Thursday, May 2, 2013

Structuring for Growth

Acts 6:1-7

The tiniest events sometimes cause great problems.  Again and again a church has warded off a frontal attack only to be subverted from within.  Countless works for God have been hurt this way.  God blesses a work.  Then someone complains that he or she is not appreciated or is being neglected.  Acts 6 describes such a situation.  – Kent Hughes

Biblical church organization responds to needs and to what the Spirit is already doing.  Organization is never an end in itself, but only a means to facilitate what the Lord is doing in His church.  – Johnny Hunt

3 attacks on the young church:   Persecution (Acts 4), Corruption (Acts 5), Distraction (Acts 6)

Greek Jews and Hebrew Jews and the food distribution

Diakonia / diakonos  - primarily denotes servant; “through the dust” – leaving a ministry trail


1.      The need (1).  Complaints arose because of a legitimate, unmet need within the congregation.

When Satan does not succeed in stopping the church with a frontal assault, he attacks from within.  This usually happens subtly – an invitation not sent, a job unnoticed, a critical comment overheard, jealousy over something that really doesn’t matter.  Someone complains that he or she is not appreciated or is being neglected.  Perhaps in the form of a critical glance, a name forgotten, a social gaffe, or some imagined offense.  Biter dissension ignites and spreads, and the whole work goes up in flames.  When the murmuring begins, the devil smiles.  – Kent Hughes

When believers are unhappy and begin to murmur, the first place to look for the problem is in their own hearts.  If they feel they have just cause for criticism, by all means they should express it to the right people in an appropriate way.  But they must avoid murmuring or gossiping and must be willing to be a part of the solution.  – Hughes

When a church focuses on making people feel good and putting bandages on people’s hurt feelings, it becomes easily distracted from her great work of making disciples and being Christ’s witnesses.  A distracted church will become a weak church.

Mature Christians learn to get over their hurt feelings, to overlook offenses, and to get on with God’s program!  It is a mark of immaturity to wallow in self-pity.  It is a mark of maturity to clothe oneself with Christ, forgive your brother, and let go of your past disappointments.  If you don’t, you will distract not only yourself and your family but perhaps the whole ministry.

Unrealistic expectations can distract your ministry!  Guard against getting off course just because someone had their feelings hurt or felt neglected.

2.      The problem (2).  It was an incorrect move for the apostles to directly meet the need and neglect their priority task.

The apostles had no liberty to be distracted from their own priority task.  – John Stott

Waiting on tables would have left the apostles little time for anything or anyone else.  The apostles would have dried up spiritually under the pressure of serving meals plus all the counseling and preaching, with little time for preparation and prayer.  Furthermore, if the apostles had agreed to personally run the food program, others might have hesitated to perform the slightest ministry without apostolic direction, and that would have fostered overdependence we sometimes see today, with followers afraid to tie their shoes without getting permission from the pastor.  Delegation is at the heart of developing followers.– Kent Hughes

It was not that the apostles thought it beneath their dignity to run the errands of the church; it was simply a matter of putting first things first.  Keeping the main thing the main thing.  There was no point doing something anyone could do when they could do things no one else could do. – Johnny Hunt

The ministry of the Word, without prayer that the Spirit will water the seed, is unlikely to bear fruit.  – John Stott

The apostles’ statement tells us that more than the corporate witness was at stake.  Evidently some had suggested that the way to dispel hard feelings was to have Peter, John, and the others divvy up the widows’ goods.  Though such counsel may have appeared sensible at first glance, it actually brought apostolic principles of discipleship and delegation under well-meaning but deadly attack.  The power of the apostolic church would have been greatly diminished, and this glorious chapter of early-church history would have been sadly tamed.

The ill-advised suggestion must have been a substantial temptation for the apostles.  No one wants to think they see themselves as above common work.  There was also the temptation to think, “Things will not happen the way they should if I do not do them myself.”  They could not set themselves up as little gods.  – Kent Hughes

a)         The apostles did not get distracted by the murmur of unrealistic expectations.

b)         The apostles did not get distracted by neglecting the main thing.

c)         The apostles did not get distracted by becoming too important and fostering                                 overdependence.

d)         The apostles did not get distracted by refusing to disciple other leaders and                                         delegate  ministry.


3.       The solution (3).  The responsibility needed to be turned over to godly people within the congregation.

Their ministry was increased through spiritual delegation and discipleship.  The apostles made the people a part of the solution.

