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O Lord, we come not simply because it says “prayer of illumination” in the bulletin and this is how sermons start, we come because we need Your help. And so we pray, come, Holy Spirit, come, heavenly dove, with all Your quickening powers, kindle a flame of sacred love in these cold hearts of ours. Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly dove, with all your quickening powers. Come shed abroad a Savior’s love, and that shall kindle ours. Give us ears to hear. Speak, for Your servants are listening. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Several years ago I read a fascinating book called Everything is Obvious: How Common Sense Fails Us. And the title suggests that the book is actually a play on “everything is obvious,” that in fact, everything is not so obvious, and common sense does often fail us. The book is written by Duncan Watts, a researcher at Microsoft, and formerly a professor at Columbia. He tells the story in the book about posing a problem to one of his undergraduate classes. He said “I want you to consider two countries. In country A 12% of the population agrees to be organ donors, that when they die, their organs can be donated for science or for those who need them. 12% in country A. In country B, 99.9% of the people are organ donors.” And he said, “What accounts for this difference?” And so the class would discuss and they came up with lots of possibilities. They thought well, maybe, one country was very religious and that’s why their number was 99.9. Maybe it was some sort of religious conviction to love their neighbors, or maybe one people valued life in a different way, or maybe they had different views of the body, and maybe perhaps in country A there was a thought that it wasn’t right that the body should be used in that way after death. Or maybe one country was very well-developed and had the medical technology to use organ donation and others didn’t. Or maybe one had many accidental deaths and injuries, and so they wanted to have organ donation. Or maybe one just had very skilled doctors to do it well and they didn’t trust any other country, the doctors with chainsaws or something.
So he said, “Well, let me tell you that country A is Germany, and country B is Austria.” And this was shocking. They were thinking that maybe these countries were in vastly different parts of the globe, very different cultures, not two countries that were right next to each other. So he said, “What accounts for the difference between Germany and Austria?” And they came up with more ideas. Maybe Austria had a big media campaign to encourage organ donations and it was, it was on train stations and there was a media blitz, or maybe it’s something to do with the education system and they were instructed in it, or people started speculating “it must have something to do with the Nazis” or something or World War II. They all figured some big explanation, some variation in culture or strategy, or beliefs that led to such an extreme difference. 12% in Germany, maybe it’s different but at the time of this illustration, 12% in Germany, 99% in Austria.
All of those reasons were wrong. The real reason was amazingly simple and quite boring. In Germany, at least at the time of this illustration, you have to sign up to be an organ donor, and in Austria, everyone is automatically an organ donor unless you opt out. [laughter] Opt in, opt out.
Right now the children’s ministry team is saying can we do that for nursery? [laughter] You just have to opt out. Let us know if you’re not going to show up.
And the point of the story is that common sense sometimes fails us. It’s tempting to draw all sorts of conclusions. There must be cultural, social, spiritual differences between Germans and Austrians, but the difference was entirely bureaucratic and administrative. Do you have to send in a form? If you want people to send in a form to do it, they won’t do it. If you want people to send in a form not to do it, they’ll do it.
I start with that illustration to show that sometimes a slight tweak in structure or administration as unexciting as that sounds, can make a massive difference. We don’t tend to think of organization or administration as being a very crucial factor in the spread of the Gospel, but we’ll see, in Acts chapter 6, that structural confusion was a threat to the spread of the Gospel in the early Church, every bit as much as opposition or persecution.
Now to be sure, a church with great leadership and seamless structures and procedures, but without a vibrant Gospel witness, is not going to accomplish anything of lasting value. But at the same time, a church that has dynamic preaching and vibrant Gospel witness and yet pays no attention to how they do things and how they’re run and the structures and the organization, will accomplish far less than they might otherwise accomplish.
Yes, if we have to choose between great structure and great Gospel, we’re going to choose great Gospel all the time. But if we don’t have to choose between them, if there is really something to be said about wisdom in thinking through how we do things, then maybe God has a reason for Acts chapter 6.
Follow along as I read verses 1 through 7.
“Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.”
We see here in chapter 6 what we’ve already seen in Acts 1 through 5, that is, the continued success of the Word of God. Just turn back. Look at chapter 2:41: “So those who received His Word were baptized and they were added that day, about 3000 souls.”
Verse 47: “Praising God, having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Turn over to chapter 4, look at verse 31: “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the Word of God with boldness.”
Chapter 5:14: “And more than ever, believers were added to the Lord, multitude of both men and women.”
And at the end of chapter 5, verse 42: “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.”
So in the first five chapters, it’s this unrelenting focus. The Word is going forth, people are being saved. The Word is increasing, the Church is growing.
And many of these summaries come on the heels of significant opposition to the Gospel.
So look again at Acts 4:31, that comes right after John and Peter are arrested, brought before the council, ordered to be silent. So there’s opposition.
But at the end, continued growth and increase.
Or, chapter 5, verse 14. This is after Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit about their gift. So there you have the disobedience of the people, but again the result at the end is great fear and the Word of God goes forth and people are saved.
At the end of chapter 5, the Apostles have been arrested, delivered, brought before the council again, ordered to be silent, beaten up again, and yet verse 42, “day by day they did not cease preaching and teaching.”
So we see this pattern throughout the book of Acts. The progress of the Gospel is threatened, but the Word of God continues to increase. We’ll see it many times throughout the book. The ministry of the Word threatened by hatred, by persecution, by legal decrees, by arrest, by physical abuse, by official intimidation, by intellectual hostility, by sinful disobedience, over and over there are threats to the spread of the Gospel.
And we understand that. If you had to make a list of things that threaten to derail the progress of the Gospel, you say, okay, everyone, what are the top three things that can threaten the spread of the Gospel? You’d put things like persecution, unbelief, opposition, heresy, impurity, disobedience, coldness of heart, and you’d be right.
But Acts 6 gives us another threat, and it’s not a threat that gets a lot of attention or a threat that we spend a lot of time on, but it is a threat, nonetheless. Structural and administrative confusion.
You say are you for real, pastor? You’re preaching a sermon on administrative confusion? Well, I am, because that’s what they had to deal with in Acts chapter 6.
Look at the bookends once again. Verse 1 – here’s a problem, here’s a threat. They’re increasing, but a complaint by the Hellenists, the Greek-speaking Jews, arose against the Hebrews, Hebrew-speaking Jews, or more likely Aramaic-speaking Jews, because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. Church is growing, increasing, here’s a new threat and the threat is some of the widows are being overlooked for the other widows. Verse 7 – and the word of God continued to increase.
So what happened? Threat in verse 1, Gospel still going forward in verse 7. Something happens in verses 2 through 6 to see that this threat is absolved.
Sometimes it’s the little oversights, or it’s the well-meaning but unwise approaches to ministry that cause the most trouble. The sort of approaches where everyone has their heart in the right place and everyone wants to do the right thing, but it’s simply not wise, and it’s bound to fail.
I read this example in a book by Robert Lupton who’s a leader in thinking about reaching and helping the poor and community development. And he says a group of Christians wanted to do something for the poor. True story. And so they got a bunch of donations and they opened a store for free clothes. You can picture this. People saying “look, there’s people in our city, they, they need clothes to wear, we have lots of extra clothes, we’ll get donations, we’ll open a store, we put some of our own capital, we, we buy the building, we staff it, we run it, and we say free clothes! ‘Cause we want to help people who need clothes.” What could go wrong?
Well, they quickly ran into trouble as people came in and grabbed as many shirts as they could, or they came in multiple times a day, and so then they made a rule limiting the number of clothes and limiting the number of visits, and then they kept making more and more rules, and increasingly they found themselves frustrated with the very people they had set out to help. And it became an adversarial relationship as they increased more and more rules to try to police this free clothing store, and a hostile relationship started to develop. Eventually, they realized “we had great intentions, we wanted to help people, and now the people coming in for help are mad at us and we’re made at them.”
And they realized they needed to charge money for the clothes. Now if they had started out with that idea, someone would say “Well, that’s not right. We want to freely give them the clothes.” But they learned they needed to run the store as a business. Maybe not a business that would make a profit on its own, but if they ran the store as a business, it would give people the dignity of purchasing something at a very reduced cost for themselves. It would maybe an opportunity that they could employ some of the very same people who may need jobs. And it would cut down on people coming multiple times a day and just hoarding shirts.
They had the right heart – it just wasn’t a very wise approach. Their structure, their administration, made all the difference.
Sometimes we can have very smart people, but they do very unwise things.
