Appointment and Removal of Deacons

Appointment and Removal of Deacons

Appointment of Deacons[1]

1. Initiation of the Appointment Process

When the need for a deacon becomes evident to the church,[2] a man will be considered for appointment to that office if:

  • he desires to be considered for the office and consents to being evaluated by the church,
  • he appears to be biblically qualified in accordance with 1 Tim. 3:8-12,  
  • he is well-known to the general membership of the church,
  • he has been tested (1 Tim. 3:10)[3] and appears to be to suitable for the office with respect to the specific task(s) that caused the need for a deacon to become evident,[4] and
  • he appears to be doctrinally and philosophically compatible with the elder team.

2. Input from the Church

The elders will inform the members of Christ Fellowship that the man is being considered for appointment as a deacon, and will ask for input from those who know him well. Any member will be welcome to provide input, but the elders may seek input from some members in particular (i.e., members of his home congregation or others in the church who know him particularly well).

3. Confirmation from the Church

When the elders are in agreement that the candidate is qualified and that he should be appointed as a deacon, they will make this known to the members. This notification will provide the date on which they intend to appoint the man to the office, once again providing opportunity for any with concerns to bring them to the elders’ attention.   

4. Appointment

Formal appointment will take place at a whole-church gathering. The elder team will present the deacon to the church, signifying their unanimous approval as well as their confidence that Christ, the Head of the church, is calling him into service in an official capacity. The elder team will pray for him and for the edification of the church through his service.

Reasons for Removing a Deacon[5]

The purpose of this section is to describe the kinds of circumstances that could lead to the need for a deacon to voluntarily step down from the office or for the church to remove him from office. We will also describe the basic steps the church will take in such cases.  

1. Personal Desire to Step Down

If a deacon becomes personally convinced that he is no longer qualified to serve in that capacity, or if he no longer desires the position, he should be allowed to step down. In such cases, before the deacon steps down, diligent attempts should be made to encourage him to continue. He may simply be frustrated, discouraged, or excessively harsh in his self-examination (assuming the elders and members of the church still see him as qualified and effective).

2. A Need for Rest

If the elder team recognizes that a deacon has become overburdened and needs rest from his duties (e.g., for health reasons or for the good of his family), he may decide on his own or be encouraged by the elders to step down for a time of recovery and rejuvenation.

3. Significant Doctrinal Disharmony

If it becomes clear that a deacon holds and promotes doctrinal positions contrary to those in the statement of faith (Holding Fast the Word of Life), and if doctrinal harmony is unattainable through study and discussion with the elders, the deacon must step down or be removed. For example:

  • A deacon who was once baptistic in his beliefs now insists that infants should be baptized, or would permit them to be baptized.
  • A deacon begins to doubt or distort doctrines pertaining to the gospel of God’s grace, and therefore can no longer be said to “hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience” (1 Tim. 3:9). Heretical beliefs and teaching will be dealt with through church discipline.

4. Significant Philosophical Disharmony

No church will be comprised solely of people who are perfectly like-minded, but if a church is to remain healthy and unified, they must be generally like-minded, moving in the same direction. This applies particularly to elders and deacons. If a deacon insists on moving in a substantially different and incompatible direction regarding a major matter of church life, and if he remains unyielding despite all attempts to harmonize his vision with that of the elder team, he must step down or be removed. For example:

  • A deacon who was formerly committed to the principle of meeting primarily in homes (a Christ Fellowship distinctive) insists on moving toward the traditional, sanctuary-style setting for the gatherings of the church.
  • A deacon who was formerly in agreement that the main gatherings of the church are primarily for the purposes of worship and mutual edification, becomes convinced that the predominant focus of these regular gatherings should be to attract an unsaved audience for evangelism.

