Chosen To Serve
In Acts 6:1-7 we see a fascinating story unfold in the early Church. Hellenist and Hebrew Christians were clashing because the former’s widows were being overlooked by the latter in the distribution of food. All this was happening in an environment of rapid growth (Ac 6:1).
Growth Brings Issues
When growth comes, so do issues. More money, more problems. More assets, more liabilities. When it comes to church, have you ever thought, “this place would be great if it wasn’t for the people!” With more of anything, comes the potential for more issues, for growing pains. But the early church used these issues as opportunities. And we must always see problems in our lives as opportunities to see God work.
Chosen To Serve
The opportunity the Apostles created out of this mess was a servanthood opportunity. Rather than a problem to solve (“we need to fix this distribution of food problem”), it was an opportunity to create (“we need to raise up leaders who can carry the load with us and for us”). They chose seven people to serve. Notice the qualifications they looked for: “men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom…” (Ac 6:3). And note how they commissioned them for the task: “These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them” (Ac 6:6).
Think about this for a moment. What role were these volunteers taking up? They were administering a food bank programme. Yet, the early Church leaders wanted them to have good reputations, to be full of the Spirit, and to have the wisdom of God. Then the Apostles themselves commissioned them, with the laying on of hands and prayer. What dignity and weight they place on this role! This shows us that no matter the role, when you serve the Body of Christ, His Church, it is incredibly valuable.
A Structure of Servanthood
The book of Acts is full of miracles. But the biggest miracle in the whole book of Acts is found in Acts 6:5. It says that the whole church agreed on a decision its leaders made! I jest, but what was the decision? The decision was a structural one. It was a decision made by the Apostles that effectively said “we should not be serving in this way. We should focus on the Word of God and prayer, not serving food to people” (Ac 6:2, 4). Whatever happened to servanthood! Humility! Didn’t Jesus teach us that to be the greatest we must become servants of all (Mark 9:35)?
Well, yes He did. But to be servants of all, the Apostles had to do what God had specifically called them to do: to lead the Church through the ministry of the Word of God and of prayer. Where Acts 6 gives us an example, Ephesians 4:11-12 explicitly teaches us that this model and structure is good;
11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…
The “minister” isn’t the only minister! To minister simply means to serve. We are all ministers. And it’s the ministry of the church’s leaders to equip others for ministry! This is what was happening in Acts 6.
And the result of all this? The growth that brought the initial issues with it, carried on, and increased. Verse 7 tells us that as the Word of God increased (remember what the Apostles were called to focus on!), so did the number of disciples. When each one of us plays our part, then the whole Church is built up (see again Eph 4:12), and the Kingdom of God is expanded on the earth.
Lastly, three practical considerations for you as you reflect on the teaching of the Scripture about servanthood in the church.
- It’s not servanthood if it’s on your own agenda. These people in Acts 6 were chosen. We don’t serve only in opportunities that line up with our pre-existing expectations or agenda. We make ourselves available for when opportunities come up. Luke 9:62 – 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
- Servanthood starts in and is based from the local church. This whole issue was driven by a need in the church. Another unpopular opinion in churches today in our massive social justice culture, is that serving each other is bad when there’s a world outside these walls. Of course we serve the world around us, but not before we serve the Church. Galatians 6:10 – 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
It is through servanthood, walking in good works, that you discover who God has truly made you to be. Ephesians 2:10 says, 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. In other words, God didn’t create you and then say, “what can I get them to do?” No, He saw the mission, His mission in the world, and He created you on purpose to fulfil it.
– Ps Dave