I'm concerned about the difference between a deacon and an elder. Apart from deacons needing to "first be tested" (NIV) or be "given other responsibilities" (NLT) before their appointment, I've found that elders and deacons are very much similar. If they are so similar, why is there a need for separate titles? -- Soo Yew Cho (Singapore)
Similar but not identical. The similarity is that the Lord is looking for spiritual leadership. But their roles are vastly different. Whereas elders shepherd the flock, overseeing the church and even preaching (1 Timothy 5), deacons (literally, "servants") have one particular area of responsibility or ministry. In the early church, they minister to the needy. They do not lead the church.
For more on this, see my papers on elders and deacons at this website. Or read the two books by Alexander Strauch: The New Testament Deacon and New Testament Eldership.
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