6 In those days, as the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. 2 Then the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching about God to handle financial matters. 3 Therefore, brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry.” 5 The proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the preaching about God flourished, the number of the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Then the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching about God to handle financial matters…”
I work at a church, but I'm not a minister. I do, however, work with ministers and count many of them among my closest friends.
I get to see them in all kinds of situations every day as they work with and serve our congregation. I watch as they’re simultaneously fueled by the passion of their calling and drained by the challenges of leading others closer to Christ.
Despite the preparation, support staff, and resources, there always seems to be more to do. Kingdom work is never done, and there never seems to be enough people to do it.
So ministers reach out. They organize teams of volunteers led by other volunteers to be the very arms and legs of Jesus to one another and to the community around us. But as one of these volunteers, I’ve also seen the complications that come with this.
In our fast-paced world of soccer leagues and PTOs, church can often be relegated to a one-more-thing-to-do status. Instead of being the launch pad by which we live, work, and play, it becomes just one more way to live, work, and play.
This often puts it on the chopping block when we need to simplify our lives. It keeps us from answering the phone when the church number pops up on the caller ID.
“Saying no is hard. Better to let it ring.”
“That's not really my calling.”
“Besides, don't we have staff to do that?”
(Yes, I've heard these very things with my own ears.)
It's understandable. And it's not a new problem. Even in the early church, where we typically see kingdom work as more of a lifestyle than an agenda item, we still find holes in how it carried out its mission and coordinated its efforts (particularly in Acts 6).
The early church heard complaints that some widows were being overlooked in the distribution of food. This might have simply been an oversight. Maybe their names got accidentally deleted from the spreadsheet. Hey, it happens. Maybe the list was alphabetical, and due to time constraints, they only got down to "Smith." Sorry Mrs. Tapscott.
But verses 1-7 paint a different picture. The mentioning of Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews could indicate the issue was more cultural, with some widows being prioritized over others.
Simply adding staff to meet the demand probably wouldn't fix this kind of problem. If this issue were a matter of the heart (as most are), then it would be even more important for the church leaders to prioritize "preaching about God." But the widows would still be hungry.
The first time I read this passage, it sounded cold to me. Is preaching more important than people? Now that I work on a church staff, I see a bigger picture.
Church staffers aren’t here to just serve the members, and members aren't here to serve the church staff. Instead, they’re both here to work together and serve the kingdom. We’re co-laborers in the field, a field that’s ripe for harvest.
To some, it’s appointed to preach and teach. To some, it’s appointed to care and serve. But every believer has a job in God's kingdom. And that work isn’t to be carried out in lieu of a soccer league or PTO meeting. It’s to be carried out in in soccer league and PTO—in the midst of our lives.
If church members see kingdom work as something to do in addition to our already packed calendars, we've missed the point. If church ministers are so busy doing church that they sub-optimize their roles as ministers of the gospel, then they've missed the point.
I don’t walk with my hands any more than I clap with my feet. But without my hands and feet, I would be both still and silent. It takes all parts of the body to function.
And dysfunction affects even those who are serving and leading. Members who serve when others won't tend to stay too busy at church to be good parents. Ministers grow tired of hearing "no" and become too jaded to love members.
When my wife and I first joined Brentwood Baptist, our church bulletin actually had space to list all of our ministers—first their positions, then their names. At the bottom of this list was one line that read "Ministers" followed by "Everyone."
I loved that.
- Do you know your place in God's kingdom?
- What's keeping you from serving God in this way?
- Are you doing too much? Is that keeping someone else from serving where they should?