As the Apostle Paul begins his letter to the church in Phillipi, he addresses it: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons. In this, he addresses the 3 roles within the church: Elders — overseers, Deacons, and Members — saints.
Elders — also known as pastors, overseers, or shepherds — lead and manage the church family, to which they have been entrusted, caring for believers, being careful not to lord their office over them, but rather seeking to be an example in family, in church life and in character. The men must be skillful handlers of the Word of God and use it to protect the church by defending sound doctrine. They must be vitally involved in development, recognizing, and commending of new leaders and young ‘ministers of the gospel’ as their lives are tested and giftedness made evident. They are responsible to appoint more elders and deacons and approve of new members.
The name deacon, is translated to mean: ‘servant’, ‘waiting-man’, ‘minister’ or ‘messenger’. Deacons serve the church, being faithful to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to them by the elders, recognizing that at times they will be given special tasks of meeting community-wide needs and finding solutions to problems. Deacons are an example to the church and heralds of the mission, possessing a clear understanding of the faith, living consistently with the truths, especially in ordering their lives and families in accordance with God’s principles.
One does not have to be an elder or a deacon in order to contribute to the ‘work of ministry’. In fact, the life of the church is more dependent upon individual members living a gospel centered life more than its leaders running programs, starting ministries, or teaching Bible studies. Some members will be called to godly leadership, but all members are called to godly living.