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Since we have recently discuss the Presbyterian church system. I have another question.

Do you think it is proper for the local church to have additional requirements / expectations for their officers that goes beyond the BCO?

For instance, in my church the Session requires an officer candidate to be a member of the church for one year. Plus there is a list of expectations including tithing, daily quiet time, faithful attendance in all church general services (Sunday school and Sunday Night attendance);and one that might be a stickler for some. An Elder has to serve as a Deacon before becoming an Elder.


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Being in the OPC a man needs to be a member of the church for a year before becoming an elder. That's in our "black book."

The one I have a problem with (perhaps because it would apply to me) is the requirement that they be a deacon first. The diaconate is not a "stepping stone" to the eldership. While it is true that it happens often that deacons get called by their congregations to be elders, i don't see it as a biblical mandate that it must be this way. They are two separate offices and should be treated as such. While certainly not ideal, a church can function without deacons, but cannot without elders.

When I was going through the classes after my nomination I came to realize my gifts were better suited for the eldership (I was nominated for both). I never did ask the person who nominated me for deacon what they saw in me to move them to nominate me because others said they saw my gifts more for the eldership.

Last edited by Jimbo; Fri Apr 15, 2005 2:55 PM.

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The one I have a problem with (perhaps because it would apply to me) is the requirement that they be a deacon first. The diaconate is not a "stepping stone" to the eldership. While it is true that it happens often that deacons get called by their congregations to be elders, i don't see it as a biblical mandate that it must be this way. They are two separate offices and should be treated as such. While certainly not ideal, a church can function without deacons, but cannot without elders.
I almost wonder if that requirement is a holdover from what most three-fold office* (bishop/priest/deacon) churches (Rome, Orthodoxy, Anglicans) believe about these offices: that the office of deacon is contained in the office of priest or presbyter and the office of priest/presbyter is contained in that of bishop. Therefore one is always ordained as a deacon first, then later as a priest or presbyter; a man cannot be a priest/presbyter without first being a deacon.

Theo

*There is probably a better term for this than "three-fold office" as I know that also describes a Presbyterian view about the offices of ruling elder, teaching elder and deacon--but right now I can't think of a better term.

Edit: Of course the term I'm looking for is simply the "episcopal" form of government. Those churches would generally treat the diaconate as a transitional office on the way to the priestly/presbyteral office.

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John_C said:
Do you think it is proper for the local church to have additional requirements / expectations for their officers that goes beyond the BCO?

For instance, in my church the Session requires an officer candidate to be a member of the church for one year. Plus there is a list of expectations including tithing, daily quiet time, faithful attendance in all church general services (Sunday school and Sunday Night attendance);and one that might be a stickler for some. An Elder has to serve as a Deacon before becoming an Elder.
1) in my church the Session requires an officer candidate to be a member of the church for one year.
ANS: a) I find nothing like this mandated in Scripture. b) It would put an undo hardship on a man who is currently pastoring a church but seeking a new congregation to minister to, since his maintenance would be lost and thus he would be forced to seek secular employment so as to provide for himself and family.

2) Plus there is a list of expectations including tithing, daily quiet time, faithful attendance in all church general services (Sunday school and Sunday Night attendance)
ANS: a) I find nothing like this mandated in Scripture. b) This borders on Pharisaism. Is one's spirituality to be determined by outward conformity to man-made criteria? Although it may be true that attendance of these functions is a good thing, making such a legal matter to judge another man is unacceptable.

3) An Elder has to serve as a Deacon before becoming an Elder.
ANS: a) I find nothing like this mandated in Scripture. b) This really is an odious requirement for several reasons: [1] The offices of Elder and Deacon are separate and of equal importance and value in the eyes of the Lord. Thus this requirement demeans and lowers the spiritual nature and value of the Deaconate. [2] Requirements for the two offices differ, although they share some of the qualifications. Both are offices which men are gifted to serve in by the Holy Spirit. One may be fitted to the Eldership but not the Deaconate and vice versa. [3] Since I hold that the offices of Pastor, Elder and Deacon reflect the three offices of Christ, it does not follow that one must serve as in the "priestly" office before he is qualified to serve in the "kingly" office . . . nor that one serve in either of these two offices in order to be qualified to serve in the "prophetical" office.

This is one of the items which causes me to reject Presbyterianism in its modern form. The office of Deacon is seen as the "lesser" of the three offices. Consequently, this has contributed in some measure to some allowing women to serve in the Deaconate. Deacons are not church waitresses, but rather they are holy men called of God to serve their congregations in providing for BOTH both the physical and spiritual needs Christ's sheep. (1Cor 12:12-31)

In His Grace,


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Jimbo said:
B They are two separate offices and should be treated as such. While certainly not ideal, a church can function without deacons, but cannot without elders.

Do you consider it Biblically ok for a church to not have a deacon? What do you mean by a church can function without a deacon but not an elder? If it's Biblically ok for a church to not have a deacon, then why is it not Biblically ok for a church to not have an elder? If it's not Biblically ok for a church to not have a deacon (or an elder), then how can it function without one? Of course, I know practically it can function without them, but it would be in violation of Scripture. But, in a "practical" sense, a church could function without elders too. Note, I am not 100% sure what Scripture says on this point, so if deacon's are Scripturally optional than I will agree with your assertion that churches can function without them, but if they are not, then I would disagree. However, even though I'm not 100%, I was under the assumption that they are not optional.
Please feel to correct my (possibly incorrect) assumption with Scripture.


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Do you consider it Biblically ok for a church to not have a deacon?

I would say that it's okay, but not the ideal. I mean that in a similar way to what Paul says about it being good for a man not to marry. There's nothing technically wrong with it, but it is not the ideal. Growing up (well age 7 on) in the OPC the church we were in was small, so the need for deacons wasn't there like it is in the church I'm in now. Eventually it got to be too much for the elders and so Deacons were nominated and then ordained... much like what we see with the first Deacons in Acts.

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What do you mean by a church can function without a deacon but not an elder?

In a presbyterian form of government there needs to be a plurality of elders. See The Apostolic Church: Which is it? by Thomos Witherow. Short yet excellent book that explains presbyterianism. That can address your eldership questions in the immediately-above post.


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Jimbo said:
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Do you consider it Biblically ok for a church to not have a deacon?

I would say that it's okay, but not the ideal. I mean that in a similar way to what Paul says about it being good for a man not to marry. There's nothing technically wrong with it, but it is not the ideal. Growing up (well age 7 on) in the OPC the church we were in was small, so the need for deacons wasn't there like it is in the church I'm in now. Eventually it got to be too much for the elders and so Deacons were nominated and then ordained... much like what we see with the first Deacons in Acts.

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What do you mean by a church can function without a deacon but not an elder?

In a presbyterian form of government there needs to be a plurality of elders. See The Apostolic Church: Which is it? by Thomos Witherow. Short yet excellent book that explains presbyterianism. That can address your eldership questions in the immediately-above post.

Hi Jimbo,

I'm still not sure you've convinced me. It seems you used your opinion to back up your opinion. Again, I agree that it is possible for a church to operate without deacons as in the example of your own church when it was small, but is it Biblical? I still haven't had time myself to investigate the matter myself. I will read through the passages in Acts you referred to. Unfortunately, I don't have access to the book you mentioned, but I'll put it on my list and keep my eyes out for it. It sounds interesting.

On a somewhat related note, is it possible for a single person to share the office of elder/deacon? Or, because they are separate offices, are they required to be filled by distinct people?

Thanks,
John


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