The apostle Paul uses the term "deacon" in close proximity with the ministry of "elders."
- Acts 6:1-7 - Deacons are appointed to assist the elders (apostles) in their ministries.
- Philippians 1:1 - Paul ties deacons and elders together as essential church ministries. "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops (episkopos) and deacons (diakonos):"
- I Timothy 3:8-13 - The qualifications of deacons, which immediately follows the qualification of elders.
In Philippi Paul recognized the two key leadership roles of the church to be vested in overseers (episkopos) and deacons (diakonos). Both were evident in the local assemblies. Both were necessary to the effective ministry to the body of Christ.
Paul used three words to describe the ministry of an elder: Elder, Overseer, and Shepherd. He used them interchangeably. Notice that Paul always describes the elders plural. There was not to be a solo pastor-elder over the flock, but a team of pastors-elders shepherding the congregation. He exhorted Timothy and Titus to ordain elders in every city. Team ministry is an important theme in Jesus ministry and also that of the apostles and the early church.
Deacons were not the principle "shepherds" of Godís flock, but an extension of the elders to "serve" or "wait on" the flock of God. Theirs was a ministry of care giving.