Jonathan Edwards. You may have heard of him. He’s as smart as they come. And he was very wise, but did you know that he was voted out of his own church? That’s a very sobering reminder for the rest of us pastors. There was something called Jonathan Edwards and the Bad Book, or Deal. There were some teenage boys in his congregation, so take, take heart, parents, there have always been teenage boys, and they’re like our teenage boys are, were, and ever shall be, world without end, amen. [laughter]
There were teenage boys in Northampton, Massachusetts in the 18th century that got hold of a midwifery manual. Oh, there’s a lot of juicy tidbits, I imagine, in a midwife manual. And what to teenage boys do? They start looking at the thing and they start using that information to do what? Tease young teenage girls. Well, this was not an appropriate thing to do, so Edwards decided to read the names of the culprits out loud, from the pulpit.
Now, that was not unheard of in the day, maybe questionable, but what was even more disastrous was he read the names of the culprits and the witnesses indiscriminately. This did not make the parents very happy. And this began to unravel some trust and confidence in their pastor, and a few years later the congregation voted to fire, yes, fire Jonathan Edwards after he had served there for 23 years. And you want to know the vote? 230 against, and less than 2 dozen for keeping Jonathan Edwards as your pastor.
Simply unwise. And yes, the congregation was unwise, as well, in their decision. We all make mistakes. Churches make lots of them. But as much as possible, we want to deal with not only the weightier matters of heart and soul and life and doctrine, but we cannot ignore administrative problems.
Think of it like the sailboat and the sails are the administration and the wise structures that are there to catch the breeze of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Gospel, or the image that we’ve used often in this vision campaign, a trellis and a vine. If you are going to grow a vine, the point is not to have a beautiful trellis and invite your neighbors over and say “Would you look at the trellis, the lattice-work, the fence, would you look at that? Isn’t that an exquisite trellis?” That’s not the point. The point is the vine. But if the vine is to go somewhere and to be able to grow, it needs a trellis.
So that book, The Trellis and the Vine, and then the followup book, The Vine Project, tries to make clear don’t hear one of those is good and one of them is bad – they’re both necessary, but they serve different functions. The vine, but it needs a trellis.
Good leaders and good churches aren’t the ones who get everything right, but they know they cannot ignore structural problems and they cannot let structural problems determine their fate.
So we see the Apostles doing three very wise things to confront this structural administrative problem in Acts chapter 6. One, they acknowledge the problem. Two, they delegated responsibility. And three, they stick to their priorities.
So first, in dealing with this structural organizational problem, the first big thing they did is to acknowledge the problem. Many widows would come to Jerusalem in their final years. Remember, there’s no government safety net, there’s no insurance. You have family and you have religious bodies, that’s it, to take care of you.
Women would spend their lives with their fathers and husbands. They rarely owned property. They had very little economic opportunity. The best place for a widow to be, if you were a Jew, was in Jerusalem, it’s the capital city, it’s there, you may find more support. They had nothing to rely on but the good will of others.
The Hellenists, as you see in the footnote, are Greek-speaking Jews. Everyone knew some Greek, but there were Greek-speaking Jews and then the Hebraic Jews, who most likely spoke Aramaic. So different languages, different cultures. We don’t know why they were neglected; there doesn’t seem to be any indication that people were trying to overlook them. It was simply an oversight. And we can only speculate as to the cause why were the Hellenists being overlooked when the Hebrew widows were being served.
Well, it’s easy to speculate that the Apostles, being Jews, Hebrews, Aramaic speakers, that perhaps they didn’t know the language as well, or they ran out of provisions, or it’s very easy to forget about those who are unlike you, or they were just sort of locked in “these are the people like us, we know them, we’re related to some of them,” and they forgot about the people that didn’t sound like them or look like them, or didn’t grow up in the same schools they went to.
The situation was particularly volatile because it hit on so many hot button issues, the same hot button issues we might have today. The Greek-speaking Jews were the minorities. 10-20% of the Jewish population were Greek-speaking, so these were the minorities in the community. It was a humanitarian need, for widows, in that context, not to receive their distribution might mean the difference between life and death. And it was a justice concern. You can only imagine that some people thought, “Well, this is prejudice toward the, the Hebrew-speaking Jews. This is bigotry. This is favoritism. They’re looking down on us, because we’re of a different people, or language, or culture, or the minority.”
So the first thing that the Apostles do right is they acknowledge the problem. They could have been too proud to see the problem – “Hey, nothing to see here. We’re Apostles.” They could have been too spiritual to think about the problem – “Hey, look, ladies, we’ve been with Jesus. We got the Holy Spirit. We saw a dead man brought back to life. Figure out your own meals.” They could have been too unapproachable to hear about it. “No, no, no, no. Time out. Don’t you know who we are? The Apostles. Capital A. People will name their children after us. Churches after us. Books of the Bible after us.” Or simply too distant to be approached.
