GOD ESTABLISHES HIS CHURCH IN THE WORLD
Managing Growing Pains
Jerry A Collins
What is the value of organization for ministry?
What does it mean to be ‘full of grace and power‘?
Why do religious people react to Christ with persecution?
This week Joe Gabris told me that he and Lenee had 22 obligations with their kids schedules just for this past week; either sports or school related. The older my four children get, the more obligations we have with them. I look at one of my friends who only has one daughter and know that it is a cake-walk for him. Managing growing pains is necessary in family life but is also necessary in ministry. In the Acts the church undergoes an expansion program. From 120 people in chapter two until chapter six when we learn the disciples were increasing vs. 1 and the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem vs. 7. How does the church manage growing pains?
1. OFTEN THE EFFECTS OF MINISTRY MUST BE ORGANIZED TO RESPOND EFFECTIVELY TO THEM 1-6
In this case it is organization that responds to needs resulting from what the HS is already doing. That is different than organizing a program and then expecting the HS to get involved in it. Organization is not an end in itself but a means to facilitate whatever it is God is already doing. First, we have the reason for organizing vs. 1-2, 4. The at this time refers to the increasing in number of the disciples. So increased numbers brot increased needs. A complaint was lodged by Hellenistic Jews, remaining loyal to Judaism they had also absorbed some of the Greek culture surrounding them, making them suspect to Hebrews. The native Jews who used Hebrew OT not LXX and were native-born not from other cities. Some of these racial and cultural differences threatened to produce hostile reactions amongst believers in the church. This same word used in Phil 2:4 do all things without grumbling; 1 Pt 4:9 be hospitable to one another without complaining. So here we have a threat to create dissension from within. We have already had attacks against the church in form of persecution (4:1-31; 5:17-41). From hypocrisy (Acts 5:1-12). The problem was the needs of Hellenistic widows overlooked. Care of widows important in OT (Dt 14:29; 24:19:21), in Jerusalem (James 1:27), in the church ( 1 Tim 5:3-16). This complaint came to the attention of the 12 who recognized this as a legitimate grievance requiring a solution. (1) They did not let urgent replace the important. They kept their spiritual priorities in place. The evangelical community can bend you out of shape if you let it. Prayer and the ministry of the Word are inseparably linked. Paul assured the Romans of this in Romans 1:9-10; the Ephesians in 1:16; the Philippians in 1:3-4; the Colossians in 1:9. That is the priority. (2) They wanted legitimate needs to be met. The serving of tables vs. 3 may refer to the tables used for serving food or to money tables where funds and supplies were administered to widows. Second, we have the resolution to the problem vs. 3, 5-6. First, to effectively respond to this need meant some oversight was needed. The word select conveys the idea of overseeing and is explicit with the phrase put in charge vs. 3. Second, qualified oversight was required. The community was to chose men with at least four qualifications vs. 3. (1) Believers; from among them. Leadership developed from within own ranks. (2) Good reputation. Integrity and above reproach. Should not settle for warm bodies. (3) Full of the Spirit. Controlled and influenced. (4) Full of wisdom. Applying biblical truth to everyday life. Third, Qualified leaders organized to meet this need 5-6. Everyone agreed to this and the 7 chosen all were Greeks. The minority given responsibility and approval to do this. A demonstration of unity of church. They were colleagues with disciples in ministry of early church commissioned for temporary position to meet specific need. Stephen introduced 1st time; Philip took gospel to Samaritans; Ethiopian eunuc. Gospel spreading. Third, we have another progress report vs. 7. The result of freeing apostles for their ministry and organizing the effects of ministry as necessary resulted in more effective ministry. Progress reports (2:47; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:6; 19:20; 28:30-31). So 3 times disciples used of xians. Previously xians called believers 2:44; 4:32; 5:14. There is an advance of truth. Person must be believer before he can become a disciple. (1) Greatest threat to discipleship is murmuring. Had gone unchecked here likely split of Grecians from the church and end to their discipleship. God had multiplied disciples and Satan seeks to subtract. (2) One of greatest virtues of discipleship is ministry or service. Complainer worried about self-interests the disciple unselfish service. Stephen himself begins unglamorous task of waiting on widows. God promotes humble. From table-waiter, miracle worker, witness, martyr. (3) Greatest resource of disciple is fulness of God in his life. Stephen was controlled by the Spirit, wisdom, faith, grace, power. Serves out of the overflow of that fulness. Not full of self, worry, fear, selfish ambition. An ideal servant whom God could use. Like a full glass overflows if touched.
2. NOBLE CHARACTER AND EXTRAORDINARY COURAGE MAKE FOR EFFECTIVE WITNESS (1) Stephen was a man of noble character. First he was full of grace. Gracious even to point of death having committed himself fully into God’s hands (7:59). Even gracious to his executioners praying for their forgiveness as he was murdered (7:60). Only God could produce that in him. Second full of power with great signs and wonders God’s power resting upon him. What kind of character do you have? (2) A man of courage 9-15. We have a complaint vs. 1 and an argument vs. 9. 3 separate synagogues where Jews read scripture and worshiped which originated in Babylonian captivity when exiles cut off from access to Temple. They came to argue with Stephen. Same word used for Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees arguing with Jesus and disciples (Mk 8:11; 9:14; 12:28; Lk 22:23). Unable to cope with Stephens wisdom and win argument they changed tactics, accused him of blasphemy, trumped up charges and hired false witnesses. Sound familiar? Do you have an answer for the hope that is within you? He was seized unjustly for his testimony of Jesus vs. 14. Jesus is a watershed. Jesus name divides. Stephen had taught that reality replaced the ritual of OT vs. 14. The New supercedes the old. Despite the intense, unjust and unfair opposition he faced, Stephen never backed down, hesitated, or compromised or wavered. His character prepared him for the courage he would need. You must be prepared before battle if going to persevere thru it. God’s glory on his face like it was with Moses (Ex 34:27ff) as approval of message and the messenger.