The Bible instructs a local church body to appoint two types of leadership roles in its local congregation: elders and deacons. These roles are differentiated based on the pattern found in Acts 6:1–6, where the apostles were overwhelmed by their growing responsibilities and therefore neglected some benevolence needs. These two roles continue to be affirmed throughout the New Testament (as in Philippians 1:1).
Elder and Deacon Roles
The primary spiritual leaders and teachers of a congregation are the elders, who are also called “overseers” (1 Timothy 3:1) or “shepherds” (Ephesians 4:11) in the New Testament. As their title suggests, these men are to oversee the local congregation. Elders are to offer biblical instruction to their congregations, encouraging them in sound doctrine and refuting those who oppose it (2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9). They are to nurture and care for the church body in the way that a shepherd keeps watch over his sheep (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:3). At Neighborhood Church, we have a team of elders who share the responsibilities of shepherding our church.
Deacons are called to assist the elders by caring for other church needs which might reduce the time and attention that elders could give to teaching, praying and shepherding (Acts 6:2-4). Deacons can help the elders in a variety of ways according to their gifts. Among other ways, at Neighborhood Church our deacons oversee the physical and logistical needs of the church facilities, administrate the collection of the weekly offering, monitor church finances, handle benevolence needs, and partner with the elders in visitation.
Elder and Deacon Qualifications
Qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6-9. They include being above reproach, holy, disciplined, upright, self-controlled, temperate, respectable, faithful to his wife hospitable, and able to teach. An elder must love what is good, not be given to drunkenness, not be violent but gentle, not be quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him. He must not be a recent convert. He must encourage others through sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders.
As you might expect, the qualifications for a deacon are very similar. Paul identifies nine qualifications for deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-12: Deacons must be dignified, not double-tongued , not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain, sound in faith and life, blameless, have a godly wife, be a husband of one wife, and manage their children and household well. The most noticeable difference in the two list is the absence of the need for the gift of teaching with deacons, which makes logical sense considering the purpose of their role.
Leadership Selection Process at NCAC
In Neighborhood Church, potential elders and deacons are identified by existing leaders or are suggested by individuals in our church family. After potential leaders are identified, time is spent determining their desire to fulfill the role and reviewing their qualifications and giftings for the position.
As we feel ready to move forward, the candidate is placed before our church family, who are solicited for feedback. That feedback is included in the candidate's consideration and preparation process. Once the elders and the individual being considered are confident that they will be a blessing to the people of Neighborhood Church, that person is installed before the church body through prayer and the laying on of hands.