Leaders Chosen to Serve

01 title slide

        So far our overall view of the first church is an amazing body of believers that cared for one another, meeting each others needs physically, financially, and spiritually, and spending time together learning from the Apostles and sharing meals together. The apostles had been arrested a few times now, and there was one instance of believers misrepresenting their gift to God, however they continued to pray for boldness and continue on in the mission to spread God’s word. The church also had grown from 120 to thousands in a very short time. Organizationally they had only had the Apostles so far to care for the community but as we will see today new needs will present themselves and opportunities for others to use their gifting had arrived.

 

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. 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. Therefore, brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry.” 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. They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

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. Acts 6:1-7 HCSB

 

Growth brought challenges

       So a positive thing here was presenting challenges and in this case a problem came about between two sects of people within the body. As the church was growing the first church had some racial problems arising. The Hellenistic Jews was referring to the Greeks while the Hebraic Jews were those native to Jerusalem. Though the community was generous and giving of their belongings to fill the needs of others, somehow there was a breakdown in the system and the needy from the Greek community were not being cared for with the same level of care as the Hebraic Jews.

Acts 2:42-47

Acts 4:31, 34-35

       The message in these passages was not that the fellowship gave of their money, they were united and generous. The two had to work together in order to be effective. They were a family which was based on fellowship with God, and that caused them to be generous and united in caring for one another.

         1 Corinthians 13 this passage is often used in marriages but it is actually a passage concerning the church. It seems to me it speaks very well into this context, the lack of love is what brought the break down in the care of the people. The overall theme of the generosity and beauty of the first church thus far was their unity and love for each other. The needy of one specific group were being overlooked as the needs of others were being met daily. This wasn’t a one time thing, daily one group was being overlooked while the others was being cared for.

 

Godly Leadership

         The response of the Apostles was to gather the whole body together to talk about the issue. They didn’t make light of the issue, they brought it to the light and involved the people in the solution process. Another key point here is that the apostles also didn’t make assumptions or try to determine who was right or wrong. They could have rushed in and rebuked the one group and commanded them to give equally, but they were looking deeper into the issue. Their concern was the hearts of the people and bringing unity in the church.

          They pointed out their main mission and gifting was preaching, and that to focus on another area and not fulfill the functions of their job would be a detriment to the community and to the mission. They actually made the issue a larger deal and stressed the importance of it by dealing with it right away and proposing a solution. They also decentralized control and leadership. It seems they admitted to being part of the problem, prior to this point money had been presented to the apostles for dispersion, but here they state that they cannot do their appointed job well and handle financial matters. They delegated responsibility for finances to others. Not just the collection of finances, but the decision making and dispersion of the finances. The role of the teachers and preachers was the spiritual health and maturity of the body, as well as evangelizing unbelievers, and they had the people appoint others for the role of financial issues.

Prayer

         The leaders needed to be devoted to prayer and their preaching ministry. Prayer in the early church had already shown great power, and was a real way that they depended on the Spirit of God. From the beginning in chapter one Jesus had commanded them to wait on the arrival of the spirit, and they were united in prayer as they awaited. Then he showed up and His great power was displayed at Pentecost followed by 3,000 people coming to faith. In chapter 4:23-31 (read 29-31) The Apostles had just been arrested for speaking in Jesus name then released. They prayed for boldness and the place shook and they were filled with the spirit and preached with boldness. Next we saw the community united and caring for one another, with many people being added to the community daily as well as at times when the spirit moved in a big way; such as the healing of the lame man, and the arrests of the apostles for doing miracles and teaching in Jesus name.

         A prayer filled life was a cultural norm for Jews and especially for these new believers. The Jewish people had been taught back in Deuteronomy 8:10-14 to bless the Lord when they were satisfied. The people made prayer a tradition of praying blessings throughout the day to keep prayer a normal part of their routine. These blessings are prayers of thanksgiving. They would pray “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the univers…… for giving me life, health, food etc…” Here in acts even more so the young new church was devoted to prayer not just in thanking God for His provision but in dependence on His continued presence and action in order to continue the mission.

 

        John taught in 1 John 3:22 then 5:14-15 that God answers prayer and gave us three requirements for when He would do so. 1 When we are keeping His commands, 2 when we are doing the things that please Him, and 3 when we ask according to His will, and when those requirements are met we can know that we have what we have asked for.

14 “Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” 1John 5:14

22” and can receive whatever we ask from Him because we keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight. 23 Now this is His command: that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps His commands remains in Him, and He in him. And the way we know that He remains in us is from the Spirit He has given us.” 1 John 3:22-24 HCSB

         Paul also gave us many commands to pray and give thanks; Ephesians 5:20 Always be giving thanks to God the Father for everything. Colossians 3:17 Whatever you do… do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.”

         The apostle’s devotion to prayer and preaching were important for the movement and a great example for all. Their prayer lives modeled their dependence on God rather than their own abilities, and taught those they led to do the same.

“We can’t manufacture a movement of God but we can get on our knees and get sails up so if a wind of God blows we are ready.” Vance Pitman

One Body many gifts

      The solution they made was to find men gifted in this area that met certain criteria, and they tasked the congregation with finding these people. The response to the problem was to empower the people and get them involved in the process of positive change.

 1 Corinthians 12:4-14

 Criteria for leadership in the Church

There were three criteria stated in this passage and one that was assumed.

 Good reputation – they lived out their faith and were a good role model

 Filled with Wisdom – gifted in this area.

 Filled with the Holy Spirit – they were a believer.

 Member of the Church – people knew them

            Titus 1:5-9, 2:2-8; 1 Timothy 3:1-13

 Inspirational leadership

       The people bought in to the mission, and were unified. When people are inspired and empowered great missions are accomplished. In this case not only did they choose leaders but they chose Greek men for the task, the very group that had been neglected were chosen by the people. The leaders focused on the gospel and leading people spiritually and unity and positive change in the hearts of the people were accomplished. The apostles also realized who they were leading. This issue was in the church, among believers who were indwelled with the Holy Spirit.

       The Apostles laid hands on these men whom the people had chosen and recognized God had called them into this ministry.

 The result

        The mission continued and many more were added to the Kingdom! When the church faces a problem from within but deals with it well, the gospel is proclaimed. People outside the church see the problems the Christian community faces and how we deal with them. The gospel redeems people to God and people to people. Part of the curse as a result of sin was the breakdown of relationships. God’s law is to love God and love others, this is part of the redemptive work of the gospel. Jesus death on the cross redeems His people to Him, and the Holy Spirit that indwells His people empowers them to do these two things. Even a large number of Priests were saved. Why mention priests specifically? It’s possible the priests, who were religious leaders saw the wisdom and Godly example of the Apostles as well as the results and were moved by how God worked through them.

Applications for us

-Challenges in relationships are opportunities for the Gospel to be proclaimed and applied to our lives.

-Godly leadership inspires and empowers, rather than seeking to micromanage and control

-One body many gifts. The gospel flourishes and the fellowship of believers grows when everyone in the body is active and using their gifting

-Criteria for Godly leadership; good reputation, wise, believer, and part of the fellowship.