“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.” Acts 6.5-7
As we have discussed, ministry in the early church hit a slight bump. In Acts 6.1-4 there arose the conflict among a portion of the church over the distribution of food to the widows. Some were receiving assistance but others were not. And so, the twelve apostles came together and selected a number of men who would help oversee not only the distribution of food but also the administration of the church. If the twelve apostles were primarily teaching, preaching, praying, healing, then the newly formed group, whom we refer to as deacons, coming from the Greek word ”to serve,” were meeting the rest of the needs of the church.
The selection process of the seven involved the apostles asking ”brothers and sisters” from within the church to select seven men who are ”full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” from among the believers. The twelve apostles did not chose the seven. The people did. And when these men were chosen, the apostles ”prayed and laid hands on them.” And as a result, the Scripture tells us ”the word of God spread.”
Let’s pause there a second — ministry was happening, the Lord was moving, people were coming to Jesus, but administratively things were a mess. So, more leaders were needed to help handle significant tasks. When these men were chosen, more and more people came to know the Lord. And specifically, 1) the number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, 2) a large number of priests became obedient to the faith (which is totally cool within itself.)
So, because they chose to correctly administrate the church, involving more leaders to help shepherd the people, while maintaining the most important thing – which was ministry of the Word, the church grew significantly. This is a pattern most of our churches have adopted today but it’s worth noting for those ministries not yet living into this New Testament model. Keep the main thing the main thing, use everyones gifts appropriately, share ministry roles and responsibilities, and see what God does.
Some ministries of which I am familiar, have leaders unwilling to share the roles of ministry. Some of our insecurities limit us from giving ministry away and allowing others to use their gifts for the glory of God. These ministries do not tend to grow or produce healthy disciples. Ministries in which people are empowered, allowed to use their gifts freely, and share generously the work of the Spirit, tend to grow and find spiritual health and increase the impact of the Kingdom upon society.
Let us pray for our churches and leaders that we might become sensitive to the Spirit, open handed with giving ministry away to qualified leaders, and finding strength and hope in our time of need. So that, we might become the people God has called us to be.
“O Lord God, help me obey your word. Help me discern correctly the truth of your power and walk by the Holy Spirit with integrity and holiness. Help me be all that you have called me to be that your work might be done and your Word might spread. I love you Lord and thank you for this day in which I might walk with you. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen