The Choosing of the Seven: Where is the Gospel?
In Acts 6 there is a complaint that arises in the early church. Murmuring is coming from the Hellenistic widows, saying they are being ignored in favor of the Jewish widows. The 12 disciples act quickly and decisively, calling on the church to appoint 7 men, full of the Holy Ghost and of a good report to attend to this matter.
This is a great passage, and full of wisdom from the early church and applicable to our churches today. The choosing of the seven marks a significant turning point in the history of this early church, and forms the basis for many of the leadership structures in many baptist churches today, most notably the office of deacons.
I prepared to preach on this as we were going through the book of Acts, and there are loads of insight that we could have covered.
- Growth in the church led to some problems
- Proper structure is necessary for growth
- Sterling character is required for seemingly low-profile jobs
- Congregation should have a say in leadership of the church
- Faithfulness in small things leads to rewarding in higher things (Stephen)
But where is Jesus? Where is the Gospel? For people who are returning to a job they hate, to unpaid bills, to sickness and dying loved one, to a hopeless world, what does this passage have to say to them> Where is the good news? Information about how to structure a business meeting?
But the answer for our world lies not in better organization, or even in better leadership. It lies in only person, in Jesus Christ. The organization is not the important part. The heart of the seven of the 12 disciples is the part we need to focus on.
But then in verse 4, the Holy spirit lays it out for us. "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and teaching of the word."
Are the disciples saying "WE are above this, this clearing of tables, and getting things out to widows" I don't think they are. Scripture is clear that Jesus modeled servant leadership for them, and taught them that leaders must be last and must be servants. But here they are saying that they can't serve, that they should pray. So what gives? What is the change?
The disciples show value for things by setting up this structure
1. Value for Prayer and Scripture: They didn't think they were above serving, but rather that prayer and scripture called for full attention. When you start to multi-task you always drop the thing with the least visible payoff. They wanted to devote full attention to teaching God's Word and developing relationship with him. They valued this above all else and didn't want it to drop.
2. Value for Others: They wanted all the widows to be treated equally, and didn't let any old bum who wanted something to do to "clear tables" and serve to meet this need. They called to select men of good report and full of the Holy Ghost. They valued the widows by the leaders they selected. There is no unimportant ministry or committee in your church. Everything in God's house is important, and deserves people to serve as leaders who are fully committed to the causes of advancing God's kingdom. Churches get in trouble because they let someone serve on a task or board or committee, because they think it is not a big deal. People without the requisite character. People who don't fully follow God. Churches devalue people and tasks in the church when these positions are filled by people who don't fully follow after God. Not perfect people, but those of good report, and full of the Holy Spirit.
3. Value for Their Calling: The 12 disciples had a clear understanding of what God had called them for, and for what he had created them to do. Not that they were more important than anyone else, but they had a clear calling for which they were created, for which Jesus had picked them and called them to do. And they were going to do it.