At the time of his home-going, Jim Funk had been
working on this manuscript. He had served as an elder and a
deacon in a small assembly of Christians in upstate New York for many
years, so he was familiar with this subject from first-hand experience.
This study follows the descriptions of elders, deacons, and their work
throughout both Old and New Testaments of the Bible. It is a valuable
book for all Christians who want to know the scriptural role of elders and
deacons in the church.
To those of you who never met, nor had the chance to know Jim Funk, I
would like to take this opportunity to introduce him to you. To those of
you who did know him, I hope these few words give an accurate portrayal.
Jim’s early religious upbringing was as a Catholic in Buffalo, NY. He
graduated from Alfred University in western New York with a B.S. in
Ceramic Engineering. As a young ceramic engineer, he was employed by the
Locke Insulator Division of General Electric in Baltimore, Maryland. It
was there that one of his co-workers began talking to him about the Lord:
... a little word here, ... some questions, ... more talk, ... more
questions, ... etc.
Finally, to put an end to this, Jim agreed to read the Bible to learn
for himself what it said. The co-worker suggested Jim start reading in
John’s Gospel. As a stubborn dutchman, Jim listened to his advice, and
then began reading in Genesis. As he told the story many times, he only
got as far as Deuteronomy before he invited the Lord into his life.
That was over forty years ago. From that time forward, Jim was a
voracious student of the Word. He spent many, many long hours studying the
Bible and telling everyone he encountered about the Lord.
When the opportunity arose for him to return to Alfred University as a
Research Associate, where he would also be able to continue his education,
he took it. In Alfred, a small college town in Western New York, he sought
out other Christians, and they began to meet on Friday nights for Bible
study, as well as Sunday mornings.
When I first met Jim, he had just joined the faculty at Alfred
University and he was teaching the Introductory Ceramic Processing course.
He was an engineer who knew how to make ceramics. He knew how to stick his
fingers (calibrated fingers) into a ceramic slip and give a useful
evaluation of that slip. He was good at making things with his hands –
drawings, cabinets, his home, etc. And so, they wanted him to teach the
first ceramics lab for new engineering students.
We also quickly learned that Jim was a Christian, and there was a Bible
study every Friday night at his home up town. The living room at his home
always seemed huge. Some nights there would be forty or more students
crowded into every available space in the living room spilling out into
hallway and around the corner into the kitchen, but there was always room
for one more. Years later after visiting the house again, Jim’s daughter
said she never realized how small the living room actually was ...
likening its size to that of a large walk-in closet. Back in the 1960s,
however, it never seemed small.
Studies officially went from 9 PM until 11 PM, but they seldom broke
for refreshments until at least 11:30 PM. Jim always said he had a speech
impediment, "My mouth runneth over." Frequently, studies
continued until 1-2 AM or later.
At least once a year, there was a prophecy night, in which the study
continued all night – breaking up in the wee hours of the morning when
all the remaining students started making and eating breakfast.
Jim was a very perceptive man who could talk with a person for a minute
or two and know the type of person they were, and frequently, also know
what type of problems they had. Nevertheless, even with this ability, he
allowed the Holy Spirit of God to guide throughout his life, and
especially during the Bible studies.
The studies ranged all over the Bible. Frequently, we’d be studying a
book, for example, Hebrews, and Jim would open the study with,
"Tonight we’re studying Hebrews 2. Please, therefore, open with me
to the Gospel of John." Or we’d start in the Old Testament, or in
the book of Hezekiah, to test who was paying attention.
Every four years, Jim tried to cover the books of John, Romans, 1
Corinthians, and Hebrews — one book per year, one chapter per Friday
night. In that way, each of the students would have had the opportunity to
study each of these four important books. Each time Jim covered a
particular chapter in one of these books, it was usually from a new,
fresh, and different point of view. He frequently asked, for example,
‘What is the most important verse in this chapter?’ This was the type
of question that no one would ever answer correctly, so it was best to
keep quiet and wait for Jim’s answer. If he taught the same chapter of
the same book six or seven times over the years, and asked this question
each time, his answers would always be different.
It was obvious that Jim put in long hours of study each week in
preparation for Friday night (and for Sunday), and no one could ever be
exactly sure, in advance, what ideas the Lord had emphasized to him in
In addition to the times of teaching, the studies always included long
periods for questions and answers. Any questions were fair game. Many were
on topic. Frequently some were off topic. But there was never any such
thing as a ‘stupid’ question.
Answers came from the Bible — anywhere and everywhere in the Bible.
On some evenings, all of the answers would be coming from the Old
Testament and in particular, from the Pentateuch. When Jim noticed this,
he’d ask if there was a Jewish person in attendance, and on those
evenings, there always was. It’s wonderful how the Spirit leads when we
allow Him to do so!
Jim was always a very honest, frank, and direct person. Ask him a
question and you’d get the answer, whether you liked it or not. He
always tried to tell you what the Bible said – not to give his opinion.
He learned quickly as a young Christian that opinions required lots of
defense, but the Word of God did not. Just give the person the Bible’s
teachings, point out the pertinent verses, and leave your opinions out of
Jim was also very funny. He was one of those kind of guys who could say
things (and get away with it) that the rest of us would get in trouble for
saying. He could say almost anything (for instance, upon introducing an
acquaintance, "This is Clyde, he doesn’t know the square root of
diddly-squat about ceramic engineering, but he’s a ceramic engineer with
Ceramics, Inc."), follow it with a chuckle, and he’d have everyone
laughing (including the person introduced). And he was a jokester. He did
some things that had everyone roaring with laughter. A well-placed joke
here or there helped break up the studies, keep them lively, and keep
Many, many people came to know the Lord through Jim’s ministry. But
Jim was never one to count. The attempts by some evangelists, pastors, and
teachers to try to keep count of the numbers of those ‘they led to
Christ,’ were practices that Jim considered to be frivolous. If he had a
part in a person coming to know the Lord – that was wonderful! But to
then add another mark to the tally sheet was going too far. Needless to
say, many were influenced and helped by his ministry.
