The word deacon, Greek diakonos, means servant or minister. The Apostle Paul refers to himself and to Timothy as “ministers of God.” (2 Cor. 6:4) The Apostle again says, “Our sufficiency is of God: who also has made us able ministers (diakonos) of the New Testament.” (2 Cor. 3:5,6)
The apostles and prophets, who were elders in the Church, were all deacons, or servants, even as our Lord declared: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant
In the New Testament early church, the word deacon is applied to a class of brethren useful as servants of the body of Christ and honored accordingly. Their choice by the Church implied good character, faithfulness to the Truth and zeal for the service of the Lord and his flock.
The story of the first election, or choice, of church deacons is recorded in Acts 6. The distribution of food, etc., for poor brethren was initially managed by the apostles. But later when some murmured and claimed that they were neglected, the apostles turned the matter over to the believers, the Church. They instructed the believers to choose-out from among them men suitable for this service. Acts 6:3 (NIV), “Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” The apostles, however, would give their time, knowledge and talents to the ministry of the Word. Acts 6:2-5
(Please note that neither the apostles nor a church board appointed deacons. The matter was left to the congregation.)
Seven servants, or deacons, were chosen among which was Stephen. As a deacon, Stephen proved faithful when serving food, transacting financial matters for the company, etc. Therefore, he was blessed of the Lord and granted more public opportunities to preach the Gospel. His witnessing culminated in his death and he became the first martyr.
Finally, the character qualifications for a deacon are further stated in 1 Timothy 3:8-10, 12 (NIV), “In the same way (like the qualifications for elders mentioned in the previous verses), deacons are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. … 12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.”