Acts 6 – The Effect on Evangelism

We continue our in-depth look into Acts 6:1-7.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:1-7)

The Effect on Evangelism

Here are two observations for today about getting everyone’s input.

The effect on reaching the lost. Verse 7 happened AFTER verses 1-6. It’s really hard to be effective reaching the lost when you have a dysfunctional local church. It often happens that we talk about how we need to evangelize the lost more. We’ve got to get out there and talk to the lost. Yes, that is absolutely right, but, did you see that there was a problem here in Jerusalem that had to be dealt with first? What happens in the Jerusalem church if these neglected widows continue to be neglected? What impact will that have on the community when they hear how the Jerusalem congregation is dealing with its own? You can see why verse 7 comes after verses 1-6. Sometimes we have to make some corrections/adjustments within so that we can be effective in reaching the community.

This was not a lifetime appointment. These seven men went on later to other responsibilities. Stephen and Philip both went on to preach. Philip went to Samaria later as a missionary and preached the word there. He then went on to Caesarea, where it seems he lived for quite a long time. They were appointed to oversee a need in the congregation, but later at least two of them went on to other responsibilities, specifically preaching the word.

When we appoint a man to a position in the congregation (preacher, elder, deacon) we should not assume this is a lifetime appointment. Maybe a man can only effectively serve as a shepherd for a few years, and for a few years he takes some time to do other things for God. It might be that we appoint a deacon to take on a certain task for which he is perfectly suited, but then later he will not have to serve in that role. That should be OK in our thinking.

Acts 6 – Getting Everyone’s Input

We continue our in-depth look into Acts 6:1-7.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:1-7)

Getting Everyone’s Input

Here are two observations for today about getting everyone’s input.

“Assembled the full number of the disciples.” Do you see that? They brought the whole church together to discuss this matter and get ideas. The apostles saw this was a congregational issue, so they gathered the entire congregation. What is accomplished here? The problem is clearly validated and brought out into the open. The members of this local congregation are given value by being able to be part of both this discussion and the solution.

Who chose the seven? Did the apostles here in this church choose the seven men? Did you see the apostles say, “We have picked Stephen, Philip, etc. and we are appointing them over this business.” No, they gave the amount of men for the task (seven), and through the Holy Spirit laid out the kind of character these men should have. That’s it. Then the congregation was entrusted to understand God’s expectations and to know what men among them possessed those qualities. Acts 15:22 is another example of how the “whole church” was involved in the selecting of certain men for a task.

There are times as leaders (in homes, churches, etc.) that we need to gather everyone together to get their input on things. It doesn’t mean that every decision has to be ratified and approved by the entire group. That doesn’t work in churches, teams, homes, nations….well pretty much anywhere. But when leaders make themselves transparent and put trust in the people they are leading to give input, it makes others feel like they are actually part of the team. The apostles did that very thing, they made sure that the whole congregation was part of coming up with the solution.

Acts 6 – Seeing Our Roles and the Roles of Others

We continue our in-depth look into Acts 6:1-7.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:1-7)

Seeing Our Roles and the Roles of Others

Here are two observations for today:

The apostles did not dive in directly either to “DO” or “OVERSEE” this work. This is a trap that many church leaders, especially elders and preachers, fall into. When a preacher could delegate certain administrative/secretarial duties, but does them himself, he takes away time he could be studying, preparing material and leading studies (done this myself way too many times). When an elder is at the church building fixing toilets and working on the church building, he is taking away valuable time that he should be spending visiting, counseling and “shepherding.” By the way, if you take away the church building, what would deacons and elders be doing? What did they do in the first century?

The apostles were given a clear mission statement by the Lord. “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God…But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” If the apostles jumped in to do this work for the widows, then their job to which God had specifically called them would be left undone. AND…please hear this…if they jumped in to MANAGE and OVERSEE the situation, they would also be pulled away from their focus.

Please notice the text, the apostles would appoint men to “oversee” this work. The apostles neither did this work, nor did they oversee it. They appointed men to do this.  I believe this is critical. I may not actually be doing the work, but is my mental energy focused on managing and making decisions for men who should be trusted to do that for themselves? The apostles completely gave this task over to qualified men.

Leaving the word of God to serve tables – The apostles were not minimizing the care of widows by what they said. God is pretty consistent about His heart for caring for widows. The Bible is plain on that one. It was a very important job that needed to be overseen, but the apostles already had their own important task to which God had called them.  Both jobs were vital and both jobs needed oversight and attention. It’s not like the apostles were saying that caring for widows was beneath them. We know the apostles had a heart for caring for the poor (Galatians 2:10).

In a local congregation, it is to be like a body. Every member has value, talents and functions. No one is more needed and important than the other.  I do not mean in this article to say that church leaders never do things at the church building like mow or clean the building. It’s just intended to be a reminder that we as a body need to make sure the responsibilities are  spread around to the body as it ought to be.

More to come tomorrow, Lord willing.

Acts 6 – Admitting there is a problem

We continue our in-depth look into Acts 6:1-7 in order to learn more about how the local church is to operate as a body. This is important for leaders to reflect upon, as well as every member of a local church. There is an incredible text here to help give us valuable principles on how to work together.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:1-7)

People were complaining. News came to the apostles. Folks ain’t happy, and here’s why, certain widows were being neglected in the daily care offered by the congregation. So, how did the apostles respond?

