I recently released a Kindle edition of Rev. John Lorimer’s 1861 book “The Deaconship”. Lorimer was a founding minister of the Free Church of Scotland and an instrument in the revival of diaconal ministry in Scotland. In Chapter IX of the book,he discusses the benefits of the diaconate to various parties. In particular, he sees benefits for elders, pastors, deacons, the poor, and entire church.
Benefit to the elders. By having a well functioning diaconate, elders will be relieved of the responsibility of caring for the material needs of the poor. Qualified men will be more willing to become elders knowing they won’t have this responsibility. Elders will more effectively be able to care for the spiritual needs of their flock without prejudices created by caring for material needs. Finally, the office of deacon provides “an excellent nursery for the eldership”; young men serving as deacons might be prepared to later serve as elders.
Benefit to the pastor. An effective diaconate “would at once relieve, and strengthen, and encourage” a pastor. “He feels, that amid all his own difficulties and discouragements, he is not standing alone—that others are alive to his circumstances, and sympathize with him, and are forward to aid him—and that he can have their advice and cooperation in many matters which are otherwise fitted to distract and to burden.”
Benefit to the deacon. “The office of deacon tends to amalgamate ranks, to soften differences, to prevent or correct pernicious misapprehensions.” It prevents in the deacon “the growth of selfishness and worldliness, and exaggerated views of life, in an age peculiarly addicted to such evils, is the more important.”
Benefit to the poor. The poor will be treated not with the “coldness and harshness… of paid agents” or the “fits and starts” of private Christians, but with “persevering application” and “intelligent sympathizing kindness” of deacons.
Benefit to the church. When the diaconate is functioning well, the whole church will be strengthened in love for one another. The people will be better served as the minister and elders are freed to perform their calling. The church will be “crowned with the approbation of her exalted Head.”
Photo of the Statue of Thomas Chalmers, George Street, Edinburgh by Carlos Delgado - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0.