The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 6:1-7

The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 6:1-7
Preached @ Harambee Church (Renton Gathering of Soma Communities) by Pastor Michael Gunn on March 20th, 2010

Intro
Here is a passage that can sometime be misused as a passage that defines deaconate structures in the church. While we can glean some insight into leadership issues in the church, this passage is way more closely related with the authors intent, and the theme of the book, which centers on the gospel mission before them, and the Keys to the Establishment and Expansion of the First Century Church.

The question for us here is why did Luke include this story on his narrative? How did this relate to his intent? The issues surrounding this story are relevant for every church plant I have ever seen. Almost every plant begins with its ideals and values, and there is often excitement at first, but once the church begins to grow into an “Institution” it faces some enormous growing pains that are familiar to all human institutions, and the church unfortunately is not immune to the problems. I think it is at this point, how the church handles this movement usually can make or break whether or not that church will remain effective for the gospel in their community.

Background
: Some important background info here helps us understand the issues besetting the Jerusalem church at this time. No nation at the time of Christ had a more vigorous sense of responsibility to the poor than the Jews. The synagogue had a routine custom that would send 2 collectors out to private households and the market every Friday (Called the Kuppah or Basket) to collect for the poor, and they would later distribute it to those in need. First, to those that just needed help for the moment, they would give a daily ration, but those who were permanently unable to care for themselves they would get enough for 2 meals a day for the week (14 Total Meals). In addition to that, a collection went out every day (Called the Tamhui or Tray) for those in pressing need. Now it seems obviously that the Christian church continued this custom in the early Jerusalem church, but the problem occurred when the Aramaic speaking Jerusalem/Palestinian Jews merged with the Hellenist (Greek speaking Jews). The former had prided themselves on the fact that they were “Pure,” and that there were no “Foreign” mixes in their midst. Most of these Hellenist had been away from Palestine for so long they had forgot their native language. Many of them were saved during Pentecost (See Chapter 2).

Let’s take a look at the passage and see how the apostles handled the problem…

From the Head…
Basically what we have seen so far is that Jesus had told the church to be His “Witnesses” to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the whole world (Acts 1:8). This is the command and it is congruent with Jesus’ ‘Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. This is why the church exists, yet the church continually falls away from this mandate to formulate other identities more suitable to those that “Pay the bills.” The church is often more concerned with its personal survival than it is with the mission, which is to proclaim the gospel to the nations. Subsequently it falls into a privatized quest for personal spirituality instead of doing the work it was commissioned to do.

The early church continued to grow in Jerusalem (See chapters 4-5), but as usual, the problems that beset the church is more often from the inside than the outside. It’s funny how churches can easily be distracted by worrying about how the “World” is going to destroy the church, when the problems that hurt the most come from the people on the inside. It’s also interesting to note that the story Luke tells right after this one is the Story of Stephen and of persecution, and how God used the “Outside” issues to actually spread the church (See Acts 8:1-4).

The Problem of Disunity and Bickering (Acts 6:1)
Once any church plant begins to grow, dissent sets in. Someone is going to be frustrated at something the church does. Complaints start early and they often become the focal point of the pastor’s attention instead of the gospel itself. It’s at this point that the leadership has to make a decision; which is more important? The Mission? Or the complainers? This issue is a common one; it’s racially and ethnically motivated. I would say this is common to every church in one way or another. “Why are you so concerned with ‘those people’ when you aren’t doing enough for me/us?” As soon as we put our race, ethnicity, national origin, country, political affiliation, self-righteous pandering in front of the gospel and the mission God has for us, we kill off what we are called to do. The church doesn’t reach outside of its own race, values, etc. because deep in its heart, it is prejudiced against the “Others.” Luke’s intent was to show how the church began to fulfill Acts 1:8. Right away it encountered ethnic pride and “Tribal” issues. “We don’t associate with those people” became more important than the call itself to “GO” to “ALL the WORLD!” The church was never told to segregate itself into the “Homogenous Unit Principle.” Ephesians reminds us that the 2 worlds were placed together as the fulfillment of the “Mystery” of God that would proclaim His glory (See Ephesians 2:11-22). Sin separated humanity into factions, and God later scattered humanity into languages because of sin and pride. It is the “Mystery” of the gospel that God comes here to reconcile that and show His glory by bringing humanity back together through the gospel of Jesus Christ. To this theologian Ajith Fernando writes:

“The solution was not to divide and have separate churches…Rather they sought to ensure that the Grecians were cared for…Eastern and western cultures were in contact and conflict in Antioch. The relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church was debated and decided here (Acts 15; Galatians 2:11-13). Yet the early believers remained as a single church. Recent studies also show that the churches founded by Paul had a mixture of social levels in each congregation and reflected a fair cross section of urban society.””

