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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 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. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 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.
The followers of Jesus were growing so that it became impossible to administrate the group efficiently. Those who had started in leadership had gifts which were ample for a few thousand, but now the church had grown to a size beyond even that. The apostles had a particular responsibility to talk of all that they had been taught and had seen. Not everyone could do that job, but now they were able to teach and witness less because of the day-to-day administration of the daily needs of the church.
As usual, those who are struggling attribute blame and the accusation was that there was an unjust favouritism toward the Jews from Israel. Those Jews who were culturally Greek were feeling that they had been overlooked when they became Christians. The apostles commissioned 7 leaders to serve as administrators. We are given Greek, Hellenistic, names for them which shows a welcoming of Greek culture. The seven might have had Jewish names, but those are not given so that a sense of unity is communicated with those who are suffering.
Some might see a two-tier priesthood here. The idea may be that the apostles are a class above other people. Their function was important, but they were not better people because of their role. There was no cause for feelings or thoughts of superiority. However, although everyone is equal, not everyone is the same.
We have many different roles that need filling in the church. Each person has a gift and the gifts need to come together to form a cohesive whole. A senior pastor can not meet every member of a church and understand them all equally. We need those who are gifted in preaching, visitation, and administration. Those who administrate might need to be full time and should be shown great respect. Some churches focus on preaching as if that is why the church exists. Other churches might focus on singing or Bible studies. The question is whether the church is operating in such a way to meet the real needs of its members and to mobilize them all in ministry. Most churches fall short. The solution is not to blame some distant person of power at the top of the church ladder. The solution is to have real conversations with people who share the same values and to motivate each other to action. We may begin to see how we can take care of some of the church’s issues ourselves.
Your church has so many spectators looking on passively. Help us to both identify the needs and to identify our gifts so that we can take care of those needs. You have equipped us but we have become lazy consumers in many cases. We look for a motivated pastor to sort us all out, but we have been gifted in ways that could take care of our own needs.
- What was the blessing in the passage above which put strain on the church?
- How was the problem addressed?
- What are the cultural implications of the passages above?
- What administrative issues strain churches today?
- How can they be addressed?