Bible Passage: Acts 6:1-7
So far in the story, the main challenges on the early Jerusalem had church had come from external pressure, but now a problem has arisen within the church itself. The presenting problem is food distribution, but it underlying it are other issues. The apostles already have plenty on their plate, and it would not be right for them to neglect the ministry that God had called them to (the word and prayer) so they suggested that others were identified who could be appointed to the task.
The Problem: The problem is shown in verse 1, and there are at least three elements to what is happening. On one level, the problem is an admin issue. There is an important task that needs doing, but for whatever reason it is not being implemented well and people are suffering as a result. There is nothing unspiritual about good systems and organisation. Secondly, there is a social action issue. There are needy people in the church and their needs are not being met, in contrast to what we saw earlier in Acts 2:44 and 4:34. There is a responsibility on a church to act as a family and to care for the needs of one another. Thirdly (and this should not be missed), there was a racial element to the issue. It was particularly the widows of one ethnic group who were being neglected. The church is one new man in Christ, made of every nation, and the needs and struggles of every ethnic group in the church must be a priority for the whole church.
The Solution: As important as the problem was, the right answer was not for the apostles to personally solve it. It can often be the way in church life that a few people are looked on to do everything, but the calling given to the apostles by Jesus was prayer and the word and they needed to be able to give themselves to that. Drawing more qualified people into the work of the church to fulfil their own callings is much better than overloading the few. It is noteworthy that the apostles invited the whole community to choose the right people for the role. These leaders were not imposed upon the group from above, but the different stakeholders were able to have a voice in selecting those who they were comfortable with and trusted.
The People: The people to be chosen for the task were not just anyone. The bar was set high and the people were asked to select a team of seven who were of good standing, full of the Spirit and full of wisdom. Once they had been selected they were appointed with prayer and laying on of hands. These qualifications feel a lot like what you would expect for church leaders or elders, but here it is applied for those who would be serving in a practical way. Spiritual character and qualifications matter in every areas of ministry in the church, and practical ministries should not be seen as having a lower bar than other ministry areas. The result of these good decision made to address these issues were that the word continued to spread and more disciples were made.
- Challenge people to think about the different needs in the church and which ones are not being met. Are there people you could be encouraging to get involved and meet those needs.
- Ask people to think about the racial element to this passage. Are there needs of any particular racial group in your church community that are overlooked or sidelined?
- Invite people to spend time thinking about what God is calling them to. How can they safeguard that calling as a priority whilst not letting needs around them go unmet?