On Wednesday, October 16, 2013, The General Conference GC Annual Council Took A Historic Action. It Voted To Assign To The Ministerial Association The Resposibility Of Caring For The Global Family Of Deacons And Deaconesses.
In the following interview, Jonas Arrais, editor of Elder’s Digest, answers a few questions about
the importance of this action. Dr. Arrais, D.Min., serves as an Associate Secretary for the General
Conference Ministerial Association and is responsible for developing resources for pastors and
lay leaders, as well as serving as editor of Elder’s Digest. He has pastored for 30 years, serving
the largest churches in Brazil and the Ministerial Association of the South American Division. His
spouse, Raquel, serves as Associate Director of the GC Women’s Ministries department. They
have two married adult children who are also pastors. Dr. Arrais is now in charge of the ministry
for deacons and deaconesses.
What inspired the Ministerial Association to
address the ministry of deacons and deaconesses?
We were inspired as we learned about the great need, and we tracked the following rationale:
• The Bible mentions three leadership offices—pastors, elders, and deacons—and the biblical qualifications for each office are very similar.
• Pastors work closely with elders, deacons, and deaconesses—as a team—and they give great support to the pastoral ministry and to the local church.
• Pastors and elders are already under the care of the Ministerial Association.
• Elders, deacons, and deaconesses are ordained to accomplish an important and specific ministry in the church.
• There was no specific department or entity in our church assigned to care for, train, equip, motivate, and mentor deacons and deaconesses.
• In some divisions, deacons and deaconesses are already
receiving some support from the Ministerial Association.
I believe these reasons were more than sufficient to bring
them under the care of the worldwide Ministerial Association.
How would you define the role and function of
deacons and deaconesses in the twenty-first century,
compared to their role and function in the
first-century Christian church?
Their responsibilities have not changed in principle, but
they have been amplified to meet the challenges and needs
of the church today. For example, in the beginning, the service
the first seven deacons performed for the ancient Christian
church was essentially one of problem-solving and resource
management. We also have examples of service performed by
deacons in early Adventist churches, such as caring for church
Deacons and deaconesses still perform these basic services
for their churches today, but other roles and responsibilities
have been added as indicated in the Seventh-day Adventist
Church Manual. Today, in the twenty-first century, their role is
more demanding and complete. They hold many responsibilities
while serving the church in this ministry. Here is a short list
of activities where they are expected to assist:
• Worship service
• Sabbath School
• Communion service
• Teaching God’s Word
• Caring for the sick and the poor
• Other activities as requested by the pastor, elders, and
The biblical requirements for deacons are similar to those
of the elders, but there is a clear distinction in office. Elders
are spiritual leaders or shepherds of the church; they serve as
co-pastors and teachers and also provide general oversight on
financial, organizational, and spiritual matters. Deacons have a
more practical ministry that gives pastors and elders the freedom
to focus on prayer, studying and teaching God’s Word,
and pastoral care.
As in the early church, the role of a deacon today may
encompass a variety of services and differs from church to
church. In general, however, deacons function as servants,
ministering to the body in practical ways. Scripture makes it
clear that no matter how they serve, their ministry is a rewarding
and honorable calling in the church.
Now that deacons and deaconesses are under
the Ministerial Association, what is your vision
We would like to appreciate, recognize, train, and equip this
group of servant-leaders in the church. We would like to see
the biblical and spiritual qualifications and skills exemplified in
the lives of those selected to serve this office. We envision to
see these individuals in love with Jesus and committed to the
This assignment calls for ministerial teamwork. The Ministerial
Association, in cooperation with other church departments,
will train and equip deacons and deaconesses. However,
the support of the church pastor will be essential, because
he or she has the primary responsibility for training them. Networking
will make this vision a reality.
What plans do you have to provide training and resources for these leaders?
As I mentioned earlier, it will require ministerial teamwork.
We need to understand that for many years, deacons and deaconesses
have been forgotten, and they need specific help and
support. The GC Ministerial Association is preparing a CD with
leadership resources that includes handouts, basic PowerPoint
presentations, and didactic notes to train deacons and deaconesses.
We are also preparing a Handbook for Deacons and
Deaconesses. It will be the first official guide of its kind printed
in English in our church. I would like to challenge all segments
of the church to help us to prepare other materials and offer
training opportunities for our deacons and deaconesses.
How do you plan to educate local pastors and
church members on the importance of the ministry
of deacons and deaconesses so that the stereotypical
perception of them is changed?
Everybody agrees that deacons and deaconesses are doing
a great ministry in the local church, but there is room for
growth. The challenge is to convince church leaders, especially
pastors, of the importance of taking time to train and equip
those who are working as volunteers for the church. When
there is no training, there will be few people working for the
church. Due to lack of training, those who serve will not reach
their full potential, and we will fall into the trap of working with
the same small group of people, year after year.
As training progresses and service improves, church members
should honor this group of leaders by valuing, supporting,
and respecting their ministry. Serving is a wonderful spiritual
gift, and we should appreciate and acknowledge it more in our
What challenges do you anticipate in your
quest to restore deacons and deaconesses to
their biblical roles as spiritual leaders and servants
of the church?
Most deacons and deaconesses that I’ve been in contact
with want to be involved in a meaningful ministry; however,
many of them do not seem to have the spiritual maturity to
allow this to happen; consequently, they feel discouraged, unmotivated,
and frustrated, and sometimes they even withdraw
from service. This is a tragedy for many people and congregations.
Why does such spiritual immaturity exist and
what can be done about it?
Far too often, deacons’ meetings are focused on maintenance
issues rather than on mission or ministry issues; even
more rarely do they talk about how to improve their spiritual
lives. I think deacons’ meetings can become a spiritual experience
if we are intentional about creating community—a
safe place to share hurts and struggles and to pray about life
changes, families, careers, parenting challenges, community
challenges, and more.
It is also good to remember that working for the church is
not a function of status, especially when our activities require a
spirit of service. We need to help church members to discover
their gifts and challenge them to use these gifts in the various
ministries of the body of Christ.
I strongly believe that as we inspire, recruit, train, and work
with deacons and deaconesses in the mission of the church,
our church will have a worldwide army of servant-leaders totally
committed to God and His cause to hasten Jesus’ second