from among the congregation to assist the elders by taking care of the physical needs of the flock. That leaves elders free to tend to spiritual needs, mainly through prayer and preaching. What are the character qualities, then, that are to mark a deacon’s life?
He is a reverent man. This word can be translated “grave” or “serious.” It doesn’t mean that the deacon cannot have a sense of humor, but if that’s all he has, he should not be chosen. He is serious about the Lord and his faith is looked up to by others.
He is a sincere man, not double-tongued. You can trust that this man will not say one thing to your face and say the complete opposite to your friend or your enemy. Will Rogers might have said a deacon is “not afraid to sell his parrot to the town gossip.” Alexander Strauch writes, “Far too many Christian leaders have demonstrated that their word cannot be trusted, especially when it concerns money. They are self-deceived double talkers.” If a deacon is entrusted to handle the church’s money and minister to some of the most vulnerable members of the church, the widows and others with needs, he must be a man of unimpeachable character.
He is a sober man. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Would you trust a man who is known for his drinking prowess to be in charge of making sure the widows get fed? “There goes Harry, staggering down the road, off to Mrs. Miller’s house with her supper,” says one. “You think he’ll make it?” replies another. “I doubt it,” says the first. “Last week, he ended up wearing her supper in the ditch.” “Wow,” replies the second, “He’s a deacon in the church, you know.” What does that say of the church? What does it say of Christ! By the way, Paul could just as easily have said this man being considered for deacon is not “given to excess in any of his appetites,” not just in his choice of beverages.
He is a single-minded man, “not greedy for money.” Strauch writes, “Deacons handle money — other people’s money, the church’s money — and where there is money there are always problems. Money is an irresistible magnet for many people.”
He is a conscientious man, holding onto the mystery of the faith. That simply means the deacon is a Gospel man, and is committed to doing everything in his power, trusting in the grace of God, to be a representative of the Gospel. When the apostles in Acts 6 told the church to look for seven men of good reputation, that was the idea: look for men whose faith in Jesus Christ is talked about by others.
He is a tested man. This doesn’t have to do with a written test or even a probationary period. It certainly doesn’t mean that a man is put into a position of a deacon to help him grow up: “Maybe if we make him a deacon, he will stop criticizing the church so much.” No, it means he has already been tested. Like elders, these candidates for deacon are men who are already doing the work before they have the title. They have clearly demonstrated that they are servants of the church, ready to do whatever they can to assist the elders.
Thank God for faithful deacons.