New International Version (NIV)
The Choosing of the Seven
6 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, 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 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
The first and last verses of this passage are like bookends. In verse one, the church is growing rapidly and in verse seven the church is growing rapidly. In the middle, however, is a crisis that threatens to stop the growth of the church. As quantity was increasing, the quality was slipping.
A lack of excellence will eventually stymie growth. When the church that I pastored in Murphysboro was first beginning to grow, I brought in a church growth specialist from Christ Church in Nashville by the name of David Cavendar to speak to our leaders. I picked up Dave from his hotel for the Saturday morning meeting and he accompanied me as I picked up donuts, set up the fellowship hall and made the coffee for the leaders who would be coming.
As I was scurrying around, David asked me a question: Are you the only one who can up donuts for this meeting? Is there nobody else to set up tables? Are you the master coffee maker? Of course the answer to all of these questions was “no”. He startled me with his candor when he told me that what I actually should be doing right at that moment was to be praying about the mornings meeting while others were doing the prep work. He quoted Acts 6 and told me that my primary job was “prayer and the ministry of the Word.”
I’m not saying this to suggest that those in ministry are beyond making coffee or setting up tables. Every minister has more than his/her share at this kind of practical ministry. The point is that so much more can be accomplished if we put qualified people in positions where they can serve. The outcome of Acts 6 was that the church began growing rapidly again.
The new church I am serving was forced into being a church for an entire year without a pastor. As a result, qualified people have stepped up and the church is caring for one another. My challenge is to not take over many of these roles so that the church can move forward without being limited to my abilities. All of us want our churches to grow. The best thing you can do for your church is to find the place of ministry God has gifted you in, and serve there with joy.
My role is to serve where my gifts can best be used and equip and release the people in the church in the callings God has given them. As we do that, the church is free to grow without hindrance. I can’t remember the content of what David taught us in the leadership meeting on that Saturday morning, but I will never forget his convicting questions that forever changed my philosophy of ministry.