Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership is often cited as the authority on the ministry of the elder. His work on the office of deacon is less known, but is as helpful as any book I’ve studied for a while. Part of the benefit TCBC received from the book has to do with us—our officers read through it at a particularly needy time. We’ve had a plurality of elders and deacons, but we haven’t had them functioning distinctly until recently. Frankly, we’ve had too little difference between our elders and deacons and too much difference between our non-staff & staff elders (whom we call “pastors”). Our understanding of the issue was right, but our practice didn’t reflect it. At any rate, we recently focused on having our elders “eld” and our deacons “deac,” and this book was very helpful in getting us back on track. By God’s grace, it’s going very, very well.
(This is for free: the term “board” isn’t at all helpful.)
I’m uploading the definition of church offices we’ve worked on in recent months. (Officer Definitions pdf) It provides our definition of the offices, followed by explanations and clarifications. It wasn’t prepared with publication in mind, but it may be helpful for you. And BTW, Dever’s books (particularly The Deliberate Church) have been a help on this issue, as well.
Our understanding of church polity is essentially as follows:
1. Christ rules.
2. The body moves.
3. The elders lead.
4. The deacons serve.
One note about Strauch’s book. He sees Acts 6 as definitive of the office of deacon. That’s fine. However, based on Acts 6, he (usually) says that the deacon’s job is to care for widows and those in need—period. I also believe that Acts 6 is definitive, but in this since: the deacon’s job is to assist the spiritual leaders of the church (apostles then, elders now), enabling them to focus on prayer and the ministry of the Word (Acts 6:4). In other words, while Strauch sees ministering to widows as exhaustive, I see it as exemplary. Practically speaking, the difference is very significant.
Even for those who have a good understanding of the deacon’s office, this is a helpful book. It would be a great book to read through with your church officers.
If you’d like to discuss it or if you have questions about it, feel free to chime in.