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.

Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand

The LORD was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master (Potiphar) saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority. So it was, from the time that he had made him overseer of his house and all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had in the house and in the field. Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate… (Genesis 39:2-6).

This morning, take time to think of Joseph’s character as a servant to Potiphar. Also, consider how Joseph’s behavior created the environment of trust within Potiphar. Joseph was made the “overseer” of all Potiphar’s house. He was given “authority” over all that Potiphar had.

In order for a man to put everything he had under the oversight of another, what kind of trust had to exist? If you are going to hand the keys to your house and the account numbers to your bank over to another, you would completely trust that person’s character first.

That is what we see in the relationship between Joseph and Potiphar here.

Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand

I want to consider two questions and directly relate this to our relationship with the church family.

Am I like Joseph?

Can the leadership in our congregation completely trust me to follow through with the responsibilities given to me? When I say I will do something, do I keep my word? Do the elders/shepherds in our congregations see this quality of Joseph within us? This is the same kind of mindset that Paul saw within Timothy; Paul knew without a doubt he could count on him (Philippians 2:19-23).

Am I like Potiphar?

I know the focus of this passage is on Joseph, but I see a great quality in Potiphar here as well. He was willing to delegate and completely hand over the reins of certain matters to Joseph. He did not micromanage Joseph. If we are in a leadership position, are we looking for those Joseph-minded people in our congregations?

Are we willing to let loose of some control in order to let others oversee certain affairs? This relationship is a two-way street. Joseph could have all the greatest character in the world, but if Potiphar was not willing to let go of control, Joseph would never shine in his new given responsibilities. Letting go of control is very hard for us, isn’t it?

Take a lesson from Potiphar here, and look for the Joseph’s in your church. Let them thrive and grow and be challenged. This is the same thing we see of the apostles in Acts 6:1-7. The apostles appointed seven Joseph-like men to take care of the widows and gave them “oversight” in this matter.

Let’s be a Joseph in our work, but let’s also be a Potiphar in how we delegate responsibility to others.