It’s easy to see how these sorts of problems can still occur. Maybe a church bulletin forgets to include international students graduating, or homeschool students graduating, or maybe a church staff is staffed by mostly older people and so they don’t tend to think of the needs of families. Or maybe it’s the reverse and the pastor is young and preoccupied with children, who can think of such a thing, and those who are older feel like he doesn’t really realize what they are facing. Or maybe a church has second generation immigrants that inhabit a totally different world, even though they live in the same house as their first generation parents. Or maybe it’s just the all too common human experience that we tend to gravitate toward people like us and we understand concerns like our concerns, and we’re very attuned to people like me being overlooked, and we overlook all the people not like me.
So we all have this habit. Our little world of our family, or our friends, or our small group, or the 10 or 20 people we’re acquaintances with, we think that is reality. We don’t see there is much bigger reality out there, and so people get hurt. People get overlooked. People assume the worst.
It’s a tremendous opportunity to exercise patience. The Church of Jesus Christ is, if nothing else, a place to learn patience… For pastors and for people, because it happens, and it will happen. Not intentionally, I hope, but it happens. Needs overlooked or forgotten, miscommunication, not understanding why certain decisions are made or not explaining decisions well, or jumping to conclusions, or assuming the worst.
Can you think of how much it would help your life and your church family here if we all took on the simple attitude to assume the best? Refuse to gossip, refuse to stereotype, refuse to exaggerate, learn to overlook most offenses, learn not to stew over the other ones. But to assume the best. They probably thought that through. There’s probably a reason for that. Maybe the comment she made was, was having a bad day.
That doesn’t cover over everything, but it covers over a multitude of things. And it’s not just people with their leaders, but it’s leadership, too, has an opportunity to be humble, not to let our egos get involved, to admit mistakes, to, to listen.
If the Apostles were not listening to anyone, some widows would have gone very hungry and the church would have been quickly divided. But they heard there’s a problem, there’s a complaint, and they acknowledged yes, we hear it, that is a problem.
Here’s the second thing they do: They acknowledge the complaint and they delegate responsibility, number two.
Now, they had to do something. They saw that much. But the Apostles were very wise in what they did next. Because the most important step they took is the step they did not take. They did not take the responsibility upon themselves.
Do you see how both would have been errors? Apostles, here’s a complaint. The Greek-speaking Jews aren’t getting food. One error is, “So what? Not our problem.” The second error is “That’s a big problem, we need to all take care of it as the Apostles.”
They said it’s a problem, and they said someone else needs to be responsible. So they called the congregation to pick seven men. There’s nothing here that says the Apostles couldn’t have picked out the men themselves, but as we’ll see in a moment, there was probably a strategic reason in this case to let the congregation do it. Said the congregation was going to choose them and then they would appoint them.
They knew they needed to be godly men. So you see what they’re looking for, in verse 3. Men of good reputation. So they’re going to have to step into a difficult situation and they need to have the trust of the people, that when they sign their hand, that this conflict in the church can be resolved because the people think, “Okay, I trust him. He’s going to do this well.”
Full of the Spirit. So the Spirit’s character, power, function.
Full of wisdom, so the wisdom to be sensitive to people, to understand group dynamics, to be able to navigate complex cultural barriers, to be bridge builders, to know how to make decisions, maybe an unpopular decision.
You see, even though this was in one sense an administrative task, they didn’t just say, “Hey, we need seven warm bodies. After all, it’s just, it’s just figuring out a structure. Anybody will do.” No, they said this really matters, getting this right really matters. These need to be good men, full of the Spirit, wise, good reputation, to solve this problem.
The congregation chose what appear to be seven Hellenists. Look at the names there. All the names are Greek names. And with the exception of Philip, none of those names were common among Palestinian Jews. You see even Nicolaus, at the end, is a proselyte, a Jewish convert from Antioch. So all of these men, Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolaus… These are Greek names, presumably the congregation said “We have a problem. The Greek-speaking widows are being overlooked in the daily distribution, so let’s get, because the Apostles here are the Hebrews, let’s get some Greek-speaking Jews among our midst, that they can attend to this need.”
