When ever this topic is touched on it brings to the surface a delicate issue. God is the one who created the office of “deacon.” However, the evolution of the office has been misshaped by churches who are abdicating pastoral responsibilities. Major denominations have ruined Biblical church polity by creating Trustee Boards and Deacon Boards with powers far beyond Scriptural boundaries to the detriment of local churches.
When someone brings it to the attention of God’s people visceral attitudes are expressed in emails and articles defending the usurping of pastoral power with deacon boards. Thank God for every deacon who knows his place of service. I am grateful for the men who served with me in my decades of pastoring. They were good godly men who won souls and lived the right example. However, I reminded them of their Biblical roles and avoided the pitfalls I see so many young men falling into.
However, I had to work to keep outside influences of denominational powers from perverting the office of deacon in the churches I pastored. God intended for them to wait on tables so the man of God could study the word, pray, teach, and preach for God’s people. When men of God begin to give away power that does not belong to them to deacons it becomes a cancer and nothing good will come from it.
NO DEACON BOARD SHOULD EVER DECIDE THE LIFE OR DEATH OF A MINISTRY OF A MAN OF GOD
Good churches have been destroyed because of a church polity that does not exist in the Scriptures. No deacon or deacon board should EVER decide the life or death of ministries. I detest that kind of power in the hand of a board. God’s men make those decisions not deacons. In many cases the man of God is TOLD what ministry can live and what ministry MUST DIE. No Biblical basis for this action.
Deacon boards who give ultimatums are usurping authority given only by God. They in turn give that ultimatum to the local church so they can hide behind the vote. Their only role is to care for the physical and let the man of God care for the spiritual. Pastors are scared of their boards and that is a shame because the members become complicit in this mutiny by voting.
Recently I was told to cease a God-given ministry by a deacon board. The board demanded the pastor give me an ultimatum and to tell me to resign that ministry or they would stop the money used for Mrs. Gray and my retirement. We depended upon that income for 7 years. It cost me financially, but at least I still shave a man in the morning.
The pastor laid it on the deacons and wanted like Pilate to wash his hands of the matter. My ministry was called a “conflict of interest.” Silly! If I had started a Satan Church that would be a conflict of interest. It would have been so easy to give in to their pressure because of the financial repercussions of their threats. BUT, I could not do so!
I had no obligation to give in to their ultimatum because they did not like that particular ministry. God told me to start it and start it I did. There was no Biblical basis for such a demand from those deacons. They told the pastor, who folded like a cheap Sears Sucker suit, and then had the church vote to follow their recommendation; even though in a letter he recommended my ministry.
This happens more than even I would like to know. It saddens me for I remember the demands on Dr. Lee Roberson, which led to his retirement. I was asked if I would serve on the Trustee Board because of the unjust pressures on Dr. Roberson. This type of government in the local church is NOT BIBLICAL and is deadly for any local church.
THE DEEDS OF THE NICOLAITANS
“But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Revelation 2:6 Have you ever wondered who the “Nicolaitans” were, mentioned in the book of Revelation? Whoever they were, Jesus loathed their doctrine and hated their deeds. Let’s delve into this subject today to see if we can ascertain the identity of this group. What was their damnable doctrine? What deeds were they committing that elicited such a strong reaction from Jesus?
Let’s begin in Revelation 2:6, where Jesus told the church of Ephesus, “But this thou hast [in your favor], that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” Jesus was proud of the church of Ephesus for their “hatred” of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which He also “hated.”
The word “hate” is a strong word, so let’s see exactly what it means. It comes from the Greek word miseo, which means to hate, to abhor, or to find utterly repulsive. It describes a person who has a deep-seated animosity, who is antagonistic to something he finds to be completely objectionable. He not only loathes that object, but rejects it entirely. This is not just a case of dislike; it is a case of actual hatred.
Any doctrine or practice that hurts the espoused bride of Christ, for whom He shed his blood for, is a dangerous path to tread.
The thing Jesus hated about them was their “deeds.” The word “deeds” is the Greek word erga, which means works. However, this word is so all-encompassing that it pictures all the deeds and behavior of the Nicolaitans – including their actions, beliefs, conduct, and everything else connected to them.
To crack the door for compromise silently and secretly to override the local church is the action of the Nicolaitans. Jesus died and shed His blood for the local church not a board or a denomination. For there to be any authority over and above a local church is the goal of the Nicolaitans.
The name “Nicolaitans” is derived from the Greek word nikolaos, a compound of the words nikos and laos. The word nikos is the Greek word that means to conquer or to subdue. The word laos is the Greek word for the people. It is also where we get the word laity. When these two words are compounded into one, they form the name Nicolas, which literally means one who conquers and subdues the people.
It seems to suggest that the Nicolaitans were somehow conquering and subduing the laity or the members of the local church. His say took precedence over their say as a local church.
The Nicolaitans were the spiritual descendants of Nicolas of Antioch, who had been ordained as a deacon in Acts 6:5. That verse says, “And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch.”
We know quite a lot of information about some of these men who were chosen to be the first deacons, whereas little is known of others. For instance, we know that the chief criteria for their selection was that they were men “…of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…”(v. 3).
