¡°WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?¡± By pastor YAU
Text: Acts 6:1-7 September 30, 2012.
1) This is about a business: Joe Morris flavors his ice cream with ingredients ranging from chocolate and strawberries to green tea and dried chipotle peppers. He is one of three successful ice cream makers in Texas known for their innovation, creativity and quality product. But Joe hasn¡¯t forgotten why he does it. He told reporter Ricardo Gandara the reason they make such great ice cream: ¡°Ice cream is a happy food. We are here to make people happy.¡± Joe is clear and honest on why he did what he did all his life.
2) This was about a church: Over 2,000 years ago, the Jerusalem church was growing so fast that thousands of people added to the church in one day. So they had a problem in taking care of the needs of all the people in the church. The disciples called a meeting and chose seven men to lead others in caring for the people in that church. These people were chosen to serve others to meet their needs. They did that not to make people happy but to help the church running smoothly and peacefully. Because of their service, the church continued to grow rapidly. (6:7)
LET¡¯S LOOK AT THE CHURCH:
1) It¡¯s a growing church: ¡°And the Lord added to their number daily, those who were being saved...In those days when the number of disciples increasing.¡± (Acts 2:47; 6:1) Everyone loves to be part of a growing church where the numbers of people added to the church daily. It is natural that the more the people, the more the ministries to meet the need of the people. We read that the Lord blessed that church and added to that church numbers daily. That doesn¡¯t mean the people didn¡¯t do anything to evangelize the community, but it means it is the Lord who saves souls and adds people to a church. The real power of church growth is not from man but from God.
2) It¡¯s a biblical church: ¡°They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.¡± (2:42)Here we see the church was doing all three main ministries all churches should do: Worship, discipleship and fellowship. With all the church growth theories in modern day theology, these three main ministries are still the fundamentals of all growing churches. Churches should not follow the world and their traits in doing ministry. Anytime a church strays away from God¡¯s principles of growth, it ceases to be a church God wants it to be.
3) It¡¯s a normal church: ¡°The Grecian Jews among them com-plained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.¡± (6:1b)The first church in Jerusalem was made up with people from many parts of the Roman Empire. (2:8-11) Many of the new converts stayed in Jerusalem instead of returning to their homeland. The church provided food and daily needs to these people by those who sold their properties to support their needs. (4:32-35) Due to unforeseen reasons, treatment of all parts of the church was not evenly handled and complaints happened. I don¡¯t believe if Peter had anticipated all these when he preached that message to bring 3,000 people into the church. When a church grows, needs amount and having problems is inevitable. There is never a perfect church that everyone in it is 100% happy.
4) It¡¯s a blessed church: ¡°So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together.¡± (6:2) The Twelve were the original disciples of Jesus. They were the leaders or pastors of that church. They were the ones personally called by Jesus. There were the ones who had followed Jesus through his earthly ministry years. How many churches other than this one ever have had a couple of the Twelve be their pastors? It is very important and a blessing to have good, God-called pastors in all churches. From how these Twelve handled this problem, we can see the wisdom of God in their hearts. Pastors are under-shepherds called and assigned by God for his churches and they are the blessings from God.
WHAT WAS WRONG IN THAT CHURCH? (Acts 6:1-6)
1) They didn¡¯t have helpers: If you go to a restaurant or attend a conference with 3,000 seats, how many helpers you think may need to take care of these people? Here was a church of at least 3,000 people and they needed enough helpers to take care of the needs of the 3,000. Looking at the text, we may see it was mainly the job of the Twelve to do things, until they were exhausted because of lack of helpers. Many of the churches today have less than 20% of the people serving the other 80% of ¡°guests.¡± In some churches, most of the work falls on the pastors and paid staff. No wonder there are many complaints, problems and unhappy people in those churches.
2) They made human mistakes: ¡°The Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their daily widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.¡± (6:1b)We had explained the reasons why they need to distribute food in the church. Here we see human mistakes in working with people: race, culture and social differences in the church created problems for workers. With all the good hearts and diligence, the Twelve just can¡¯t do all the works to meet the needs and expectations of many kinds of people. To make mistakes is inevitable in all churches, and it will cause people to complain and become unhappy.
