Motivation Meditations in Acts : 22 : Administrative Difficulties
Acts 6:1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
Sometimes in church life – because church is all about people – we struggle with what we can only call administrative difficulties. We have noted before that when the Holy Spirit is working, we sometimes have to respond to the fruit of what He is bringing. The present difficulties that we now find in Acts are first because “the number of the disciples was increasing.” When we first meet as a house group or church in a home, the numbers are sufficiently small that ‘organising’ this number is easy. If you’ve never been in such a pioneering situation, just imagine it. I can remember such a time and there is intimacy and excitement in small numbers starting something new. But then numbers increase and you can no longer just meet in a home. If you want to cater for the people now coming, and cater for them all together, you need a larger place where you can all meet together. This requires much thought, planning and administration. As much as we may wish to avoid ‘organisation’ it does become a necessary part of ‘being church’.
But the apostles now face another problem because, although the church was entirely Jewish, there were two groups of Jews within the gathered church. There were the. Grecian Jews, who were probably born in lands other than Israel who spoke the Greek language and were more Grecian than Hebraic in their attitudes and outlook, and there were Hebraic Jews who would have spoken Aramaic and/or Hebrew languages of Israel and preserved Jewish culture and customs. As is so often the case (even with Christians!!) differences mean division and in their case the widows of one group appeared to be getting missed out when the church handed out food to the needy among them. Perhaps the ‘imported’ Jews weren’t as well known to the local Jews who appeared to be responsible for the local care, and maybe that was why the widows were being missed out. It was quite probably not on purpose, just something that needed a little more thought giving to it. The apostles acted wisely and said to the church, “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them.” (v.3)
Note the qualification for these men who would become ‘deacons’ (servants) of the church: full of the Spirit and full of wisdom. They had to be men with good spiritual reputation and known for their wisdom. The ‘being full of the Spirit’ part also suggests that these are men open to God and empowered by Him. It’s like the Lord says He wants only the best to look after His church and ‘best’ in this context is about godliness and wisdom. A word to the wise: if you have deacons meetings that go on for three hours or more, you need to change the men for the ones you have work more on intellect than on Spirit and wisdom! I have been there and done it and I’ve seen it in other churches. Caring for the church should be a matter of divine revelation and divine wisdom, not human intellect. The problem is not a new one. We see it in the Old Testament as well.
Moses and his father in law show us: “The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” (Ex 18:13,14) Moses may be a spiritual giant but he’s not too good on administration, so his father-in-law makes a suggestion: “You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform. But select capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain–and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” (Ex 18:19-23) THAT was wisdom! Share the load, Moses! Note the requirements for these men as well: “capable men from all the people–men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain.” Firs they have to have a right relationship with the Lord, second they need to be trustworthy (i.e. and already have a good reputation) and third, they need to be strictly honest, i.e. are known for their integrity. These men will then be ‘capable’.
You have difficulties there in church life? Problems are there for solving. If there are administrative problems, then the spiritual elders need to appoint spiritual servants, those who are known for their wisdom and godliness, those who already have a good reputation, those who the flock recognize and feel good about. These ‘deacons’ aren’t responsible for the spiritual oversight of the church, that’s down to the elders, but they are to take the load of the practical caring and administration of the church under the leading of the elders. How simple it is, yet how complex we sometimes make it. Such wise administration brings fruitfulness. We read here, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.” (v.7) When the elders aren’t taken up with practical matters, they can do what they are supposed to do and hear from God, guide the church, bring the word, and exercises the ministries the Lord has given to them – and blessing will follow! Hallelujah!