In other words, the seven were probably drawn from the group making the complaint. There’s a lot of wisdom in that. Not, not only to say “You think that’s a problem? Who wants to fix it?”
Sometimes people are really good at having problems, and they want you to fix it. “Here’s a bunch of problems.” “Well, that’s good. What can you do to be a solution?” Well, I’m, I’m too busy, but I’m not too busy to find problems, I’m just too busy to help with problems.”
No. Okay, there’s a problem, so let’s find some of you to help fix it, and it’s wise also because they’re going to be the ones most able to fix it, to have the trust of the people, to step in and say “Okay, these are, these are our boys, these are our guys. They’re going to take care of us. They know where the needs are. They know us.”
We often think of these men as proto deacons because they’re attending to the physical concerns of the body. But don’t let that make you think that they’re not spiritual men, or that are deacons don’t have to be spiritual men. They are, they must be. These were full-fledged, spiritual leaders. Not Apostles, you get to the Word, you’re spiritual, these people they don’t have to be spiritual. No, they’ve just gotta hand out stuff.
We know from the rest of Acts some of these men were preachers and evangelists. In all likelihood, these men were chosen as Greek-speaking Jews to serve the Greek-speaking part of the church.
And notice, too, they weren’t just handed a task. They were empowered. Now that’s a very contemporary terms, but here’s what we mean.
Verse 6: “These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and they laid their hands on them.”
We would say they were platformed. They didn’t just say “We need seven men, you, you, you, and you. Go.” They said if these seven men are going to have the sort of authority and gravitas of the apostles themselves and we want spiritual men to handle a spiritual issue, then we need to give them spiritual cover. And so they present them publicly, they pray for them, they lay hands on them, they send them out for this critical task.
One of the most important lessons in leadership is to get others to lead. No church will grow, no church will be healthy, if you expect just staff members to do all the work. Or if staff members hold onto all the work. It’s not always the people expecting the staff to do it all, sometimes it’s the staff sort of hoarding. One reason that some churches stall out at 75 or 100 or 125 people, there’s many reasons, there’s nothing wrong with churches of all sorts of sizes, but that’s generally about the size that one pastor can handle. So sometimes it’s because pastors aren’t willing to let go of some responsibilities, aren’t willing to have others lead, aren’t willing to say “You know what? You’re going to have a special relationship with someone else in the church as your spiritual father and mentor other than men.”
Delegation is not simply “I have a job, I’m too busy, go do it.” Delegation means empowering and equipping new people to step up and to do it successfully. It means taking risks. As all of you know, in positions of leadership, the apostles may have thought, “Well, we could do it better ourselves,” but of course if they were to do it themselves, they wouldn’t be doing the thing that they needed to do themselves. Delegation is not just a strategy to get more things done, to clone yourself, but rather it’s a strategy to empower other leaders to take responsibility, even when they may not do it exactly the same way, or they may make mistakes, or they may get praised instead of you, or you may be less needed in people’s eyes. But in the long run, people are better served and the body is healthier when we multiply and delegate.
So they knew, and they acknowledged the complaint.
They delegated the responsibility.
And here’s the third thing they did: They knew their priorities.
This is the most famous part in chapter 6 in this section. Verse 2: “The twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.'”
Now we’ve already seen that serving tables was not an unspiritual task. The Apostles are not saying, “Oh, that’s so far beneath us. Just get anybody to do it. Do you have Golden Retrievers that you can just, you know, attach meals to? Just send them out.” No, they acknowledge this is very important. We need spiritual men. It’s organizational, but it’s spiritual nonetheless.
And yet they knew their priorities. The Word of God and prayer. And let’s be honest. Almost everything is easier than the Word of God and prayer. Everything seems more urgent. There’s more immediate reward. There are more immediate consequences. If they were to leave the task of the daily distribution undone, the consequences would be felt immediately. People complaining, people hungry.
But if the Apostles didn’t pray, who would know? Not right away. If the Apostles were derelict in their duty to preach the Word, to study the Word, to be in the Word, who would know? Well, maybe nobody right away.
It’s the old adage about the urgent versus the important. Everything else seems more urgent than prayer. More urgent than time in the Word. Your pastors need to fight for it, your elders need to fight for it. If, if the Apostles here are akin to the elders in a local church, and perhaps even more specifically to the pastors, and perhaps most specifically to the pastor who is charged most often with preaching the Word of God.
