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Acts #20 (chapter 6:1-7)
The Book of Acts
Church Organization Made Simple
Acts 6:1–7
Because of the rapid and expansive growth the early church experienced, it immediately became necessary for it to organize to effectively minister to to the people.  And from the very beginning, one of the keys to being an effective witness in town is how well the church ministers to its members. 
I'm working on enlisting leadership for a Sunday School training conference this August and one of the conferences I want to offer is how to minister in a way that impacts the community around us.
Now the church is unique in that it is a living organism.  But every living thing has to have some organization. Anything that is alive, but has no coordination and organization is destined to never be productive.  A great example of that biblically speaking is the church at Corinth where things were in a mess.  There was no order in their worship or service or the way they treated one another. So Paul writes to them to say things need to be done decently and in order.  They needed organization. 
So while the church is an organism, it is an organism that requires organization.  It requires structure.  We need to have that in mind as we approach chapter 6.  By now, the church is numbering in the thousands, and very likely in the tens of thousands.
Christianity is gaining a reputation.  Christians are easily identifiable and every day, more are being added.  Not only that, the area around knows who the Christians are and how they act and the standard of purity they require.  And they certainly know how the church is pooling its resources to take care of one another.  And all of that demands structure. 
Now, in the early church, the apostles were the key to the church and its ministry.  They were the ones who had the revelation from God.  They were the ones who had been with Christ.  They were the teachers.  They, because they knew the Word of God, were the resource for all the questions that new converts needed to have asked. 
Its hard for us to imagine what kind of demands must have been on them, just in terms of ministry and preaching and teaching.  And now, as the church is growing, there are all these additional ministry needs that are surfacing and the money and land and resources that are being given, compounded by determining whether or not a need is legitimate is consuming their time to the point they are neglecting the more important responsibilities. 
We find an example of that in Chapter 6. Notice
verse 1
So this whole text is set in motion by the fact that the church is growing. The disciples are increasing and that is what revealed the need for the church to  get organized. 
So first of all, there is
1.  The Reason
There is a reason the church needed to get organized and that reason is inefficient ministry. There was this mixture of both physical and spiritual needs in the church that required it to be organized to handle them.
The need is seen,, first of all through a complaint made by the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews.  So what is the situation?  There were two groups of people involved.  There were the native Hebrews who live in Jerusalem and live in Israel, and then these Jews from the Greek world who came for the Passover, and were converted to Christ and are still there. 
And this infant church is trying to take care of these Jews who have nowhere to go.  They have no jobs.  They have no resources.  So, immediately these Jewish Christians in Jerusalem start collecting money to be distributed to those who are in need.
And a feeling begins to develop that the Hellenist Jews, the Greek Jews aren’t getting their fair shake, particularly the widows.  So the complaint comes from the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 
The old King James says, “A murmuring, a murmuring arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews.”
So there is internal friction among believers. 
How do they decide to handle it?
verse 2
The natural thing is to turn to the apostles.  But they realize they can no longer handle all that's being demanded of them and still be fair to the teaching and preaching that is required.  And in particular, it isn't best for the church if they neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.
And that either means the actual serving of the food or the handling of the money that is being collected to take care of the needs. But whether it’s giving food and meals or distributing money, the apostles say, “We can’t do it.  It’s too much.  We can't do that and be fair to the word of God."
The apostles understood the problem, but more importantly, they knew what their calling was.  They were there to teach the Word of God, not wait tables.  And so they say, "We have a priority.  We need to be looking at the Word of God, studying the Word of God, preparing to preach and teach the Word of God."
verse 4
And I don't know if you've ever thought about it or not, but when they became Christians and received the Holy Spirit, all of a sudden they are seeing the Old Testament as they've never seen it before!  And they are studying it and teaching it and preaching and helping people to understand it.  That's the priority. 
And the word choice in verse 4 is very interesting where they say they will give themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.  The word for ministry there is the word serve and it's the same word found up in verse 2 regarding serving tables.
What they are saying is we aren't here primarily to serve the meals or serve in the distribution of money and commodities.  You need to find somebody to do that because we are here to serve the Word.
In fact, what they say is they will devote themselves to that ministry.  The word “devote” means exactly that.  We will devote ourselves to continually drawing down the power of God in prayer and to proclaiming the truth of God in preaching.  This is the true priority.  This is still the dominant priority in the church.  It was established then.  It exists today.
The apostles passed off the scene.  They were the foundation.  The next generation come the prophets, and then the evangelists and teaching pastors of Ephesians 4, and they all have the same responsibility.  “He gave to the church apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers for the edification of the saints - ” to teach the Word to the saints, “ - for the building up of the body,” so that the saints could do the work of the ministry to see the body built up.
That is why we are all warned in spiritual leadership to study or to, be diligent to be approved of God, workman needing not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. 
Paul calls to Timothy and he says, “Take heed to the doctrine, to yourself and the doctrine.  Read the Word, explain the Word, apply the Word,” in 1 Timothy, chapter 4.  This is the dominant reality in the life of the church. 
Now that's all well and good, but it doesn't take care of serving tables.  So how was it to be handled?
2.  The Requirements
verse 3
Here we are introduced to the idea of shared ministry responsibilities that are designed to meet the needs of the church. 
