The Hyles Church Manual
by Pastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 06 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Church Manual)
6. The Deacon Board
Our discussion centers around the Bible office of the deacon. The Word of God has a divine message. It also contains divine methods. It is not enough to preach the message unless we also use the methods of the Word of God. Our discussion for this chapter is the Bible deacon.
Not long ago a very fine family moved from our church and our city to another area and another state. The man was a medical doctor, and he and his wife had a lovely little daughter. The daughter loved our church dearly (for the matter, so did the mother and father), and she missed us so much. She was particularly impressed by the fact that the pastor preached behind the pulpit and the deacons sat around on the front-many on the front rows and others near the front. When she attended the church in the other city, she came home the first morning and said, “Mommy and Daddy, I didn’t like that church at all.”
“Why didn’t you like that church?” asked her mother and father.
“Well,” she said, “at First Baptist Church in Hammond, Brother Hyles stands behind the pulpit and all the ‘demons’ sit on the front.”
She was talking about deacons, of course, and she was disappointed because the “demons” (deacons) did not sit on the front at the new church they were attending.
Now in many cases I am afraid “demons” would be a more appropriate term than deacons for the leaders of many of our churches. These men of God who hold this Bible office can be deacons or demons, depending upon whether or not they take the Word of God as their authority and their plan. I hope in the next few pages to show you the Bible plan for deacons in a New Testament church. If we do not follow the Bible plan, deacons may become demons and may do more harm than good.
How I thank God for those men through the years whom God has given me to hold up my hands in prayer and to work with me in the work of the church and Lord Jesus Christ.
When Moses’ arms were heavy in days of old, God gave to him Aaron and Hur to hold his hands high. Aaron got on one side; Hur, on the other. Each lifted one of Moses’ arms high. When his arms were lifted, the battle was won. When his arms were lowered, the battle was lost (Exod. 17:12). God has, in His wisdom, given to pastors today in the New Testament church men of God called deacons who lift the hands of the pastor, work with him, and serve God with him in loyal, sacrificial service to the church and to the Saviour.
It is said of Saul, the first king of Israel, shortly after he was anointed, “And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched” (I Sam. 10:26). How much easier it is for a pastor to serve the Lord Jesus Christ when it can be said of him that there went with him a band of men-deacons, if you please-whose hearts God had touched. Even our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, chose twelve men to work with Him, or stand beside Him, walk with Him, and learn from Him in His work of redemption.
How I thank God for the men whom God has given me in the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana; in the Miller Road Baptist Church of Garland, Texas; in the Southside Baptist Church of Henderson, Texas; in the Grange Hall Baptist Church near Bogata, Texas, a little country church where I served my first pastorate, I had a godly deacon.
In this chapter I hope to help deacons and pastors properly fulfill God’s plan and purpose for church organization and help them realize the qualifications, duties, responsibilities, etc., of this great Bible office.
Election Of The Deacons
We turn our attention first to this subject: How are the deacons elected? In the First Baptist Church of Hammond we use the following procedure:
The Deacons Form the Nominating Committee
Each deacon is asked to bring a list of ten men in the church whom he feels would make good deacon material. These ten men are listed and brought to the deacons’ meeting early in the calendar year. The pastor writes the name of each man that is recommended by the deacons on the blackboard. Oftentimes we have as many as seventy-five or one hundred names listed on the blackboard. Then, the name is called orally. The deacons bow their heads, pray about whether they fell that man should run for deacon or not, and then we vote. Unless a man received a unanimous vote from our present deacons, he cannot run for the office of deacon for that year. In other words, the pastor and each deacon have veto power. We presently have sixty-six men serving as deacons in the First Baptist Church of Hammond. For a man to run for the office of deacon he has to have sixty-seven affirmative votes-sixty-six from the deacons and one from the pastor.
With heads bowed and eyes closed, the pastor says, “Is any person here ready to veto this particular man?”
If a deacon lifts his hand, the man is vetoed and does not run for deacon.
We do not ask the man why he vetoes this prospect. He simply lifts his hand. At this meeting we do not discuss the merit or demerit of men of our church. No word of criticism is given. He simply is accepted or vetoed.