Once they had been chosen, they were presented by the people to the apostles installing and officially placing them as deacons to relieve the pastors from waiting tables to prayer, to the word of God, and to the ministry. Bible deacons have no authority over ministry and certainly should not lead the members to do so either.
It is significant that the “deeds” and “doctrines” of the Nicolaitans are only mentioned in connection with the churches in two occultic and pagan cities. It seems that the “doctrine” of the Nicolaitans was that it was alright to have one foot in both worlds and that one needn’t be so strict about separation from the world in order to be a Christian. This, in fact, was the “doctrine” of the Nicolaitans that Jesus “hated.”
It led to a weak version of Christianity that was without power and without conviction – a defeated, worldly type of Christianity. The conquering of the laity or members of the local church was hated by Christ. When a deacon board unjustly leads the members to an unjust decision it is because the pastor has abdicated his responsibilities. The members become complicit in the injustice and the devil is happy.
I have a question-Where is the church at Ephesus? Where is the church at Pergamos? Where is the church of Antioch? No church is infallible in its decision making, but it will come a whole lot closer to the right decision when roles are understood and obeyed.
Not every church vote is a vote sanctioned by God
The pastor should never receive nor deliver ultimatums from the deacon board on ministries’ of men of God for the members to vote on. This deciding if the ministry lives or dies is up to God alone. It is just as right for the church to be right with its members as it is for the members to be right with its church. Not every church vote is a vote sanctioned by God.
The overthrowing of local church entity, autonomy, and indigenousness was despised by Christ. It would lead to compromise. Christ’s church is to be presented without spot and blemish. This cannot happen if one or a group of ones dictate and usurp authority over a local New Testament Church autonomous and indigenous church polity. Where are the pastors with a back bone who clarify and identify Biblical roles of deacons.
Nicolas’ deep roots in paganism may have produced in him a tolerance for occultism and paganism.
Growing up in this perverted spiritual environment may have caused him to view these belief systems as not so damaging or dangerous. This wrong perception would have resulted in a very liberal viewpoint that encouraged people to stay connected to the world. This is what numerous Bible scholars believe about the Nicolaitans.
They justified their position by getting their way through conquering the local church bathing it in compromise by controlling the life and death of ministries of men of God given by God. Ultimatums on men of God and their ministries is not the deacons’ Biblical role.
This kind of teaching would result in nothing but total defeat for its followers. When believers allow a persona or a board to over rule the man of God, his ministries, and the local church they are opening up the potential of sin and compromise to be in their lives. It drains away the power in the work of the Cross and the power of the Spirit that is resident in a believer’s life.
THE MAN OF GOD IS THE CUSTODIAN FOR HIS MINISTRY
Ministries are given by God to His man not the deacon board. These ministries belong to God and in many cases not even the local church. Some ministries are birthed in a local church, but many are brought to a local church by a man of God. What right does a deacon have to shut down a ministry given by God which was brought to them. The man of God is the custodian for his ministries.
To financial support a ministry is one thing that comes with a ministry birthed by the local church. However, those ministries that are brought to the same local church are under the control and leadership of the man whom God gave the ministry to. These ministries are God given not man given.
This is the reason the name Nicolas is so vital to this discussion. The evil fruit of Nicolas’ “doctrine” encouraged worldly participation, leading people to indulge in sin and a lowered godly standard.
In this way he literally conquered the members of a local church and over threw their stand by controlling the life or death of ministries.
God wants to make sure we understand the doctrine the Nicolaitans taught, so Balaam’s actions are given as an example of their doctrine and actions. Revelation 2:14,15 says, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.”
Just as the men of Israel compromised themselves with the world and false religions, now the “doctrine” of the Nicolaitans was encouraging compromise via over ruling the the man of God, his ministries, and the local church membership’s stand as a local church. As you are well aware, compromise with the world always results in a weakened and powerless form of Christianity.
No board or no one person should ever over rule a local church, the men of God, their ministries; for if they do they open the door to compromise by over throwing the local church autonomy. When they force a vote with threatening statements something is wrong. No deacon board should ever demand to oversee a ministry or demand a ministry be stopped. When the pastor forfeits his spiritual role a vacuum is created and it will be filled by the deacons.
This was the reason Jesus “hated” the “doctrine” and the “deeds” of the Nicolaitans. No board should ever over rule the vote of a local church or reverse the vote; for if they do they open the door to compromise with “board rule” instead of “church rule.”
They should never intimidate the members to vote to rule on ministries with an up or down vote on the ministries’ very existence. This is not their place. Taking care of the widows and the physical is there ONLY role. When they make a back room decision and then threaten the church that they had better agree with the back room deal, nothing good will come from this overthrowing of valid ministries. Where was the man of God in this process?
Thus the “deeds of the Nicolaitans” leads to compromise and generations to follow will pay the price of their compromise of overthrowing the will of the local church. Every church deserves to have a real man of God at the helm who has the fortitude of strength to remind everyone of their Biblical roles. It is not easy, but a necessary fight for right.
by Dr. Bob Gray Sr.