I. THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN
THE ELDERS AND THE DEACONS
The elders in the church are the ones who conduct the administration of the church. They are the ones who govern, rule, administer, and conduct affairs. The function of the deacons in the church is in the nature of service. Their work is much like what is commonly spoken of as business affairs. Everything in the church should be proposed and decided by the elders, and all the business affairs in the church should be carried out and executed by the deacons. The boundary between these two things should be very clear. Otherwise, sometimes the elders will be doing the work of the deacons, and the deacons will be doing the work of the elders.
Certain things that should be done by the deacons are done by the elders. Thus, the elders have overstepped the functions of the deacons. Take, for instance, the matter of arranging the meeting hall. How should the hall be arranged? When should it be arranged? Proposals and decisions in these matters are for the elders to make. But when the hall is actually being arranged, the matter should be handed over to the deacons. If the elders have to be involved directly with this kind of arranging work, the elders have done the work of the deacons. On the one hand, such a thing puts the deacons out of a job. On the other hand, the more important works that the elders should have done are left undone. Hence, we see that this kind of practice is entirely a damage to the church.
On the other hand, the affairs of the church should be conducted and decided by the elders. But suppose the elders neglect their duties and leave it to the deacons to make decisions. The deacons do not represent the authority and do not know the condition of the whole church. When they make proposals regarding the church, this will affect the atmosphere of the church. The reason these abnormalities occur is that the elders are not clear about the matter of boundaries. Therefore, all proposals in the church must definitely be initiated by the elders, and as much as possible all services in the church must be handed over to the deacons.
The elders must stay within their own boundaries. They must only do the things that are within their boundaries and must let the deacons do the things that should be done by the deacons. This is a difficult thing for the elders to do, because the elders will then have to be responsible to bring in some deacons. Many are of the disposition that since they can take care of the matters by themselves, it would be more convenient to do the things by themselves. In that way, they could do things the way they want. It would be very inconvenient to bring along someone else in the work. Not only will they be restricted, but they will have to learn to be humble and to accept the dealings. This is why many times the elders simply take the shortcut and do the work themselves. When they do this once, twice, three times, four times, on and on, it becomes impossible for the deacons to be perfected.
(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)