5. Inability or Persistent Failure to Serve the Church

A deacon must step down or be removed if it becomes clear that he is unable, unwilling, or persistently failing to serve the church in the way(s) required of him. For example:

  • A deacon becomes unable or unwilling to perform his service to the church due to mental or physical illness or incapacitation.
  • A deacon, because of unavoidable circumstances (i.e., necessary care of an ill or injured family member, unavoidable financial struggles, etc.), no longer has the time and/or energy to perform his service to the church.
  • A deacon becomes so distracted by life’s challenges (i.e. marital pressures, work-related stress, etc.) that he can no longer perform his service to the church.

6. The Discovery of Non-disciplinary Biblical Disqualification(s)

If a deacon who formerly was (or was thought to be) biblically qualified is found to be disqualified in any area, he must step down or be removed. For example:

  • A deacon who had a well-managed household at the time of his appointment now has children in his home who are known publicly for dissipation (wild or extravagant behavior) or insubordination (rebelliousness, disrespect, or disobedience to parents or others in authority). Even if the deacon has been diligent in the training and discipline of his children, their reputation in such a case would disqualify him (cf. 1 Timothy 3:12).
  • A married deacon’s wife becomes known as a gossip or slanderer, or in some other way develops a reputation that is inconsistent with the standards explained in 1 Timothy 3:11.

7. Public Disciplinary Action   

A deacon whose sin causes him to become the object of public church discipline can no longer be considered “blameless” (1 Tim. 3:10) and must be removed from office.  

The Process for Removing a Deacon

Any member who perceives that there is a problem with a deacon should be appropriately cautious before discussing it with anyone else in the church.[6] If after careful consideration the member believes the matter to be addressed, it should be revealed only to the elders. Before revealing the matter even to an elder, the member should consider the following factors:

  • Because the church was diligent in examining the man before appointing him as a deacon, the member should weigh the possibility that the perceived issue could be due to wrong thinking or misunderstanding on the part of those who have perceived it.
  • An accusation brought against a deacon could potentially cause great strife and division in the church.
  • The unnecessary investigation of a deacon could cause him to lose respect and credibility.

Assuming that these factors have been carefully considered, neither personal loyalty, fear of strife within the church, personal insecurity, fear of reprisal, nor any other concern should prevent a member from respectfully revealing to the elders a legitimate problem regarding a deacon. Additionally, none of these concerns should dissuade the church from investigating and removing a deacon if necessary.

If a deacon begins to see himself as biblically unqualified and desires to voluntarily step down, no lengthy investigative process is necessary. Once the elders have discussed the problem and are in agreement, the matter should simply be announced to the church, giving due credit to the man for placing the good of the church as a higher priority than his own desire to serve.

If a deacon has fallen into one of the above categories, yet has not expressed the willingness to step down, the following investigative and administrative action will be taken:

Assuming the matter is well attested by multiple witnesses (cf. 1 Timothy 5:19), the elder team will discuss the details thoroughly. All perspectives will be heard, including that of the deacon in question. Any members who have pertinent information regarding the situation will be asked for input. If the consensus among the elder team is that the deacon in question is unyielding in his incompatible position or biblically disqualified in some other way, he will be administratively removed by the elder team, and this action will be announced to the church. If his removal is in conjunction with a disciplinary matter, it will be handled in accordance with the disciplinary process described in Christ Fellowship’s discipline statement, Restoring Those Who Fall.  

If, after investigation, it is determined that the deacon is biblically qualified, philosophically and doctrinally compatible with the elder team, and/or innocent of charges brought against him, and if the matter was publicly known to the church, the members will be informed in order to affirm or reestablish his credibility.

[1] The material in this procedural paper is dependent upon, and assumes understanding of, our separate doctrinal paper on deacons, entitled Deacons in the New Testament: Questions and Answers. Occasionally here, we will refer to specific section(s) of that paper.   

[2] Deacons in the New Testament: Questions and Answers, #7

[3] Deacons in the New Testament: Questions and Answers, #7.

[4] Deacons in the New Testament: Questions and Answers, # 8, #9.

[5] Deacons in the New Testament: Questions and Answers, #17.

[6] Deacons in the New Testament: Questions and Answers, #18.