When men and women come to faith in Jesus Christ, they become part of the family of God. This means that people from different cultures, backgrounds, generations, and socioeconomic classes have to learn to relate to each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is no easy feat.
From Pentecost on, the early church experienced exponential growth, and with this comes unavoidable “growing pains.” In those early days, one of the issues that we see straight away is this clashing of the cultures, as there are subtle distinctions between people of different ethnic or linguistic groupings who are now worshipping together. The problem comes to a head when some of the widows are, unintentionally, it seems, being overlooked. The foreign, Greek-speaking Jews are upset because their widows are being neglected in the daily distribution of food by the Aramaic-speaking Jews who are the natives of Judea and Galilee. And so, we see cultural and language distinctions that are already causing tensions within the church family.
The Apostles have this immense love for the church— including the marginalized. Throughout the Scriptures, we see God’s desire for His people to attend to both the physical and spiritual needs of others— especially within the church.
The Apostles get on this problem right away. Here, we sense the mark of compassion on early church leaders, a mark that we desire to have as a church. It is interesting that, in their desire to rectify this tension, they do not handle the challenge themselves; instead, they have the church appoint seven deacons (“servants”) to take care of it. It is NOT that the Twelve are above such a menial task, but out of great wisdom, they prioritize two things— namely, the Word and Prayer. For them to serve tables would mean that they are taken away from their primary tasks. So, as Moses does in Exodus 18, they delegate responsibility.
There are two points of application that I want to stress:
(1) Church leaders need to ensure that all groups in our churches are ministered to and that none are overlooked. Unfortunately, some generations, races, and/or socioeconomic classes often receive less ministry than others. Usually, this is not intentional; the issue needs to be attended to, nonetheless.
(2) Though this is NOT the case at Real Life, often in churches (especially smaller ones), there is this expectation for the Lead Pastor to do everything. Lay people show up once or twice a week and get “fed,” and then go about their own lives. Other times, pastors are such control-freaks, that they simply refuse to delegate responsibilities. In either case, these key leaders are left with little time to spend on what is most important— namely, prayer and the Word. Could this be why so much of today’s preaching lacks substance? To be sure, the Bible does not call vocational ministers to do all the work of the ministry but instead to equip the church for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12).
We want Real Life to be a “Bible-saturated” church. For that to happen, the leadership must be able to devote themselves to prayer and the Word. This only occurs as each member uses their particular gifts to serve the church.
With these points of application in mind, discuss the following questions with your family, accountability partner, and/or small group.
(1) Is there a particular group in our church who’s physical or spiritual needs are overlooked?
(2) How can we help all generations and socioeconomic classes feel valued and ministered to within the church? What can you do, personally, to aid in this?
(3) How can we, as a church, continue to prioritize and savor the Word of God?
(4) What are your thoughts on pastoral leadership? Should they do the majority of the work of the ministry, or should they delegate most responsibilities? How do your thoughts on this help or hinder the effectiveness of the local church?