Well, first of all, let’s look at how they could have responded:

  1. Ignore the complaints. Try to pretend there wasn’t really a problem.
  2. Blame-shift this problem on to someone else.
  3. Get defensive. Take to heart that this was an attack on their leadership.
  4. Say this wasn’t their issue to fix.
  5. Think of the Greek widows as less worthy of attention, since the Jewish widows were more like family to them.
  6. Act really concerned, shed a few tears, and commit to doing something about it, but then never following through.

Maybe you all can think of many other ways the apostles could have responded. But, what do we see in the text? They knew it was a problem, and they took serious measures to make sure this problem was solved.

This is what we need from our leaders in the church.  When problems and complaints come to our ears, we need to consider them. It is not time to get defensive, or to try to put our heads in the sand. Call it for what it is, it’s a problem and we need to go about doing what we can as a group to fix it.

These 12 apostles give us a golden example of how to respond as a leader when problems arise in a church.

Acts 6 – Even when the apostles ran the show

We are going to camp out in Acts 6 for this week. There is so much to learn here in connection to how the church is to function as a team and a body. Please read and meditate upon the first 7 verses. We are going to make an observation from this text every day this week.

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
(Acts 6:1-7)

Today’s observation is that even the apostles ran the show, there were things and people overlooked. What do we see here in the text? There was racial / ethnic / social tension within the congregation. Greek Jews versus Jews from the homeland. Favoritism and cliques were raising their ugly heads. Some widows were well cared for, while others were being neglected.

Wait a minute! Weren’t the apostles directly led by the Holy Spirit? Weren’t they guided into all truth? How could this happen under their watch?

Well, we know it happened, plain and simple. Why? Because we are all human. Problems arise in the local congregation because…here you go…it is made up of people. Even when the apostles were directly overseeing the congregation, things happened that should not have happened. While the apostles were directly shepherding this new church, there were people overlooked and things that should have been done were not done.

This is important for us today. There is no such thing as a church without problems. You will not find a “perfect” local congregation on this earth. Even when the apostles ran the show, things were missed. God knows it will be that way, so what He is watching for is how we will respond to the situation and more importantly, to each other during those problems.

Church Hopping

All churches have problems. There is no such thing as a perfect church. A lot of us can get a “grass is greener” syndrome, thinking that some church in another location is just awesome and our congregation just stinks. We can get all worked up about all things we don’t like, and we look for ways to justify leaving. But then we go to the “awesome” church, and after the honeymoon period, the “awesome” church…isn’t. We then move on to another, and another, and another, until we run out of options. Some even try to return to a previous congregation and make another go at it. This is called “church hopping.” Church hopping is pretty prevalent, especially in areas where there are many congregations from which to choose.

What you will find is that the problem wasn’t really with all those congregations, it was with the individual. Those expectations are too high or not even Biblical. There is far too little introspection to see what’s going on inside me; maybe I’m the one who needs to change, not the church. The church hopper is lacking also in humility and mercy. Sometimes folks are looking for a church to serve them, instead of trying to see how they can be a servant alongside the brethren. Another part of this is that some want to serve how they want to serve, but do not look to see what the needs of the congregation are. Maybe the way I want to serve is not what is needed at the time; I might need to serve in a way that is different and uncomfortable for me.

How often in Scripture do you see Jesus or any inspired writer telling the Christians to split and start another church? There may be a time, and there have been times, when Christians are forced to part from a group and go elsewhere. Maybe they even start a brand new congregation. But that is not the rule, it should be the exception. The rule is that we need to work things out with humility, be patient, and have some mercy toward our brethren.

If you look at the churches of Asia for example, you can see that the Lord was incredibly longsuffering with them. Jesus stood at the door and patiently knocked, even when a church like Laodicea was so lukewarm it made Him want to vomit. The congregation in Thyatira had a woman there like Jezebel who somehow was encouraging the brethren to commit sexual immorality and leading them into idolatrous practices. Jesus gave them “time to repent.” Sardis was identified by Jesus as “dead,” but he encouraged the few who were still walking in white garments to keep on going and be faithful.

So, before you go running for the door, run to Jesus and have a heart check. Do some real introspection in prayer to make sure that leaving this congregation is what Jesus really wants you to do. He may want you to change you, not try to change a congregation.

Some were persuaded and some disbelieved

Last night, I went with a few other Christians to hear a preacher present a great lesson on “Can We All Understand the Bible Alike?” One of the passages he referenced in his sermon was Acts 28, which is an account of Paul arriving in Rome. Please take time to read the passage below and notice why some did not receive Paul’s message. You can see that it had nothing to do with God’s word or it being impossible to understand.

“But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.” When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen” (Acts 28:22-28).

Some were persuaded and some disbelieved

What did Paul do? He expounded, he testified and tried to convince them about what the Scriptures said. The message of Jesus was clearly and reasonably presented to the crowd that day.

Take note that some were convinced, but others disbelieved. They did not agree “among themselves.” There was religious division among them. So, what was the problem? Was Paul’s teaching too hard to understand? No, Paul quoted Isaiah in saying they had “closed” their eyes and that their hearts had grown dull. It had nothing to do with the message. The problem was their eyes, ears and hearts.

Lord, please open our hearts, our ears and our eyes to see Your word just as it is. Please remove any pre-conceived notions, traditions and men’s opinions from our hearts. May we simply listen to Your truth with an honest mind. Amen.