3) They had bad management: ¡°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. Brothers, choose seven men among you, we will turn this responsibility over to them, and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.¡± (6:2-4) Serving God in His church, there is no segregation of sacred or secular job. But there is a difference of who should do what in order to maximize the gifts of the people. To let the Twelve to handle food service in the church may not the best way to maximize the gifts God has given them. They should concentrate in the ministry of God¡¯s word and prayer instead of serving food. Many in today¡¯s church can do better job in service ministry than pastors can. Pastors should be released from those duties so they can concentrate in ministering with God¡¯s word. All service in the church is important. What we need is to know who can do what the best and let them do it. If you put a cat to do a dog¡¯s job, it won¡¯t work as well, right?
4) They under used the people power: ¡°The proposal pleases the whole group and they chose.¡± (6:5) Evidently the Twelve did not have the management skill or the time or the energy to handle a large church. They tried their best to make things work but not enough. They didn¡¯t know the importance of the ¡°people power or dynamic¡± in the church. If a church is in the hands of a few people, no matter how hard they try, how sincere they are or how dedicated they do, it is never enough to grow a church to a higher level. I am sure the Seven were not the only ones to cater to the needs of 3,000. There must be other helpers to get all things done properly.
WHY WERE THEY DOING THIS?
1) Keeping the harmony in the church: ¡°The proposal pleases the whole group.¡± (6:5)The whole group means both the Grecian Jews and the Hebraic Jews, everyone in the church was happy and there isn¡¯t any complaint. No word is good enough to say about the importance of unity and harmony in a church. I am not talking about the business of pleasing people; I am talking about doing the right thing with the support of the people. We all need to remember, a church is a voluntary organization. Besides the blessing of God, it depends on the support of the people. When we are doing the right thing in the church, people know that and will support and work together to get things done in harmony.
2) Good people are chosen to serve: ¡°So brothers, choose seven men from among you who have good reputation, are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.¡± (6:3)Among all the good qualities of men, God intends to use men of good reputation (personal character) and full of the Spirit (godliness on the inside) and wisdom (to make judgment and decision) on the outside. Although church service is voluntary, there are few qualities that are very important when we choose people to serve in church positions. Please note it is never about money or fame, not about education or social status that God wants to see in his servants. When we cast our ballots, we need to follow God¡¯s heart, not our personal preference. Please also note: the Greek word deaconos means servants on tables, the waiters, not a title of prestige as today¡¯s deacons in churches. Many problems and conflicts in many churches stem from false practice of what deacons mean in the Bible.
3) Be inclusive, not exclusive: ¡°They chose Stephen¡Philip, Pocirus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.¡± (6:5) Just by reading of the names, we can see that these men were from various back- ground. They didn¡¯t just choose people from their own sect or people who were their friends. When we follow spiritual guidelines, only men and women after God¡¯s heart with good qualities are good candidates. We need to honor this biblical principle when we elect people to serve in our church.
4) Blessing of God will follow: ¡°So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large of priests became obedient to the faith.¡± (6:7)When we honor God and His way in the church, God will honor our obedience and pours His blessing in our ministry. We ought to serve God diligently, but it is never our efforts that bring fruit to His glory but His power through us that bear fruits for His glory. No need to follow the world or their tricks to win people to Christ. Just follow God¡¯s lead and His principles we will see how God will prosper His church for His glory.
1) Follow a good church model: The Bible is more than just good for individual Christians on their faith and life; it is also good for the corporate body of believers, the church for faith and practices. Jesus established the church in this world for a special purpose, to bear witness for him and to lead people to him. So, as we serve God in His church, we need to know and follow His plans and ideas in our service, from election to serving in positions to relationship with each other and to bring good witness to the world.
2) Follow the good men in the Bible: If God places a call in your heart to serve him in certain position, you should obey His call instead of looking for excuses to decline. Your service is important not just to obey God but also helping His church. On the other hand, when you vote for someone to serve, you need to follow God¡¯s guidelines to choose people instead of your personal favoritism. Remember, this is all about service, NOT about prestige or personal honor.