Deacons are the serving ones in the Bible. In the church there should not only be responsible ones like the elders, but the church should also have serving ones like the deacons. The church needs men who give proposals and who manage and oversee the brothers, like the elders. The church also needs dedicated serving ones to take care of all the miscellaneous affairs, like the deacons. The ones who make decisions, manage the church, make proposals, oversee, and observe from top to bottom are the elders. The ones who execute the affairs, run errands, take orders, and help others in being directed are the deacons. God needs the elders to be the doorkeepers, and He needs the deacons to work and run errands for the believers. For example, the money of an assembly is kept by the deacons, while the authority to use the money is with the elders. All matters related to the brothers are directed and decided by the elders and announced by the deacons. The elders are the foremen, and the deacons are the workmen. The deacons do not have any proposals of their own; they only work according to the direction of the elders. The deacons are those who help the elders accomplish things. (Concerning the deacons, much is recorded in the books of Timothy and Titus.) I hope that some brothers among us would be raised up to be the deacons, and I hope that some sisters among us would also be raised up to be the deaconesses. The Bible records deaconesses. The deacons and deaconesses are dedicated to the handling and management of affairs.
Question: Is the selection of the deacons by way of voting?
Answer: No. During the early years, there were not many scrolls with which to write everything down. The selection of deacons in the time of the apostles was not by a vote of the majority. The deacons were first approved by the apostles and manifested to be deacons in a most natural way. The scriptural way of selecting the deacons is to allow the deacons to become manifest in a natural way. Those who were qualified to be deacons were selected by the church and acknowledged by the apostles. We should practice the same today.
Question: Why was the selection of Matthias by the way of casting lots?
Answer: The Holy Spirit had not yet descended, and the disciples did not know which one should fill the place. They selected two and decided which one of the two should fill up the apostleship.
Question: Does not Acts 6 say that the disciples appointed seven deacons?
Answer: Acts 6 does not say explicitly that these seven were the deacons. It only shows us that they were doing the work of deacons. Therefore, we can only say that they were the deacons by the things they did. When Acts mentions Philip, it says that he was one of the seven; it does not say that he was one of the seven deacons. Therefore, although there are deacons in the Bible, it does not say clearly that the deacons are elected. I think that the matter of selection of the deacons should be treated in the same way as the appointment of the elders, that is, they should be appointed by the apostles and sent by the apostles. We should be careful not to investigate what the Bible has purposely left blank and unexplained.
Question: When should elders and deacons be appointed?
Answer: The sooner they are appointed, the better.
Question: If a local meeting has only three brothers, who should be the elders and deacons?
Answer: The only thing that can be done is for these few brothers to function as elders and deacons at the same time. In the whole Bible, only the book of Philippians gives a complete description of the church, which includes the saints, the elders, and the deacons. It tells us that the church is composed of the saints, elders, and deacons: "Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and deacons" (Phil. 1:1).
Question: Why does 1 Timothy say that a man must be approved before he can be appointed a deacon?
Answer: The deacons are those who are dedicated to handling affairs. The deacons are always the younger ones. They may act in the flesh. Therefore, they must first be tested a few times. They must first be sent to handle affairs a few times, before one can decide if they are qualified to be a deacon.
Question: If a few brothers begin to meet in a place, what should they have first, deacons or elders?
Answer: They should first have responsible ones and then the bread-breaking meeting. They should first have elders and then deacons. This is the teaching in Acts. Antioch is one example. There should at least be one brother who can take responsibility before the bread-breaking meeting is initiated. Otherwise, the bread-breaking meeting will not be proper. Moreover, from the beginning there should be the teaching of submission to the elders and the teaching of submission one to another when the meeting starts. Otherwise, in a meeting of five people, the five will become five big denominations. When this happens, these five may still remember the Lord at the bread-breaking meeting, but they will not be able to discern the Body; they will not consider themselves the Body of Christ. They will care only for themselves and take only themselves as the head. Therefore, we should learn to submit to the elders and also learn to submit to one another.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 2) Vol. 22: The Assembly Life & The Prayer Ministry of the Church, Chapter 4, by Watchman Nee)