Deacons Without Elders? Bible Question.
“Based on your study of the Bible, is it unscriptural to have deacons without elders?”
Because the Bible is silent on this subject, my study has convinced me that having deacons in a church with no elders is not a violation of the Scriptures. The works of elders and deacons are different. The elders are overseers or shepherds of the church (1 Peter 5:1 – 3; 1 Timothy 5:17). The deacons are servants of the church, for that is what the word means. The Greek word for deacon (in verb form) is used of those seven men selected by the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6). There is no record of that church having elders at the time, although it is possible that they did.
Some conclude that a church cannot have deacons unless they have elders appointed, because they tend to think of the deacons as some kind of “junior elders”. But deacons are not “servants” of the elders – they are servants of the church. And we may as well as argue that there cannot be elders unless we have deacons! The truth is that the work of each is separate from the other, and each can do their jobs without the other. If a church has both elders and deacons, then, of course, deacons work under the oversight of the elders – as do all the other members.
But if a church has deacons, and no elders, the deacons are still deacons – not elders. They are not spiritual shepherds and they have no more “authority” than any other member. They serve the church, and in the absence of elders, their work is directed by the church and is overseen in exactly the same way all the other work is directed in that congregation – whether in a business meeting or in some other way chosen by that local church.