Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pastor-Led vs. Deacon-Led Churches

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.
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.
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.
Recently I was told to cease a God-given ministry by a deacon board. The board demanded the pastor tell me to resign that ministry.  I had no obligation to do so 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.  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!
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 resignation. His son John asked me if I would serve on the Trustee Board because of their pressures on his dad. This type of government in the local church is NOT BIBLICAL and is deadly for any local church.
“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, who laid hands on them, installing
and officially placing them as deacons.
Like the other men, Stephen was of good report, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. However, Acts 6:5 makes a remark about Stephen that is unique only to him. It says that he was “…a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost….” This stronger level of faith may have been a contributing factor to the development recorded in Acts 6:8: “And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.” 
Stephen was a God-called evangelist, and he was later privileged to be the first martyr in the history of the Church – killed at the order of Saul of Tarsus, who later became known as the apostle Paul (see Acts 7:58-8:1). The deacon ministry was vital proving ground to prepare Stephen for the fivefold office of the evangelist. The name Stephen is from the Greek word stephanos, and it means crown. This is worth noting, for he was the first to receive a martyr’s crown.
Philip was with the other six original deacons. However, Acts 21:8 informs us that Philip later stepped in the ministry of the evangelist. He had four daughters who prophesied (v. 9). Just as the deacon training was proving ground for Stephen to step into the office of the evangelist, it was also Philip’s school of ministry to prepare him for evangelistic ministry. The name Philip means lover of horses. This name often symbolized a person who ran with swiftness, as does a horse – a fitting name for a New Testament evangelist who ran swiftly to carry the Gospel message.
Very little is known about this member of the original deacons. His name, Prochorus, is a compound of the Greek words pro and chorus. The word pro means before or in front of, as with the position of a leader. The word “chorus” is the old Greek word for where we get the word choreography.
This unknown brother was found to be of good report, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Other than this, nothing is known of him. He is never mentioned again in the New Testament after Acts 6. His name, Nicanor, means conqueror.
Like Nicanor mentioned above, Timon was known to be of good report, filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. Nothing more is known of him outside of Acts 6. His name means honorable or of great value.
Parmenas We know nothing more of Parmenas other than what is mentioned here in Acts 6. His name is a compound of the words para and meno – the word para meaning alongside and meno meaning to remain or to abide. Compounded together, his name came to mean one who sticks alongside and conveyed the idea of one who is devoted, loyal, and faithful.
Acts 6:5 tells us that this Nicolas was “a proselyte of Antioch.” The fact that he was a proselyte tells us that he was not born a Jew but had converted from paganism to Judaism. Then he experienced a second conversion, this time turning from Judaism to Christianity. From this information, we know these facts about Nicolas of Antioch:
  • – He came from paganism and had deep pagan roots. It was very much unlike the other six deacons who came from a pure Hebrew line. Nicolas’ pagan background meant that he had previously been immersed in the activities of the occult.
  • – He was not afraid of taking an opposing position, evidenced by his ability to change religions twice. Converting to Judaism would have estranged him from his pagan family and friends. It would seem to indicate that he was not impressed or concerned about the opinions of other people.
  • – He was a free thinker and very open to embracing new ideas and concepts. Judaism was very different from the pagan and occult world in which he had been raised. For him to shift from paganism to Judaism reveals that he was very liberal in his thinking, for most pagans were offended by Judaism. He was obviously not afraid to entertain or embrace new ways of thinking.
  • – When he converted to Christ, it was at least the second time he had converted from one religion to another. We don’t know if, or how many times, he shifted from one form of paganism to another before he became a Jewish proselyte. His ability to easily change religious “hats” implies that he was not afraid to switch direction in midstream and go a totally different direction.
According to the writings of the Early Church leaders, Nicolas taught a doctrine of compromise, implying that total separation between Christianity and the practice of occult paganism was not essential. From Early Church records, it seems apparent that this Nicolas of Antioch was so immersed in occultism, Judaism, and Christianity that he had a stomach for all of it.
He had no problem intermingling these belief systems in various concoctions and saw no reason why believers couldn’t continue to fellowship with those still immersed in the black magic of the Roman empire and its countless mystery cults. This influence and ability to conquer the members of a local church is destruction in the making. No board or individual should dictate, but should be dictated to by the decisions of the local church membership or it ceases to be a local church.
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.
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.
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 given by God.
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.

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. The man of God is the custodian for those ministries.

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 for if they do they open the door to compromise with “board rule” instead of “church rule.”

They should never rule ministries with an up or down vote on its 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.

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.
by Bob Gray Sr.

Related Articles


  1. Why would the Bible teach that the deacons should have the same qualifications as a pastor if all they were was glorified waiters? The church you used to attend in Hammond has been taught for 50 years that the pastor was the absolute authority and not to be questioned. In the past 15 years nobody would dare question the pastor or entertain any kind of thoughts of his wrongdoing. Now the pastor is gone and the deacons, members, and present pastor are left to clean up the messes and settle all the law suits. Could have been avoided if not for nonsense like this article.

  2. Exactly God is a god pf order i am an ordained deacon we are to help and work with the pastor to keep church harmony and win souls for christ not blindly serve just because pastors say it is from God does not make it true there are always checks and balances people whole lives are being toyed with and faith shattered from some rough selfserving pastors and deacons also we as christins need to study the word of god first before being so quick to listen to man and avoid icthing ears God bless

  3. I was wondering where anyone actually finds the teaching of pastor ruled churches in the New Testament. I find multiple elders leading in the book of acts. Modern baptist churches don’t even recognize the office of elder or use the word bishop as the Bible does.

  4. I agree, Chase. Nowhere in Scripture do you find one pastor…the “Godman,” other than Diotrephes who “loved to have the preeminence.” Multiple elders are biblical, along with being like the Bereans: “searching to see if is so,” and the Priesthood of the believer. Unfortunately, you won’t typically find multiple elders, or any of the aforementioned in a typical Baptist church, except in churches espousing Calvinism…and that’s a whole other unbiblical animal. It’s been a frustration of my family for 25+ years…a continual search. What’s happened to the church today? What’s a person to do? Perhaps we are arriving at the end of the church age. Lord Jesus, come quickly!

  5. From what I understand the Nicolaitans were more a religious hierarchy like the Catholics that esteem some above others such as popes, cardinals and priests being more important than the laity therefore having dominion over them. Christ told his disciples to call no man Rabbi or master in that one is their (and our) Master, even Christ; and all ye (we too) are brethren. He also condemned those that exalt themselves. (Matthew 23:5-12) So; I believe that is the doctrine of the Nicolaitans that he hates. Having said that, I do believe a Pastor should be respected and followed as long as he is leading according to the word of God, but if he clearly departs from the word of God then not just Deacons but any member of the Church has a right to call him out on his error. For example: If a Pastor says his Church should join up with an ecumenical group that denies the fundamentals of the faith that Pastor is wrong according to the word of God and needs to be called out on it. Or, if a Pastor starts using the Hebrew or Greek to “correct” the Authorized King James Bible and considers it to be just “another translation” instead of the inerrant, infallible, inspired, preserved word of God, then he needs to be called out on his error. By all means, love, respect, and honor your Pastor but if he errs from God’s word he is open to correction just like any other child of God.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Stay Connected


Articles For You...