I know a man who had a business that employed 150 people. He had 10 managers and he ploughed his energy, efforts and expertise into them. In turn they had people who reported to them. He managed 10 and the 10 each managed a group. In this way the business operated smoothly and as soon as a weakness arose it was quickly identified. Biblically this is exactly what Jesus did. He had an inner core of three (Peter, James and John) and with them a total of 12 disciples. Although there were 72 whom He sent out, He ploughed His efforts, energy and expertise into the 12. Often Churches do not grow because they are either micro-managed, understaffed or the pastor does not disciple a few who in turn should each disciple a few, with the process continuing. Today we start Acts chapter 6. Please read:
Ac 6:1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
1) The lack of delegation. There were suitable men to fulfil supportive roles within the Early Church, but the apostles (twelve) seemed to do all the work themselves. Why? Jesus discipled and delegated. They ought to have done the same. Pastors and Christian Workers burn themselves out when they attempt to everything themselves. True, sometimes it is inevitable because there is literally no one else to do the task … and to avoid giving our sisters work that God requires of a man or appointing unqualified men, they drown trying to do everything … and fail. Their health deteriorates and the Church stagnates.
2) The problem identified. Praise the Lord for Church Growth. The Gospel was taking root and many Jews were being saved. Together with blessings comes challenges. There were two groups of Jews in the Church. The one was Hebraic Jews. They were Jews whose language was mainly Aramaic and were born in either Jerusalem, the City or in the Province of Judea. The other group were called Grecian Jews. They were not born in Jerusalem or in Judea. They were Hellenists, meaning Greek speaking following Greek culture and ideas. They migrated to Israel from other nations. From both these groups people became Christian. The Grecian Jewish widows were … being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Although not stated and certainly not intended by the apostles, the Grecian Jews seemed to feel this was ethnic prejudice. They felt the apostles favored the Hebraic Jewish widows above them. The apostles became aware of their handicap, identifying exactly what the problem was and immediately put together an action plan. We do not know whether the “complaint” was gross unhappiness or whether it was done in brotherly love. I tend to feel that the way Luke wrote, it must have just been a complaint done in brotherly love.
3) The neglect in the Church. The apostles took this complaint seriously because it forced them to acknowledge they were not fulfilling their God required duty properly. They were to do … ministry of the word of God and not … wait on tables. In God’s Church there are two vital ministry roles. The first is spiritual. This is to be an elder. To teach and preach the Word of God supported by faithful prayer. The second, although still spiritual, is a diaconal ministry called “waiting on tables”. It is not that this is mundane. Rather there is to be a clear distinction between that which is spiritual in the sense of evangelism, exposition and intercession … where the diaconal ministry is more practical and supportive. In this case they would have a register of all widows who needed food parcels and they were to ensure each one was served. This function does not stop there for it is extremely broad in its meaning, covering accommodation (Church Building), infrastructure, logistics, care, etc. Although diaconal in nature this ministry is spiritually driven.
4) A general or congregational meeting. The Twelve admitted the weakness in leadership and suggested a method to resolve the problem. They wanted seven men to be chosen from amongst the group to be deacons. What happens here might be overlooked … but it is extremely important if we want the diaconal arm of the Church to function correctly.
(1) The Twelve’s suggestion met with the people’s approval.
(2) We see exactly how nominations and elections ought to take place in a Church.
(a) The people chose … Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. This is democracy.
(b) The people were spiritual enough to choose men … full of the Spirit and wisdom. This was not just Stephen. The word “also” means the rest were men “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.”
We need to return to this passage tomorrow as there are important matters for us to know here. For now though … is your Church struggling because people are being overlooked? Is this because of pastoral laziness? Is it perhaps because of insufficient staffing? Is it that your congregation are pew sitters? Is your pastor burning out? Are you able to identify his physical, emotional and spiritual condition? Have you spoken to him about the neglect in the Church? Is he aware that there are certain areas that need attention? Are you praying for your pastor and his leadership team?
Lord, so many pastors and Church Councils struggle because they lack support. Please give them this. Amen.