Every member of this congregation, you’re gifted.
Let me invite you this morning to turn in your Bibles or pull up on your holy mobiles Acts Chapter Six. We’ll be in verses 1 through 7 this morning, Acts 6:1-7.
Some time ago there was a man in Australia. He was trying to get on the subway and as he was trying to get on the subway, he slipped off the platform and his foot became stuck between the subway car and the platform. Now you can imagine what kind of panic that entailed, what kind of stress and worry. If that car was to drive off, he could be injured so they couldn’t just move the car to get his leg out. So, one person who worked at the station ran over to the car and started to push on the subway car. Just one guy. A subway car is pretty heavy. I could move it by myself, but you know this particular guy wasn’t me and so he was having trouble. And so, maybe 30 seconds later, as somebody who is standing on the platform came over and started pushing with him and then another and then another. And before you know it, they’re like 100 people pushing on this subway car and it started to rock just a little bit. Then more people joined in the effort and all they wanted to do was free this man foot and eventually enough people were pushing the subway car that it tilted just enough for the guy to jerk his leg out and he was fine. There was no injury to him whatsoever. They had saved the day, but it took a team, didn’t it? It wasn’t just one person who couldn’t move, and seemingly immovable object. It took a team of people working together, efficiently and effectively, to accomplish a very challenging task.
Now as we go into the message today, I just want to remind you, church, we have a task that God has called us to. Our task is found in Matthew 28 where Jesus tells us that we are to go to all the nations making disciples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey and God is with us. That is our task to take the Gospel to our neighbors, to take the Gospel to our coworkers to take the Gospel to Landis and to China Grove and to Mooresville, Kannapolis to Mount Pleasant, wherever we are to take the Gospel to those cities, the region, North Carolina, the United States to Africa, to Asia all around the world. That is a challenging task, isn’t it? It is a challenging task to spread the Gospel and it’s a task that one person cannot do by themselves. It takes a team.
I have this catch phrase that I love using. I’m pretty sure the first time I met Graham and Teresa I said something similar to this that teamwork makes the dream work. In fact, I called us the dream team because we are the dream team of China Grove First Baptist Church. But teamwork makes the dream work. It takes an entire congregation of people, using their God-given gifts, to accomplish the task of spreading the Gospel. Team members who are running the same direction, following the mission, team members who don’t run their own race, who don’t go their own direction, but team members who run all for the same purpose. And when this team, the church team is organized, it is efficient. It is effective. We are intentional and the church grows not just trying to grow First Baptist Church, but the church, as we spread the Gospel, as we are faithful to working together. More people are saved. More people enter into a relationship with Jesus and God is glorified. But it takes a team.
So when we get to Acts chapter 6, we’re going to see in this passage, Luke is going to tell us how teamwork solved a huge problem that the church was having. How teamwork advanced the Gospel, led to the advancing of the Gospel, and the Church continued to grow. And so, what I kind of want us to see today is that growing churches need gifted servants to serve. Growing churches need gifted servants who are willing to serve now. I got to be really clear ’cause I don’t want you to misunderstand what I’m saying. Churches that are not growing, churches that are declining churches that are plateaued, they need gifted servants to serve also. But when we look at Acts chapter 6, we see a growing church that has a growing problem and they need gifted servants who are willing to serve.
Here’s what we read in acts Chapter 6, starting in verse one. “In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. The Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the Word of God to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” This proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a convert from Antioch. They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the Word of God spread, the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.”
It’s very interesting that we look at this. This is the very first church in history. Jesus has gone to be with the Lord. The church is growing. The church is multiplying. You see that this young, growing church is facing growing pains. They’re facing growing problems that really stem from an organizational issue. They’re not being as efficient as they should be in their daily ministry. In fact, we know that the bigger an organization gets, the more organized it needs to be. There’s like 20,000 Christians in Jerusalem at this point. 3,000 were at Pentecost, another 5,000 we read about in chapter 4. We read in Chapter 5 that persecutions happening locally, but yet they doubled again. So we’re seeing a huge congregation of people, but we see that the problem of meeting needs has come up. Now there’s a complaint, right? We talked about this in Philippians that word complaint is the same there as it is here. Complaining is divisive. Complaining is a problem. Complaining has the potential to tear a church apart. But it sounds like the Hellenistic group has reason to be concerned because their widows are being left out.