Notice the qualifications.  First, "select from among you". 
That tells you that the servants came from the congregation itself.  The apostles didn't pick them out.  The church played a hand in the selection. 
They’re chosen from among you.  And I think it speaks to the fact that these men who were selected were obvious choices.  They're not outsiders, they are insiders and they are well-respected.
They have to have integrity.  They have to be blameless, well-attested, good report.  They need to be spiritually-minded, full of the Spirit.  That would be holy men controlled by the Holy Spirit, living in response to His will.  They need to be men who are wise.  They are marked by wisdom, spiritual insight, practical wisdom, sound, good, righteous judgment.
Also, note they chose seven men.  This is not generic, it is intentionally male.  God has always used men to lead the church.  That doesn’t mean women aren’t important.  They’re critical, but men have always been in the place of leading the church.
And these men were to be obvious choices from the church, men who could be trusted with the task of getting food and money to the right people on an equal basis. 
Now all of that sounds rather practical and logical, but I will remind you this is a spiritual ministry on behalf of Christ for His church, His body.  Distributing food has to be done with spiritual integrity, and caring for money has to be done with spiritual integrity. 
And by the way, they’re not called elders, and they’re not called deacons.  They’re not called any of those things.  They’re just the first group of men who were given oversight to some function in the church that needed to be done right, with wisdom, with spiritual maturity, with good common sense as well as with godliness.
Now, remember, this is the early startup days of the church and what we find here is a temporary arrangement.  later the apostles will be replaced by pastors and this group of seven will be replaced by deacons.  But in its earliest form, this is how the church was to be organized.  And notice,
3. The Roster
verse 5
As amazing as it is, everybody was happy with this idea. They didn’t want the apostles to leave prayer and the Word.  They wanted to be taught the word of God.  So they picked out these seven and added to the surprise is that all seven names are Greek names. 
Apparently, the love was so great in the early church, and they were so eager that those Hellenistic widows not be missed, that all seven were Grecian Jews. 
If there is a problem with the Greek widows feeling like they are neglected, then let's take care of them!
The people who have the most at stake in a ministry are the people who should lead the ministry.  I remember several years ago Jean Illniski, one of our little ladies, came in on a rainy Sunday morning adn told me we needed some folks with umbrellas greeting people on the parking lot. I asked her when she wanted to start!  I figure if you see the need and are award of, quit griping and get busy doing something about it!
So we see the reason for the church to get organized.  It grew from this problem and dissension.  Then we see the requirements laid out in verse 3.  Then we see the roster chosen in verse 5, and they picture the wonderful love and unity of that early church.  Then finally, we
4.  The Results
Now, remember, they’re on the brink of global ministry, and it’s going to come pretty quick. It’s not going to be long before persecution breaks out and they're going to scatter, taking the gospel with them.
Before long, we are going to meet the apostle Paul when he is a young man named Saul.  He is holding the garments of the people who are stoning Stephen to death at the end of chapter 7 and into chapter 8. 
He then becomes a terrorist on the attack against the church as the church is scattered, and begins its global evangelization.  In chapter 9, Paul has his Damascus Road experience, and all of the sudden the gospel leaps from Judea to Samaria and to the world. 
Another church is planted in Antioch, and from Antioch Paul launches to the world.  So they’re on the brink of global evangelism.
And the initial beginnings of that are found here in verse 6 as these men are commissioned to this ministry of food and service.  In the same way missionaries, both them and now are commissioned and blessed to their ministry, so are these men affirmed in that same way. 
It is the churches way of saying, "We are with you in this ministry.  No matter where you are or what you're doing, we are connected to you. We empower you with our prayers and our trust and our support.
verse 7
Here we see the real results.  So why did the Word of God keep on spreading?  It is because the apostles didn’t get caught up doing something other than what they were called to do.  They continued to preach the Word of God.  That has to mark a church. 
I will tell you, it’s so easy for pastors to get distracted.  Some get distracted because constant ministry in the Word of God is hard.  It’s tough, and it’s relentless.  My life never changes.  It is a series of Sunday sermons.  My whole life since I started May 5, 1985 has been a never-ending chain of Sundays and Wednesdays.  The preparation  never changes.  There is another Sunday that is always coming. 
But because I have been so blessed to be able to devote myself to the Word, the Word of God keeps on spreading.  Notice what happens in the middle of verse 7
Because the Word spreads, people get converted, and the church grows.  The Word kept being preached.  The number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and the impact was so great, you’ve got to love this, “A great many – ” not a few, not many, “ – a great many of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”  Now, that doesn’t mean necessarily Sanhedrin members, but many of the normal, ordinary, run of the mill priests were, "Obedient to the faith.” 
So, the church had to get organized to carry out effective ministry, and that ministry needed to be in the hands of the people who cared the most.  It had to get organized so that the people who needed to be proclaiming the Word of God all the time were continuing to do that and weren’t distracted to something else.
So does the church need organization?  It does, but it’s not complicated.  God provides  gifted teachers and preachers who are the source of the spreading of the Word by which people are saved.  Then coming behind that, you have faithful people, gifted people, dedicated people who have passionate concerns for various kinds of ministries.  You empower, enable, support those people for those ministries, and the church moves powerfully. 
When all of those things are taking place, the testimony of the church is great, and the Lord adds to His church.
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