At the first conventional church I worked for it was abundantly clear the leadership was a little wishy washy when it came to the roles of elders and deacons. "Elder Board" and "Deacon Board" were used almost interchangeably.
When I pastored my own conventional church, I didn't do that much better. In fact, I probably did worse. Wanting to move away from the archaic language for mostly petty reasons, I chose to call those appointed to "oversee" the church an "Advisory Team." What a mistake.
Here's what I know. Led by the Spirit, Paul knew what he was doing. Although I'll forego a full-blown rundown of biblical elders and deacons for now (check out 1 Tim 3), suffice to say they're essential for the ongoing health and propagation of the church. Notice, too, that the qualifications for elders and deacons are essentially the same (mostly good character) save one thing: elders must be "able to teach" (v. 2).
As it stands now, my simple church has elders, but no commissioned deacons. No, it's not that those in my community are not qualified, we've just not appointed any. Why? There are a few reasons, but here's the most important. We have yet to be put in a place where the elders were in jeopardy of not being able to devote ample time to the ministry of the word of God. If that should happen, we'd certainly appoint (with prayer and fasting) an appropriate number of deacons to handle the increasing service load so the elders could attend to the Scriptures, correcting errant doctrines and so forth (Titus 1:9). As of now, however, we can all share in the service load as all are called to serve.
Although J.D. Payne, overall, laments the low percentages of deacons in both conventional and missional house churches, I don't think it's any cause for alarm - as of yet. Again, the Twelve didn't appoint deacons until it became necessary. It became necessary, however, because the church was doing something, namely living out a true religion evidenced by supporting widows (Jms 1:27). Our churches should follow suit.
Here are two important questions. First, are our communities moving in the direction of needing deacons? Second, should a wave of apostolic ministry sweep through our regions, would there be enough men and women with the character qualities necessary to serve?