Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Way the Church Should Work!

Acts 6
The Choosing of the Seven
6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

As the church grew, there were bound to be some challenges associated with that growth. Today in Acts 6, the source of the conflict was that the Greek speaking Jewish widows were getting neglected in favor the Hebrew speaking widows. When the twelve gathered to discuss this they did something really important. Rather than it becoming a great diversion to the mission, they elected a group of people called "deacons". These seven men would be godly men, full of wisdom, who were given authority to make sure this conflict was handled well. The result, the apostles could keep doing the ministry they were gifted and called to do. And the deacons could use their God-given gifts to keep the much needed unity in the body of Christ. This was a huge "win-win", and great model for those of us in church leadership today.

So often in the church today when there is a conflict, all of the church's energy and resources go into solving that conflict. While the conflict is not unimportant, and needs to be dealt with, the mission can't be put on hold to do it. Many pastors and church leaders often feel like they need to deal with it or the church will suffer. While this is true, the disciples today did not give a knee jerk, anxiety driven reaction. They thought through issue and brought the community together to solve the problem. Notice the solution came within the gathered community, as 7 deacons were identified and empowered to play this vital role in the life of the early church.

Someone has once described a football game as, "24 players desperately needing a break, being watched by 50,000 people needing some exercise." And often the church is by default set up the same way. Importantly this is not how God designed the church. He gave pastors the calling to teach, preach and admonish the body of Christ. But in addition equally importantly they are called to equip the members for the work of the ministry. Notice feeding the flock spiritually is so important to the health of the congregation, that it can't be sabotaged by the often pressing and seemingly more immediate needs.

The other thing is that these deacons now had a vital role to play in building up the body of Christ, so that it could attract more people to Christ. If full blown this conflict could have compromised the early church. The disciples had the wisdom to handle it well, and hopefully we can learn from them as we deal with conflicts that are certain to come in any church.

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