Here is a key to the Establishment and Expansion of the church into the gentile world. The early church did not try and create separate churches for the different ethnic groups (In spite of language and custom differences), but as Ephesians 2 reminds us He made both groups into “One new man” (Ephesians 2:15). Church growth principles tell us to reach only one group of people because it grows faster and it’s easier. That is for sure, but it doesn’t seem to be the model of the “God Glorifying” gospel that we have been handed. We are so tied into “Our Style” and “Our Music,” that we are inflexible and indifferent to anyone who does it differently.

The Priority of Mission and Flexible Structures (Acts 6:2-4)
The hardest thing for any pastor/leader to do in the church is to stay on point and move the mission, not giving in to the mass pressure to become internalized. The church has become a consumer nightmare, because church leaders have become mesmerized by size rather than expansion. There is a difference. Expansion is way larger in scope, but possibly smaller in part. The disciples had Acts 1:8 before them when they made their decision to not be derailed, yet deal with the problem before them. They new 2 things: First they needed to do what they were called to do, which was to pray and teach the word, and secondly, someone needed to deal with the problem that was fragmenting the church and the subsequent expansion of the gospel to the gentile world. Here we have a very key principle that often is lost in church management. Structures serve the mission, the mission should never serve the structures. So often people are so comfortable in the “Way we have always done it,” that they are inflexible and begin to paralyze the mission of the church. Here we see the disciples making a decision that allows the problem to be solved, while at the same time, they continue to do what they are called to do; pray and minister the word of God. Pastors are not functional saviors, defined by the culture as “Chaplains to the community.” They are called by God to preach the word, and move the mission of the gospel forward by “Equipping the saints for the building up of the church” (See Ephesians 4:11-12). Simply, the mission does not go forward without the leadership being bathed in prayer and the word (Hearing from God, the head of the church). The problem is many pastors see themselves as counselors, managers, etc. instead of men who know the word, and can feed that word to their people with authority. The leadership cannot guide the movement along the will of God without consistently hearing from God. This is why one of the qualifications of the elder is the “Ability to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:9). Paul himself told the church at Ephesus that “I have not refrained from setting before you the whole will and purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).

The criteria the Apostles used to find the men to “Serve Tables” is important. “Men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom.” Not men that have the world’s abilities, but men that that the congregation knows, and already sees as solid because they have seen them in community, and it is evident that they are men filled with the spirit and wisdom. This can only be done in close proximity, which is why the Apostles were smart enough to give this duty to the people that knew the men the most. Church leadership is meant to come from within, by others that already view the qualities needed in a spiritual leader.

The Plan Executed (Acts 6:5-6)
As soon as they are asked the congregation chose men that represented them well, and the Apostles laid hands on them and commissioned them to do the mercy ministry needed to bring unity and ethnic equity back so that they could move the mission forward. It is interesting that the first leadership position recorded in the NT is one of Mercy, and “Social Justice.”

And what we see as a result is the end of this first section of Acts in v.7 “And the word of God continued to increase and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem…” What is interesting is what happens after this. Chapter 7 records the martyrdom of one of these choices (Stephen) and the scattering of the church in persecution, yet chapter 8 begins with explaining to us that the persecution is what furthered the gospel (Acts 8:1-4), which is clearly the intent of this book.

…to the Heart

I think the heart check this week is to check how fervent we are to the call of God in our lives? Are we “Doing Church?” Why come? For your own personal gain? Does church exist to further our own agenda’s or to be a comfort for you? Or is the “Church” the people that God has called from all nations to be a witness to the resurrection and His power in the transformed lives of the body loving one another and living in unity, which reflects His glory best?

Advertisements

1 comment so far

  1. Resources for Acts 6:5 - 6 on

    […] 1The Acts of the Holy Spirit; Acts 6:1-7 « Sermon Rant SUBMIT […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: