Should teachers be deacons?

I know of at least one church that requires all teachers and even small group leaders to be deacons. It does this because subjecting teachers — those responsible for the front-line duty of teaching the faith to believers and unbelievers — to the general character qualifications for deacons (primarily 1 Timothy 3:8-13) enables the church some measure of oversight to what teachers do.

Typically churches use the Desire Test for recruiting teachers: if someone wants to teach in the church, then obviously he is qualified to do so. But having set desire as the criteria for judging teachers, the church is in a tough position to then determine that despite his ardent desire and best intentions, that man cannot teach. A very real result is that a teacher who expresses in class that “we don’t need to listen to Paul — he’s a man, after all” cannot be removed from teaching responsibility because to do so would hurt her feelings and crush her spirit.

One of the most important aspects of teacher qualification is character. There is, obviously, much to be said for preparation skill and classroom ability, but the best teacher will still sabotage the mission and unity of the church if his character is not in order.

This is so because everything that the teacher does teaches. If he openly disagrees with church docrine in class, if he expresses disdain for church leadership or their ministry philosophy, if he calls into question teaching material that the elders approved, he is teaching much more than the missionary journeys of Paul.

And this also applies to those we wouldn’t consider “teachers” and situations we wouldn’t classify “teaching.”

All people who occupy positions of influence in the congregation wield considerable ability to sway the opinions of others. Committee chairmen, group leaders, discussion “facilitators”, department leaders…all can exert tremendous influence over other members of the congregation.

And when those influencers bristle at the teaching of the spiritual leaders, when they resist training required by the elders, when they show open disdain for those things, that rebellious and non-submissive attitude will infect the rest of the congregation.

At that point, the spiritual leader of the congregation should not care one whit how good a “teacher” that influencer is; he should have no official platform for that negative influence.

Should churches then, like the congregation I know, require all teachers and less formal influencers to satisfy the requirements of deacon?

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