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The right people in the right place
The title of my message today is “The right people in the right place”. Today I want to have a look at a passage from Acts chapter 6.
As the Book of Acts is a kind history book we should look back at what happened immediately before this passage. We see that Jesus returned to heaven, Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, Peter preached the first sermon and 3000 people were added to the church. The believers were in one accord, met daily in homes and shared possessions with those in need, Peter heals a beggar, Peter gets called before the Jewish Council and told not to speak of Jesus, the believers prayed, the Apostles healed many and kept talking about Jesus, and they were persecuted. This is the immediate background to the passage we will read.
So, a lot has been going on. It has been an action packed first five chapters. One thing that really stood out at me was the idea that 3000 were added to the church after one sermon. I went to the Preach Better conference this week in Perth and heard from four great Pastors, who lead large contemporary churches and got lots of great ideas, but I don’t think 3000 people are going to be added to our church today.
We don’t know for sure how many people were believers when Christ ascended, but in Acts chapter one when Peter got up to speak we see that there was 120 people there. A few short chapters later, there was over 3000! It would be like us growing from 30-40 people on a Sunday morning to over 2000. And imagine if 1000 spoke English and the other 1000 spoke only French or German? How would we cope? What sort of things would we have to do? What problems would it bring up? Where would we fit everyone?
Now you have that picture in mind of having 2000 people squeezed in here, let’s have a look at Acts chapter six. As we do I want you to try and see the problem, the solution and the outcome as we read.
Reading Acts 6:1-7
1 But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program.
3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility.
4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith).
6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
7 So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.
1. The Problem – The Apostles needed help
In verse one we see there was tension among the group of new believers. The problem is 3000 had just been added to their number and people started to grumble and complain food and provision. In particular, there was a problem between the Hebrew and Greek speaking Jews. The Hebrew Jews lived in and around Jerusalem and they had access to the Temple. As a result, they spoke Hebrew. The Greek speaking Jews were the descendants of the Jews who were scattered 300 years before Christ in what is known as a Diaspora or dispersion. As they moved outwards they adopted the local language which was Greek or commonly known as the Koine language. So, there was not only a culture problem, but there was a language barrier. This problem had reached the ears of the Apostles.
Verse 2 says, “So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program.”
We find that with the rapid change and growth in the church, the Apostles were no longer able to take care of the day to day running of the church. As we saw, it would be like 2000 extra people coming to our church all of a sudden. How did they find out about this problem? Well people started to complain that they were missing out and the widows of the certain groups were not getting what they deserved. People felt like they were being neglected.
The Apostles knew they were called to pray and preach the Word. They couldn’t let things distract them from this vital task. With 3000 plus people preaching and teaching was vital if they were all going to move forward and grow in their new faith.
Likewise, today for a healthy church, leaders need to focus on their calling of preaching and teaching. They need to delegate tasks and people need to take on tasks to help the church run smoothly. Churches who expect the Pastor or the Elders or certain people to do most of the work end up burning people out and the church suffers.
The best leaders realise they need to let go of some of the control and remember that all church members are all Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:17-20), we are all a Royal Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), we all have gifts to build up the body (1 Corinthians 12) and we are all called to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). The Apostles needed help.
The leaders I talked to at the Preach Better conference during the week from the larger churches all focused on preaching, building into people’s lives, leadership and God’s vision for the church. They all had a team of people around them who were gifted by the Spirit in the various roles they played in the church. They delegated tasks to people and people used their God given gifts to help the church run smoothly.
So just like church leaders today, the Apostles needed help, so they could focus on their part of preaching, teaching and prayer.
2. The Solution – They wanted the right people for the job
The second thing I noticed in this passage was even though the Apostles needed help, they didn’t just want just anyone in the role. The wanted a right people for the job.
Verse 3 says, “And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility”.
On the surface we might be tempted to think that anyone could hand out food. You don’t have to be deeply spiritual or overly gifted to do this type of thing. But this was an important role, not just being a waiter. Usually on a special occasion the most senior person at an event would serve the food, like the father cutting the turkey at Christmas, or Jesus at the Passover meal.
We see that the Apostles asked the people to choose seven from amongst them who they felt were made of the right stuff. I like the way the leaders asked the people to select the seven and they simply trusted the people could choose the right people for the job. They wanted people who were well respected, full of the Holy Spirit and God’s wisdom. The Apostles realized the need to have people who were solid of character and whom could show discernment when needed. Because when dealing with that many new people, discernment would be required!
If we stop and think about these three requirements for a minute.
a. Well respected – One of the qualifications to be an Elder or Pastor in church is to have a good reputation.
1 Timothy 3:1-5 – This is a trustworthy saying: “If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.” 2 So an elder must be a man whose life is above reproach. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exercise self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home, and he must be able to teach. 3 He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, not quarrelsome, and not love money. 4 He must manage his own family well, having children who respect and obey him. 5 For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?”
Proverbs 22:1 reminds us to “Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.”
b. Full of the Holy Spirit – Our text today describes Stephen as a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit in verse 5.
As I have shared in previous sermons, being full of the Holy Spirit is not about receiving more of Him, it is about us surrendering to the Holy Spirit more. We all receive the Holy Spirit at the moment we accept Christ, but there is a process of letting go to His control.
As we have been working our way through our latest study on the Holy Spirit in KYB, I have been reminded how much the Holy Spirit has been front and centre through history. The Holy Spirit was there at creation. The Holy Spirit was there when God made His covenants with His people. The Holy Spirit was there in the Kingdom and Judges periods of the OT. The Holy Spirit was there with the prophets. The Holy Spirit was there with Jesus guiding, leading and empowering Him. Jesus taught the disciples about the Holy Spirit. And it was clearly evident that the Holy Spirit was there with the early church. God’s power broke out into the world and Pentecost and changed everything.
As I have pondered this all I have been reminded afresh that what we do here in this place and this town is a spiritual work. We here in the church want to grow in our faith. This is a spiritual work that God does by His Word and Spirit. Likewise, we want the people of this region to come to Christ. Another spiritual work that can only be done by the power of the Spirit. To do spiritual work, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8, to use our gifts (1 Corinthians 12:4-8, and to display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
c. Wisdom – Proverbs 9:10 says, “Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”
A deep reverent knowledge of God is the foundation of wisdom. It is a starting point. Wisdom as we know is so much more than knowledge. Knowledge means we know stuff. Having wisdom means we know what to do with the knowledge we have. It is about making right decisions at the right time.
James tells us ask God if we lack wisdom (James 1: 5). He tells us to ask the One who knows the beginning from the end. He tells us to ask the One who is all powerful and all knowing. He tells us to ask the One to where our help comes from, the maker of heaven and earth. If you need wisdom, you just need to ask God.
Just before we move on I have a special question for our Over 12s Bible study group – Did anyone notice anything different about the names of the people they chose? (They were all Greek names.) It was a problem with the Greek section of the church and they chose Greek speaking people to sort it out.
3. The Outcome – The right people in place led to more people being saved
We see the answer in verse seven, “So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too”.
The result of the changes and having the right people in place who had a good reputation, were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, was a much healthier church. The people were unified again, the complaints stopped, the message continued to spread greatly and even some of the Priests were converted. Bottom line is that people were saved and growing in Christ. They realised there was a problem, the addressed it and then they were free to move forward.
Likewise, for us today we need the right people in place as we prepare for growth. We need talented, passionate, servant-hearted people of good reputation who are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
In the early church the right people in the right place lead to more people being saved. It will for us too.
So today as we close, let us take with us these three things.
By Dave Quinn
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