Over the years, as the local Alfred Assembly of Christians grew, there
came the need for someone to perform wedding ceremonies. Jim, who was a
functioning elder at the assembly, was the one who had this honor. Many of
the individuals who were saved and baptized after coming to the Bible
studies, met their spouses among the other Bible study participants. Many
of those couples were married there within the local assembly.
Baptisms were another noteworthy event in the assembly. Frequently, it
snowed on baptism days. Alfred, NY, you see, only has a week of summer, so
chances were good that baptisms would occur in inclement weather. Seems to
me they even had to chop a hole in the ice once or twice, and on the few
warmer days, they contended with thunderstorms. The water was always icy
cold. Robert McClurkin, a beloved Bible teacher from Ontario, Canada, who
loved it in Alfred, and visited frequently, always said, "Who ever
heard of a warm grave?" The weather, regardless how rotten, never
stopped any baptisms. Frequently, ten or more would be baptized on the
same day. Those were wonderful times!
Eventually, Jim and his wife, June, had had enough of the snow in
western New York, so they moved to Seneca, South Carolina. Having retired
from Alfred University, Jim held the title Professor Emeritus of Ceramic
Engineering. From Seneca, he continued to consult in the field of ceramics
and participate as a Bible teacher in the local assemblies.
It was in Seneca that he wrote this book Elders and Deacons.
Many of the issues and scenarios mentioned in this book were those that
Jim had encountered in his travels among the assemblies. He saw that many
assemblies were simply electing men to the rank of elder – whether
qualified or not – whether old and experienced or not. Jim knew several
who were not really qualified, but who had been next in line for elevation
to the position of elder, even though other qualified individuals went
unidentified while performing those functions.
The scriptural teaching on elders and deacons was a subject very dear
to his heart, as were most other Bible topics. And so, he wrote this book.
Jim was one of the most knowledgeable Christians I have ever met.
Regardless what subject was under discussion, he knew appropriate verses
and the references for them. Similar to his encouragement to others in
this book, his was a love affair with the Word of God. He read, and read,
and studied, and enjoyed God’s Word all throughout his 40+ years as a
Christian. We should all be so thoroughly thrilled at the sound of God’s
Word as he was.
As mentioned earlier, Jim was a straightforward, "This is what it
says," kind of guy. If he thought it, he usually spoke it. It was
upsetting to him that many unqualified, but so-called ‘elders,’ were
playing games with God’s church. He taught against this frequently.
It was upsetting to him that the state of teaching among the assemblies
was so poor that believers felt it necessary to send their sons and
daughters off to Bible colleges and theological seminaries (‘theological
cemeteries,’ as he called them) to get ‘educated’ as Christians.
It was upsetting to him that these same students, with their diplomas
in hand, would return and immediately take up positions of leadership in
the local meetings without anyone (i.e., the elders) ever checking to see
if they had actually learned anything, and if they had, whether it was
scriptural or not. If the local leadership couldn’t teach the young
Christians in the first place, how were they supposed to check whether or
not the recent graduates had learned anything of value, or anything
scriptural? He spoke about these issues frequently, always encouraging
everyone to dig deeper into their studies of the Word of God.
For many of those graduates, their diplomas were their qualifications.
Sheets of paper signed by Professors, Deans, and/or Presidents of
institutions (whose own qualifications were similar sheets of paper)
showed that these young folks were ‘truly knowledgeable Christians.’
This is certainly the way of the world today, and it may be the way of
most secular fields of endeavor, but it is not the way of Biblical
Christianity. Churchianity ... Yes. Christianity ... NO! No such
requirements are anywhere in the Bible. The Spirit teaches whomever He
will, and no sheets of paper are ever provided as signs of any completed
courses of study.
Keep in mind that Jim was a university Professor, so he knew,
first-hand, how much recent college graduates actually learned and carried
with them. He knew, first-hand, the value of these sheets of paper that we
call ‘diplomas’: a diploma plus 75¢ will buy you a cup of coffee.
Within true Christianity, a diploma means nothing.
This book shows Jim’s thinking on many of these points. It tends to
be candid ... direct. Jim was candid ... direct. That is the way he
thought, and that is the way he taught God’s Word. I think this shows
very clearly in these, his words.
I invite you to read this book, to enjoy, and to learn. This is the one
and only book on a Bible topic that Jim left behind when he went to be
with His Lord. He was co-author of a textbook on ceramic processing, and
he was author and co-author of many technical papers in the field of
ceramics as well, but he wrote no other books as a Bible teacher.
Jim is now in heaven, where I’m sure he is sitting at the Lord’s
feet, learning the answers to many questions he was looking forward to
having explained by the Lord. But the rest of us are still here in these
mortal bodies, struggling with sin and iniquity. We need to draw our help
from any source the Spirit provides, and I believe Jim’s words in this
book are such a source.
Throughout the years, Jim functioned as a teacher, a pastor, and an
evangelist, as well as a deacon and an elder, consistent with the Biblical
definitions he described in this book. My prayer is that all who read this
book will be able to learn, to grow, and to take advantage of Jim’s many
years of Christian experience, and his knowledge, understanding, and
wisdom from the scriptures, which led to the teaching from God’s Word
contained in this book.
May those who are currently functioning as elders and deacons, and
those who will be doing so in the future, give sincere consideration to
these thoughts and comments by this dear Brother in Christ.
May God bless all who read this book and search the scriptures daily
whether these things are so.
Dennis R. Dinger
28 September 2001