So let me just give you a little background. The Hellenistic Jews are Jews. They’re Jewish people, but they had embraced the Greek culture. They were Greek speaking individuals. They, for most of their life, lived outside the region of Palestine. The Hebraic Jews, they were those they were descendants from fateful Jewish people who followed Ezra and Nehemiah, remember that back in September, followed Ezra and Nehemiah back to the Holy Land out of Babylon. These people, their families had been in Jerusalem. Their families had helped rebuild the temple. They were Aramaic speaking. They probably knew Hebrew. They were faithful to the Hebrew scriptures. That group, looked at the Hellenistic Jews as second-class citizens. Now it wasn’t as bad as they viewed Samaritans, but the Hellenistic had the Greek culture, they had embraced the Greek culture, so they were looked down upon by those “faithful Jews” who had stayed in Palestine and in Jerusalem for the entirety of their life.
So we have some ethnicity differences. People are being left out of the daily distribution of food. We don’t know why they’re being left out. Honestly, in my opinion, they’re being left out because there’s 20,000 people and it’s just a lot of people to care for. I don’t think there’s anything sinister. I don’t think there’s anything malicious about them forgetting about this group, but there’s this big problem that they’re being left out. And here’s why it’s a problem. Old Testament commands Jewish people to take care of widows and orphans. Old Testament commands Jewish people to take care of the least and the vulnerable people. There’s commands in the Old Testament in Leviticus where farmers had to leave the edge of their fields unharvested so that poor people could go and harvest and work and get and glean the product. OK, there was very strict commands for Jewish people to take care of widows and orphans. We know that the early church is trying to do that.
You can read in Chapter 4 how the Christians are pooling their resources together and sharing everything with everybody because they want to deeply care for each other. They want to love each other and support each other and to serve one another. There was a custom William Barclay talks about this. “A Jewish custom was that people from the synagogues would. Two people would go around to the market into private houses every Friday and they would collect food and money. Those collections would be distributed among other Jewish people.” So that’s how the New Testament Jewish culture was caring for other people’s needs. They were collecting the food and distributing. The church is taking that model in trying to do the same thing. Luke calls it the daily distribution or the daily service. But what’s happening? People are being left out.
Listen to what David Jeremiah says ’cause this is just pretty cool. “Trouble in the church always travels faster than triumphs.” Let that sink in, ’cause that’s a true statement. You got a church that went from like 120 people in Acts Chapter 2 to 20,000 in like a few months or maybe a few years. Trouble always travels faster than triumph. David Jeremiah goes on to say this. “Discord is a disgrace to any church. It is a terrible witness that a Church of Jesus Christ, which is supposed to have the power to change the world, cannot even solve its own problems and maintain unity.” That’s a powerful statement from Dr. Jeremiah. And here’s what’s happening in Acts. There is potential for disunity over the lack of distribution of food. This early church that is growing that is thriving is meeting one of its first challenges head on.
Now, make no mistake, Satan is attacking the church. Satan is using this situation to try to split the church in half. Because the divided church cannot accomplish the tasks they’ve been called to. Satan sees a church that is multiplying, a church that is reaching people with the Gospel. Satan is losing people souls every day to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and you can imagine he’s pretty upset about it. And so he finds a hairline fracture, and he sneaks in. And he’s going to try to disrupt them and disrupt the unity, which would destroy the church.
The persecution hasn’t worked. The apostles have been beaten. They’ve been in prison. They were told not to preach. You know what they do when they get out of jail? They go across the street and start preaching. And the Gospel is spreading, so Satan says, “well, that’s not working. I’m going to get them from within.” So there’s the situation that comes up, and it’s a problem and it could be destructive. I want you to hear this. No church is immune from Satan’s attacks. There is not a church in history; past, present or future that is safe from being attacked by the enemy. Churches that are growing, churches that are advancing the Gospel, churches that are unified, I promise you, Satan, as Peter says “is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for somebody to destroy.” He is looking for that hairline fracture to split churches in half and it’s a terrible witness to the church.
And so, this is the problem that we face is needs are not being met. I love this. As a pastor, this gives me a model on how to do ministry. Jesus is also a model on how we shepherds should do ministry, but I love the apostles ’cause they didn’t ignore it, did they? They didn’t just say “oh, they’re just complaining.” They didn’t ignore it. They listened to the people and they came up with a solution. The pastors got together. I have this sanctified imagination that, there’s more than one, it’s the apostles, they pray together. They say “God, how do we handle this, how do we maintain unity? How do we organize the church to meet this need?” Remember, there’s no church organization, it’s just the apostles and the members at this point, and so they’re seeking Godly wisdom. And then they lead. They provide leadership. They go to the whole church and they give them a solution. They didn’t delegate it. They didn’t take it to a subcommittee of subcommittees of subcommittees, and take two years to come up with a solution. That’s not what Baptist do, is it? I’m just kidding. That’s it’s a joke that’s just a joke. No, they led the church like they were called to do.
They provided strong leadership, but they included the church in the solution. They gathered all the church together and they had them select seven gifted servants to meet the needs and to maintain unity. This is a powerful solution that the apostles come up with because they recognize something very important. Well, there’s two very important things the apostles recognized. One, they have a job. They are called to preach, teach, pray and equip the saints to do ministry. They cannot be distracted from that role that they have been called to. But they also recognize that the members of their congregation are gifted people. Every member of that congregation was gifted in some way, shape or form.
Every member of this congregation, you’re gifted. God has given you a gift. Now it might be different than my gift. You might not be able to stand up and preach and you might be able to stand up and preach. You might be able to teach a Sunday school class. You might not be able to teach a Sunday school class. You might have the gift of calling people on the phone and praying for them and encouraging them. You might be gifted and just writing cards. You know, every gift is different, but God has brought you here to be a part of this church because you are gifted to serve this church, to serve God, and to serve the community. Every part of the body is one body.
I love what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 12. “We are all one body even though we are many parts working together. Some are apostles, some are prophets, some are teachers, some are miracle workers. Some have the gift of healing, some helping, some leading, but they’re all a part of one body.” And that’s so important. Listen, feet or one of the most nastiest things I can think of. I mean, I don’t like feet, but they’re vitally important. My nose is vitally important. My ears are vitally important. My mouth, I talk for a living, my mouth is vitally important. My fingers are important. Every part of our body is important. My nose is no less valuable than my feet. My feet are no less valuable than my hands. We’re equal in value. Every member of our congregation is equally valued. You are equally gifted to serve the church in what you have been gifted to do.
We need gifted servants to serve in Children’s ministry, to be children Sunday School teachers and Bible School teachers. We need gifted adults to serve in all kinds of areas of adult ministry. I’ve said it before, but we can’t just sit, soak in sour like a jar of pickles. We have to serve because that is what God has called us to do.
Now, these seven men that are selected, would become the very first deacons of the church. At the end of this month, you’ll see it in your bulletin, we’re going to select or begin nominating deacons. These are the first deacons of the church. They’re not called deacons in this passage, although the verb is used three times, the word serve. These are the prototype that we will follow. Now, to be clear, every Christian is called to be a deacon. I want you to hear that. Every Christian is a deacon and here’s why I say that. It just means servant. You read your Bible, you see the word servant. That’s diakonas. It just gets translated, servant. You get into 1st Timothy, Philippians 1:1 and possibly Romans 16, I think. The diakonas is there and all it means is servant. Every person is called to be a deacon and called to be a servant, in general.
But as the church was organized, and as the church grew, God set apart those who would be called deacons and serve in the office of that ministry. When that office is rightly defined and rightly deployed, it is an irreplaceable gift to the church because deacons organize ministries of the church. They serve people. These deacons here in Acts and deacons today, are servants who excel at being attentive and responsive to tangible needs of God’s people. That is what they’re called to do first and foremost, meet tangible needs of God’s people.
Deacons were never intended to govern a church. They were intended to meet tangible needs of the people. They’re also to be people who excel in promoting and protecting the unity of the church. These seven men were going to have the task of restoring unity to the church. And here’s what’s really cool. I firmly believe as this church faced more challenges, as this church grew and doubled and multiplied, and other challenges arose, I believe this church elected more deacons to meet needs and to meet tangible needs because the deacons have to preserve and protect the unity of the church. They need to excel in mobilizing ministry. Seven people are not going to meet this need by themselves. They are going to be called to organize a food distribution ministry where they get other servants involved in serving. They have to be gifted and excel in mobilizing ministry. They have to support the elders and the pastors.
Now, I want don’t want you to misunderstand this. These apostles did not, under any circumstance, believe it was beneath them to serve tables. I firmly believed that they served those tables when they could. I believe that as shepherds, they modeled to these seven, how to do ministry when they could. I firmly believe that they modeled to the church on how to do pastoral care when they could. Jesus told them to be servants. Jesus told them to wash people’s feet. They’re not too high and mighty to do this. That’s not the reason. They know they’re calling. They know that they have to preach, which means they have to prepare. They have to teach the people. They have to equip the people. They’re not saying we’re not ever going to serve anybody. No, no, no. What they’re saying is we need help, because we have a task. God has called us to preach, teach, equipped and pray for the Saints. So they get these seven guys to help them do the ministry.
Here’s two ways to look at it. Pastors serve the church by leading the church. That’s what you see. These pastors serve this church by leading. The deacons are going to lead the church by serving. Do you see the distinction between the two? But they’re going to work together. The office of Deacon is not beneath the office of Elder. Elder is not higher or Apostle is not higher than deacons. They’re a team. They’re gonna work together side by side, hand in hand to accomplish the task of meeting needs, maintaining unity, mobilizing ministries and advancing the Gospel. That is so vitally important to any church and to any ministry.
Now I want you to see who they elected. These were people from among them. So they were electing church members with good reputations, which means the people of the church knew them. They had watched them. They had seen them. They had observed them. The idea of good reputation is the word reverent. These are people with reverent and honorable characters. They are good witnesses with great character. That’s important. And you know them. As we think about nominating deacons, think about those in our congregation who have good reputations. Those who have impeccable characteristics. Those who are good witnesses for Jesus. Those who have self-control. If you want a whole list, go to 1st Timothy and Paul expands on all of this in great detail. But they’re also filled with the Spirit. That means they’re controlled by the Spirit of God, and you can see it.
You know, the NFL draft was this past weekend and I heard coaches say, “well, we can’t tell you what he’s got, but we just know he’s got it.” You hear that about players. It’s like I can’t tell you what he’s got that makes him so good, but he’s got it. When you look at people, you just know they’ve got it. You can see it in their life that they’re filled with the Spirit of God. You can see it that they’re completely devoted to following Christ. You can see that they’re completely devoted to prayer and to Bible study and to serving people. You just know it when you see it.
Then they’re filled with wisdom. Very important, don’t miss this point about wisdom. When you have to serve people, when you have to maintain unity, when you have to come up with ways to mobilize ministry, you need wisdom. James tells the church that if you lack wisdom, you better ask for it and follow it. Wisdom is so important. We can have all the knowledge in the world, can’t we? And have no idea what to do with it. These seven men were full of wisdom, so they had all the knowledge on how to set this up, but they had to have the wisdom to do it. They have to have wisdom to talk to people. They have to have wisdom to visit people. They have to have wisdom to care for people. They had to have Godly wisdom.
So when we’re thinking about people that God is calling to serve the church in the office of deacon, they’re among us. They have good reputations. They’re filled with the Spirit. They’re filled with wisdom. But then I want you to see the result, because this is the key. Look at the result. Unity is restored and growth continues. Restored unity and continued growth.
This makes me so happy. They went from complaining, don’t miss this, this is great. They went from complaining to pleased. Do you see that? It pleased the whole congregation. In what world can that many people ever be happy? I mean not just in church anywhere. I mean, you’re talking 10, fifteen, 20,000. In what world? God’s world. They sought God’s wisdom and they came up with God solution. And then they went from complaining to being happy. They went from potentially divisive, destructive environment to unified. And guess what happened? The Gospel continued to spread.
I bet Satan is just sitting there going, I failed again. External persecution is not working. Internal strife doesn’t work. Because they’re relying on God and they’re relying on the Holy Spirit. When we come together as a congregation, nothing can stop us when we are following the leadership and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. So, see the teamwork. The apostles work with the congregation and now they’re going to work with the deacons. Everybody works together to accomplish the common goal of spreading the Gospel.
Church, it can happen today. Do you believe that? Do you believe that the Spirit can still do what he did in Acts chapters 1, 2, 3, the whole book? Of course, He can. When gifted servants yield themselves to the working of the Holy Spirit, seek wisdom, work together as a team; we’re organized, were efficient, we’re effective, and we’re intentional, the Holy Spirit will continue to work and we will spread the Gospel because that’s our purpose. And so that is the importance of deacons. Those members who are set aside to help serve the church to help organize the church and grow. Growing churches need gifted servants. Whether you’re a deacon or not in the office. The deacons are those who God has set apart for the purpose.
Pastors, deacons, church members work together, spread the Gospel and God is glorified. So here’s what I want to challenge you. Here’s the invitation, so it’s different than the last four or five weeks. It’s just an invitation to challenge you to do something in preparation for the nomination of deacons. It is to pray for who God would have serve this church in that office. That’s first. Take the next month, last two Sundays is when we’re going to nominate. Take one day a week from now until that time and set aside, whether it’s Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, one day, a week, where that’s when you’re going to pray “God, who do you want to nominate to serve in the office of deacon for the next three years?” Pray about it. Let God leads you to people who with good reputations, people filled with the Spirit, people with wisdom. Let God guide your path and let God put on your hand the name to write down when it comes time to nominate.
Second, I want you to pray how you need to serve the church. I mean, seriously. Pray about your gift. Pray about what God has given you and pray about how you can serve the church. You might not serve every single day. There might be times where you take a year off, and that’s OK. But use the gift that God has given you and find ways to serve the church.
And then I would ask you to spend the next several months praying for those who are currently serving as deacons. It’s not an easy task. It’s not. Every church, big and small, has a lot of needs that need to be met. Pray for them. Pray that they would be filled with the Spirit. Pray that they would seek Godly wisdom. Pray for me and Graham as we serve you in the roles that we have been called to serve. That’s the invitation today, is just for you to pray. Pray for these servants. Pray for how you can serve the church. Because together, we can grow and multiply and advance the Gospel to the nations. How awesome would that be? How awesome would that be?
Let’s pray together.
Father, we are so grateful for those who are serving the church today. We’re so grateful for every person You have ever called to be a deacon in this church and other churches to fulfill the role of that office. But we’re also grateful that You have gifted every single one of us with a special gift that we can be using to serve and to fulfill the duties of the church, that we have been gifted in in Your way to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Father, we know that together, under Your leadership and under Your Lordship, we can accomplish anything that You call us to do. So Father help us to be unified, help us to be pleased with what You were doing and among us. Keep us away from the temptations of complaining and grumbling. Don’t let us give Satan a foothold to penetrate what You were doing in this church. We ask all this in Jesus’ Name, Amen and Amen.