Read: Acts 6:1-7
The greatest problem for any church planter is dealing with amazing church growth. Luke provides one case where members are being added to the community at a pace that has outgrown the current organizational structure. The solution: create deacons.
On the surface, it seems like we’re being transported back to Moses’ day where people are whining, but this is much different.
the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Acts 6:1
One of the first significant requirements in leadership is the ability to receive complaints from those you’re leading. Filtering out the wheat from the chaff takes work and requires great discernment. Here, the apostles make an incredibly wise decision.
First, they hear there is a real problem that needs to be dealt with. One of the great strengths of Jewish culture is how they essentially adopt widows and orphans. This means they have a responsibility to tend to those who can’t otherwise take care of themselves. The problem lies in the sheer number of people who are suddenly under their leadership and require care.
The challenge in how to deal with the problem is significant.
It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables Acts 6:2
No argument here. The Twelve can’t stop preaching in order to distribute food, but this is not the beginning of any elitism or class system. This is simply a practical consideration within the body of Christ where the gifts of the Spirit are properly applied. The primary mission of the Twelve is to preach and teach. What they need is a group that is gifted to minister to the daily needs of food distribution.
Second, they demonstrate great leadership by validating the issue and giving the larger group a task with sufficient details to enable them to be successful.
Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. Acts 6:3
The Twelve will validate and ordain the Seven, but the people will choose who they believe is best for the ministry positions.
Interestingly, the Seven chosen are all Hellenistic Jews (based on their names and according to the commentaries, not something I dreamed up). The group that levied the complaint is the group that gets to do the work! What’s that old saying about raising your hand?
Luke is careful to point out this success for us to consider.
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. Acts 6:7
One of the key things we do in Healthy Growing Churches deals with assessments. These tools help churches move through Life Cycles that are inherent in any organization. They are just tools. But just as the architect appreciates the hammer in the hands of his builder, the proper use of tools is required to effectively build the local church. We believe a healthy, vibrant church is the most important work we do, outside of leading someone into a personal commitment to Christ.
People working within their gifts and talents produces the best results for the local body of Christ. The Twelve carefully considered the issue at hand, successfully managed the process with the help of the believers and solved the problem.
And the church grew.
Father, may we be known as a people that made wise decisions for Your church in this city. Holy Spirit, teach us what we should do each day when complaints reveal issues that need to be dealt with. Jesus, may the world know this is all about You!
Note: Stephen Ministers
One of my favorite groups of people that support the body of Christ is Stephen Ministers. Those who are gifted with mercy, help & service, hospitality, and the like, are great candidates for this ministry. The practical training and ideas presented are meant to be universally accepted in any Christian context. In other words, it’s not for a particular denomination. Anyone can be a Stephen Minister. Check out their site for more information (link).