Spiritual men – godly character, full of the Spirit, wisdom, and motivation

When this church was choosing leaders it was not concerned about how much money the men had or how much management experience they had acquired, but whether or not they were wise and Spirit-filled.  The reason was that their main problem was essentially spiritual.  Therefore, it needed persons who were Spirit-filled to deal with them.  And people with wisdom.  – Boice

John Maxwell says that the first mark of a leader is the ability to delegate:

            1. If someone else can do a task better than I can, I give it away.

            2. If someone else can do a task at least 80% as well as I can, I give it to them.

            3. If someone else has the potential to do a task at least 80% as well as I can, I train them.


4.      The focus (4).  The apostles could devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word.

The apostles were able to maintain needed spiritual discipline.  The apostles’ prayers were accompanied by the ministry of the word – preparation.  They all prayerfully poured over the Old Testament, working hard at understanding and communicating the spiritual truths of God’s Word.  This is where shepherds often fall short today.  This contrasts sharply with today’s average pastor, who according to a Christianity Today survey, spends only three minutes a day in prayer.  Unrealistic expectations, the feeling of needing to be present at every meeting and every function, and an overcrowded schedule often leaves today’s busy pastors little time for fellowship with God.

I know of no department of human activity, from the governing of a great nation to the doctoring of a little body, where the disposition is not constantly appearing to invent some sudden method or to seek some magical and concise preparation which shall obviate the need of careful, comprehensive study and long-continued application.  But this disposition is nowhere so strong, I think, as in the ministry.  – Phillips Brooks

No man is ever going to be able to fill the pulpit adequately unless he spends thousands of hours year after year in the study of God’s Word.  – Donald Barnhouse

Prayer and the ministry of the Word are inseparably linked.  Prayer must permeate a pastor’s sermon preparation.  Without both, our sermons are superficial and dry.  – Johnny Hunt

Every Member a Minister (everyone has a gift and a ministry)

God calls all his people to ministry, he calls different people to different ministries, and those called to ‘prayer and the ministry of the Word’ must on no account allow themselves to be distracted from their priorities.  We do a great disservice to the church whenever we refer to the pastorate as “the ministry.”  All Christians without exception are called to ministry, indeed to give their lives in ministry.  The expression “full-time Christian ministry” is not to be restricted to church work and missionary service; it can also be exercised in government, the media, the professions, business, industry, and the home.  We need to recover this vision of the wide diversity of ministries to which God calls his people.  – Stott

The apostles could have been preoccupied with the wrong ministry.  Today’s pastors, instead of concentrating on the ministry of the Word (which will include preaching to the congregation, counseling individuals, and training groups), they become overwhelmed with administration.  Sometimes it is his fault (he wants to keep all the reins in his hands), and sometimes the people’s (they want him to be a general factotum [a servant with many diverse responsibilities] ).  In either case the consequences are disastrous.  The standards of preaching and teaching decline, since the pastor has little time to study or pray.  And the people do not exercise their God-given roles.  For both reasons the congregation is inhibited from growing into maturity in Christ. 

What is needed is the basic, biblical recognition that God calls different men and women to different ministries.  Then the people will ensure that their pastor is set free from unnecessary administration, in order to give himself to the ministry of the Word, and the pastor will ensure that the people discover their gifts and develop ministries appropriate to them.  – John Stott

5.      The people (5-6).  Godly men are chosen and commissioned to oversee ministries.

They may illustrate the general principle that much of the work is carried on by the unknown, unsung individuals who faithfully carry out the tasks entrusted to them.  – John Phillips

The Bible’s evaluation of success if completely different from the world’s evaluation.  If you want to be great in God’s sight, try serving people.  - Boice

They are allowed to use their gifts.

Every Christian has at least one gift.  If you have a situation in which people are not exercising their gifts, the result is always an impoverished church.  No one person has all the gifts.  So if the gifts he [one pastor] does not have but that others have are unused, the church is poorer by that amount.  – Boice.

Healthy church – at least 60% of people engaged, using their gifts

6.      The result (7).  Evangelism, discipleship, and apologetics flourish.


By divinely-directed delegation, the apostles not only freed others to grow in their service to God, but they freed themselves for prayer, preparation, and powerful preaching!  Thus the spiritual ministry of the church was enhanced.  – Kent Hughes

The main thing stayed the main thing.  A unified, well-taught church will be a powerful witness to the lost world.  – Johnny Hunt

Besides being biblically obedient, the involvement of the church in ministry has many immediate benefits to the church:

·         Pastors and other staff members are freed to do other ministries, especially prayer and the Word.

·         The number of ministries increases proportionally to additional lay involvement.

·         Involvement of the laity in the ministry is the best assimilation method.  Those who are involved rarely leave the church.

·         Involved people are generally happy people.

·         People who do ministry are typically generous financial supporters of the church.  They see the benefits.   

-           Thom Rainer, Eating the Elephant



If the widows are being neglected, we should be willing to wait on tables.  If the Sunday school needs help, we should be ready to assist however we can.  If we see a need for a small group, perhaps we should host one.  If we see the need for evangelism, we should be willing to share Christ.  We must not just complain but must be willing to lead, to delegate, and, above all, to serve.

So here we see a pattern: a legitimate need leads to wise delegation, allowing church members to take responsibility and be overseers of ministries, leading to the multiplication of the church!

Healthy churches will follow their pattern, allowing people to be initiators of ministry.


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