The Pastor Meets with Prospective Deacons
When the list is completed and the names that have been vetoed have been scratched from the list the remaining names on the list are asked to run for deacons for the next year. The pastor meets with these men and tells them of the honor that the present deacons have bestowed upon them. The pastor talks with them frankly. He explains to them the qualifications of a deacon. He explains the responsibilities and duties of a deacon. He explains what is expected of deacons of our church. Then the pastor simply says, “If for any reason you do not meet the qualifications or would not fulfill the responsibilities, would you please not run.”
The pastor then gives a card to each of these men who have been approved by the deacons to run for deacon. The pastor simply asks each to write his name on a card and “yes” or “no.” If he wants to run, the answer is “yes.” If he refuses to run, the answer is “no.” Once again, the pastor does not ask them why they will not run. He does, however, explain to them that if they do not meet all the qualifications or if they will not fulfill each responsibility, they should not run for deacon.
The Church Approves Those Who Run
When the men have been passed unanimously by our present deacons and have agreed themselves to run for the office of deacon, then their names are presented to the church at a regular monthly business meeting. The church approves them as candidates for deacons. Bear in mind, this does not elect them as deacons but simply approves them to run for the office of deacon. We usually have several more running than we have offices to fill. For example, if we have twenty vacancies, we may have twenty-five or thirty men running. This gives the people a choice.
Shortly after the church approves these men to run a ballot is made and an election is held. We keep the polls open between six o’clock and seven-thirty on a particular Wednesday night. The people come between six and seven-thirty, receive their ballots and cast their votes at the polls. If we have twenty offices available, and if twenty-five names are listed, each person is asked to put a check beside twenty of the twenty-five names. These represent the men they feel should be deacons for the new year. Those with the highest number of votes, of course, become deacons in our church.
A Dedication Service Is Held
Shortly after the election we have a dedication service and we set aside these new men to be deacons in the First Baptist Church of Hammond. You may want to call it an ordination service, if you please. Some would prefer this; some would not. We call it a dedication service. At this service we honor the deacons who have served the previous years. We welcome the deacons who have been chosen to serve for the new year. We have the biblical service of the laying on of hands and of offering prayer to God that He may give wisdom and leadership to these men who shall lead our church for the coming year.
After this, the pastor writes a letter of appreciation and thanks to those who were not elected, thanking them for running for deacon and assuring them of his love and appreciation to and for them. This is how we elect deacons at the First Baptist Church of Hammond.
Qualification of Deacons
Our second thought for this discussion shall be the qualification of deacons. O course the first thing that we have to remember is the Scripture. In I Timothy, chapters 2, 3, and 4, God gives the divine order for a local church-pastor and deacons. In chapter 3, verses 8-13 read:
“Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
Now we require that every man who becomes a deacon or even runs for the office of deacon in the First Baptist Church, meet these qualifications. If you notice very carefully, you will notice not only are the qualifications listed for the men but also the their wives. A man should not be a deacon unless he meets the qualifications laid out in I Timothy 3:8-13. a man should not be a deacon unless his wife meets the qualifications laid out in I Timothy 3:11-13.
There are other qualifications, however, that our church requires. For example, we require that the man be a member of the First Baptist Church for at least one year before he can run for the office of a deacon. We do not accept a man from another church as a deacon just because he was a deacon in the other church. We accept each man on an equal basis according to his qualifications, his devotion and service for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me pause to say this word of warning: We do not choose a man to be a deacon because of his financial standing. That is not even taken into consideration. We do not take into consideration a man’s social standing in the community. He might be the head of the school board, the mayor of the town, the president of the bank, or the richest man in the whole city. That does not give him one bit of preference over the poorest man in the city. We use only Bible and spiritual qualifications. Pastor friend, you will rue the day, and my Christian friend, your church will rue the day that deacons were chosen because of talent, social standing, financial standing, prestige, or educational background. The Bible says nothing of this. We choose them because of spiritual qualifications only!
Let us list some others. A deacon must be a soul winner to fill this office in the First Baptist Church of Hammond. No one can run for the office of deacon unless he actively participates in the soul-winning ministry of this church.
Then, we require a deacon to be separate from the world. No man can be a deacon in our church if he drinks alcohol in any form. No man can be a deacon in our church if he uses tobacco in any form. No man can be a deacon in our church if he dances or if he would transgress against any of the convictions that we have here at the First Baptist Church. We believe that the leaders of the church ought to be above reproach. We believe that the leaders who fill the Bible offices for a church ought to be men who walk straight, whose lives are clean, who are peculiar people, a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, men who walk with God, avoid the appearance of evil, and whose lives are clean. Consequently, we expect and demand separation from the world and from worldly practices by those who fill this Bible office.
There is still another qualification. We expect and demand faithfulness to the public services of our church. No man can run for the office of deacon in the First Baptist Church of Hammond unless he is faithful to the Sunday school, faithful to the Sunday morning service, faithful to the Sunday evening service, and faithful to the Wednesday evening service. The men who fill the office of deacon in the First Baptist Church are required to be faithful! Just because a man has money, prestige, power, influence, or leadership ability does not give him any preference over the others. I know church after church that has such men serving as leaders in the church who do not even attend the midweek service on Wednesday night, and oftentimes not even the Sunday evening service, when the preacher pours his heart out before sinners and before God. What a pity! What a shame! How we need to reexamine ourselves concerning the qualifications of our deacons.
Another qualification is the trait of loyalty. We demand and expect that our deacons be loyal-loyal to the church, loyal to the pastor, loyal to the program of the church, and loyal to what God is doing through the church and through the pastor. Don’t you see? The deacons were originally chosen by God (if the men chosen in the sixth chapter of Acts were, for a fact, deacons-and I think they were) to help the pastor, to lift up his hands, to help serve him, to be a boost to him, and to be a help to him. When a deacon ceases to be loyal to the church program and the pastor whom God has called, then he ceases to fulfill one of the main purposes for a deacon and the original purpose for the office.
In Acts 6:3 we read, “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”
With these Bible qualifications, I believe that God can make your church and mine a spiritual lighthouse and soul-winning center for the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Someone would ask, “Pastor, what happens if you elect a man to be a deacon in your church and find out that he smokes or drinks?” Immediately he is dismissed by the board of deacons. Immediately we call a special meeting of our board and this man is asked to resign. I he does not resign as requested, then, of course, we will excuse him from the board of deacons. This is important.
Let me make this word of warning, however. If enough pressure, earnestness, and frankness is exerted in the meeting before the deacons run and before the men are presented to the church, explaining to these men that if they run for deacon they must meet the qualifications, and if they do not meet the qualifications after they are elected, they will be excused from the board, this will avoid some problems and heartaches later on. Make the front door small and back door will not have to be large either.
Duties Of The Deacons
Now we think not only of the election of the deacons and the qualifications of the deacons, but let us notice the duties of the deacons. May I list them for you.
1. The deacons help in the work with the shut-ins of the church.
2. The deacons form an advisory board. The board has no authority whatsoever. A simple, organized church has pastor, deacons, and people-this is the scriptural plan. There are only two offices mentioned in the Bible-pastor and deacon. The deacons have no authority whatsoever. They are simply a board of advisory, a board of recommendation.
These men seek out plans for the future of our church. They prayerfully consider what direction we ought to go. They prayerfully consider the future of our church. They consider the buying of property, the drawing up of the budget, and the planning of the church’s future. They consider the building of buildings, etc. These men find what they feel are the best plans for the First Baptist Church. Then they come before the church body and recommend to the church body what they think should be done. The final authority rests, not with the pastor, not with the deacons, but with the church. Hence, these men can not spend one dime on their own. They cannot make one decision on their own. The decisions are made with the approval, yea, with the vote of the church. We believe that a church in business matters should be a democracy. Our deacons only advise.
I do think that it is only fair to say, however, that in almost every case our church accepts the recommendations of the deacons. I cannot recall a single recommendation that our deacons have made to our church that was not heartily, enthusiastically, and even unanimously accepted by the church. In spite of this fact, the final authority rests with the congregation and not with the deacons. They are simply an advisory board.
3. The deacons are the pastor’s helpers. Let us never forget this. In the book of Acts, this was the purpose of their existence. You will notice in Acts, chapter 6, verses 1-3:
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”
The purpose of the choosing of these men in the first place was that the pastor might be helped. The deacons in the First Baptist Church of Hammond, thanks be to God, are the pastor’s helpers.
4. From the board of deacons is chosen all elected officers of the church. Every committee of our church is composed of men on the board of deacons, and the deacons form every committee of our church. Our church treasurer must be a deacon. Our church clerk must be a deacon. Our head usher must be a deacon. All of our committees must be chosen from the deacons. Now there is a reason for this. This means that when the deacons meet, every committee is present, and every church officer is present. Most pastors, I am afraid, are busier than a one-arm paperhanger running from one committee meeting to another. Why not enlarge the deacon board and why not choose from these men the men who hold offices in the church and form committees in the church, thereby having every committee and every church officer present every time the deacons are called together. Many a pastor would have been saved a Nervous breakdown and ten ulcers if he had followed this simple procedure.
By the way, I think I should say this: We have no standing committees. We appoint a committee of deacons to do a fob. When that job is done, the committee disbands.
5. There is another duty that our deacons fulfill which we list as number five. The deacons elect five or their own to serve as trustees in the church. We do not have a double board,-the board of deacons. Since, however, we are a corporation under the laws of our state, we must have trustees. These trustees are elected from the deacon board. By virtue of the fact that our chairman is also the president of the corporation, he is a trustee. Four other men are elected from the other deacons to fill the office of trustee. These five trustees have no authority. They have no meetings. They simply fill an honorary position fulfilling the laws required by the State of Indiana. Why have two boards when the board of deacons can care for the needs of the church?
6. Our deacons do the personal work at the altar. On Sunday morning when the invitation is given, the deacons come to the front and as the people come receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour, a deacon takes his Bible, kneels at the altar, opens the Word of God and leads the man or woman to the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the personal work is done by the board of deacons.
7. Our deacons count the money on Sunday afternoon. We divide our men into four different groups. Each group counts the money one Sunday afternoon a month. The money is counted in the afternoon and deposited by the deacons. No one else touches the money. For that matter, when the offering is taken in a public service, the deacons (several of them) must go together and carry the offering to the safe. The money is handled only by deacons.
8. The deacons take care of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The deacons prepare the Lord’s Supper and work kin the men’s dressing rooms preparing the new converts for the ordinance of baptism. The deacons serve the Lord’s Supper. We have men from our deacon board chosen to do these jobs.
9. Our deacons oversee the entire program of the church. With no authority, only as a board of recommendation or board of advisory, these men guide the church, stand out in front, sit up in the tower, and look toward the future, trying to suggest the best way the First Baptist Church should go.
How Many Deacons?
We leave the responsibilities and duties now and discuss how many deacons a church should have. We feel it is best to have many deacons. I think there is strength in numbers. We have sixty-six deacons. We try to have one deacon for each one hundred members of our church. At the present time we have more than 6600 members but we do have only sixty-six deacons.
One-third of the deacon board goes off annually. Each man is elected for a three-year term. He must run again if he is to succeed himself, and by the way, he can succeed himself, which means that twenty-two of our men go off each year. They can run again, others run against them, and from these men we a have another twenty-two men elected for a three-year term.
Officers Of The Board
What are the officers of the deacon board? We have these officers: a chairman, a first vice chairman, a second vice chairman, a secretary, an assistant secretary, and five trustees. These men are elected by the deacon board at the first deacons’ meeting after the starting or our new church year.
In conclusion, may I simply make this observation. The main relationship of a deacon is to be a pal and an encouragement to his pastor.
Have we demons or deacons? I say deacons. I have not known what it is to pastor demons. How I think God for those men who have labored with em through these years filling the Bible office of deacon, helping the pastor, praying for the pastor, and serving with the pastor.
God bless these good men and increase their tribe.
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