Part B – From “Deacon Boards” to Administrative Business Council
The title of bishop carries with it the job description of “overseer” and the title of pastor means “shepherd”, one who takes care of the flock; the title “deacon” refers to one who “serves”.
(see 1 Timothy 3:1-13)
Congregational-led form of governance means the ultimate authority for governing the church resides in the members jointly. This authority comes from Christ who is the head of the body, and the entire body administers the church according to the patterns given in scripture. Congregationalism also means that each local church is an autonomous unit with no organization over it except Christ. This does not mean that the entire congregation must vote on every decision. Responsibilities may be delegated to leaders or any other member of the church; and every member -male or female, including pastor and deacons, has the same vote.
“Deacon Boards” usually have been all male, and voted on by popularity vote after limited screening of spiritual or personal attributes to hold such office. Deacons, who fulfill the role of servants, should be: 1) of good reputation, 2) full of the Holy Spirit, and 3) full of wisdom. (Acts 6:3).
This writer strongly feels the role of the “Deacon Board” in a Baptist (congregational-led) Church is wrong. There is no scriptural justification. The true character of the position of Deacon found in the scriptures, in its servant role (diakonos), and is vital to the life and functions of the church.
So, why have Deacons confused their scriptural role from servant to overseer? How could this happen? Most often, the congregation allowed over time, the evolution of power to shift toward a Deacon Board; thus eroding the true scriptural basis for the true role.
How can the modern church correct the ills of the past decades?
First - admit the role of Deacon is best focused on servanthood, as proclaimed in scripture.
Second – develop means for Deacons to serve with purpose, integrity and intentionality to meet the scriptural needs of the congregation.
Third – redirect the Administrative concerns to church members - male and female, who have the Spiritual Gift of Administration and the Passion to Organize and administrate the business aspects of the congregation.
This writer feels the congregational-led Baptist Church of the 21st Century is better served by an Administrative Business Council - with the responsibility of conducting the administrative and legal aspects of the church. This council can be comprised of: Pastor, Clerk, Treasurer, Moderator, Chair of Trustees, Chair of Finance Committee, Chair of Personnel Committee, Chair of Nominating Committee, Chair of Missions Committee and Chair of Deacons. These leaders are nominated, voted on and rotated annually by the congregation, to do the work of “overseer” – and most often – are well qualified to do so.
From “Deacon Board” to Administrative Business Council – it’s the right choice!
Good resource: “Who Rules the Church?” by Gerald P. Cowen, Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, 2003.