And so I ask for your prayers, that I would be faithful to this task. Because believe me, I am as human as anyone else. And I do like prayer, and I do like study, and I do like preaching, and everything else can seem more urgent in the moment.
Pray that your pastors and your senior pastor would do what is most important.
And I think the vast majesty of you understand this well already, but since I’m in this text, I hope it doesn’t sound self-serving to draw out this appropriate application, if the Apostles devoted themselves to the Word of God and prayer, it meant they were not doing everything else. To say it was a priority was easy. Having priorities, setting priorities, is easy. Everyone can say “that’s my priority.” What’s hard is to have posteriorities; that is, things you won’t do in order so you can do that one thing that you absolutely must do.
I’m sure if the Apostles in Jerusalem said, “Church, our priority is the Word of God and prayer,” everyone said “Oh, amen, yes, brother. Oh, yes, we want you, oh, yes, please” until they wanted a visit. Or at a meeting.
So I’m simply asking for your understanding and I think most of you are already there. It’s not to be a hermit. It’s not to give an excuse for any of our pastors, me included, to be absent or disengaged with people and the needs of the body, it simply is to highlight this priority of the Apostles, must be the priority of your elders, your pastors, and in particular the one who will be called to preach, to set aside time for the Word and prayer, even when it means saying no to many other good things that are good things. Easy to say no to bad things. “Pastor, it would really mean a lot if you’d go bungee jumping with us.” Easy no. [laughter] “Pastor, we need somebody to help with the meeting. Pastor, we need to pray. We need somebody to visit.”
You understand. We are finite people with finite time, finite resources, finite waking hours, and so we must set priorities, and the Apostles did the absolute right thing. They acknowledged there is a problem, they delegated others to tackle the problem, and they said for ourselves we cannot deviate from these responsibilities, because it will not serve the Church if we neglect the Word of God and prayer.
Let’s not forget the goal, as we see in verse 7. Increase. Increase means spread, to take root, to grow in influence, to bear fruit, to persuade, to convince, to convict, and the Word of God continued to grow, spread, influence, increase… In other words, at least with this little vignette, problem solved, happy ending. They did the right thing. They acknowledged the problem, they set up others to care for the problem, and they did not deviate from their responsibility and their task.
You notice the goal. The goal in verse 7 is the increase of the Word of God, which may or may not mean the increase in the size of a church’s footprint, or the increase of a church’s budget, or its buildings. The goal is not to have a bigger church, though we want to see the Lord add daily those who are being saved. The goal is not a bigger budget or a bigger staff. The goal is not to have a nice, comfortable church to be a part of and say everything’s sort of lined up and this is, this is a tolerable way to spend an hour and a half on Sunday. The goal is not to write policy manuals. The goal is not to have meetings. The goal is not to have as many social programs as possible.
The goal in the church in Jerusalem and the goal I trust in this church, is that the Word of God would continue to increase and the number of disciples would multiply.
That’s why we pay attention to structure, to organization. That’s why the pastors and that’s why your senior pastor must have priorities. That’s the aim.
And so your elders must be men committed first of all to the Word and prayer. What you ought to know about each one of your elders, they’re men devoted to the Word and prayer. Your pastors need to be committed to careful study. I need to do what is often hard for me, it is, to guard my time, guard my health, my family, my preparation, so I can be absolutely committed to giving you the best each Sunday through the Word and prayer.
We need more leaders. We need to raise up more leaders, and we need to trust new leaders. We may need new ideas. We may need new structures. They needed some new ideas and new structures, and we needed, just as they do, lots of patience.
And above all this, we need to remember the point is not the sails, but the wind. Not the trellis, but the vine. One is necessary for the other to grow, and the point is not for the sails to be magnificent or for the trellis to be exquisite, but that the wind would blow and the Spirit would push us along, and the vine would grow and God would be glorified.
Let’s pray. Our heavenly Father, some of us are particularly drawn to these things, and we’re thankful. It’s a gift in the New Testament, helps, administration. Help us to remember that it’s not for an end unto itself, but so that the Church would increase and that the Word of God would spread. And then there may be those of who easily disdain and overlook these things. We’re not good at them, we don’t like them, and we’ve neglected them, perhaps, to our detriment. So help us to be a church that’s patient, help us to be a church that’s full of Your Word, help us to be a church that’s full of wisdom. And we pray that Acts 6, verse 7, would be true of us and we would see the Word increase and you add often, daily, to the number of our disciples. We pray in Jesus. Amen.