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Leadership #7 - Acts 6


Acts 6:1-7

Teaching Moments

1. This text reflects a couple of realities that we can often forget when we think about the "Jerusalem church". It is tempting to think about the "Jerusalem church" as the model congregation where problems did not exist. Afterall, they were new, guided by the apostles and they were all converts from Judaism. But problems did exist.

2. One problem concerned cultural diversity within the church. The Hellenistic Jewish felt their widows were neglected by the more dominant Hebraic Jewish church. The Hellenistic widows raised an issue of justice or fairness. This problem of fairness was exacerbated by the natural tensions that existed between Hellenistic and Hebraic Jews. So, in a church guided by the apostles, some felt they were mistreated, even mistreated by the apostles themselves (they came to the apostles to resolve the problem).

3. A second problem was the sense of burden felt by the apostles. Apparently, they had been involved in the distribution of money. In Acts 4:35 and 5:2, money was brought to the apostles. In some fashion, they shouldered the responsibility of this money. This gave rise to a second problem, that is, the apostles were diverted from their real ministry and mission. Taking care of widows is not secondary in the kingdom, but it is secondary to the mission of the apostles when others were available to complete the task.

4. The apostles prioritized their ministry. Their focus is on the ministry of prayer and word. Administration of benevolent distribution was not their primary mission. Rather, it is given to others. The apostles did not distribute the money, but it was given to others to make those decisions. Financial decisions were not the primary responsibility of the apostles.

5. The qualifications of these men are critical. They are men "from among" the church and filled with the Spirit and wisdom (note the further description in Acts 6:5--full of faith and of the Holy Spirit).

6. Notice that even with the apostles guiding the church, this was a "whole church" decision. They call together "all" the disciples and then the "whole group" chose seven men to fulfill these administrative duties.

7. The nature of the decision was to place the matter into the hands of Hellenistic Jews. All the names in verse 5 are Greek rather than Hebraic names. The church decided to put the decision-making power into the hands of those who felt unjustly treated. This displays tremendous confidence in the integrity of these men and it places gentle pressure on them to treat everyone fairly (rather than take revenge on the Hebraic widows).

8. What is the application to elders? There is no record of elders in the church at this point in Jersualem. However, I think it is safe to assume that the apostles were functioning as the elders of the Jerusalem church or they were shepherding the Jersualem church. They are certainly the "authority" figures. Nevertheless, they do not want to be distracted by financial decisions or administrative ministries. They know their focus.

9. I think elders need to know their focus. I think they should devote themselves to the ministry of prayer and word and devote themselves to the flock rather than spend their energies in financial decisions. Our shepherds need to understand their focus and maintain it.

Group Discussion

1. In such a pristine church where everyone's needs are met, how could the widows be neglected? What does this reveal about the internal dimensions of this church? How do their problems mirror our own?

2. How would pre-existing tensions between Hebraic and Hellenistic Jews give rise to problems in the church? What pre-existing tensions can cause problems in contemporary churches, even in the Cordova church?

3. What tension did the apostles feel in this dispute? Do the apostles devalue the ministry to widows by insisting on their priority in prayer and word? What is the nature of the contrast between ministry to widows and the ministry of the Word? How does that look today?

4. What procedure did the apostles use to resolve this problem? What principles do you see in this text for the resolution of church conflicts? What principles are here for the selection of leaders?

5. Why would the church choose Greek speaking Jews to fill all seven slots? What does this say about the maturity of the church and the maturity of those chosen to complete the task?

6. Do you think it is legitimate to parallel the role of apostles with elders here, given that there were no elders in the Jerusalem church according to the text at this point? Why or why not?

7. If the parallel is legitimate (I think it is also legitimate for comparing evangelists as well), then what does this text teach us in principle about elders? What is the focus of "eldering"?

8. What is the traditional relationship between elders and "money"? Do you see any principles in this text that might apply to that traditional understanding? Why is money always a "flashpoint" in churches? It was a problem then, and it is a problem now. How might our elders insulate themselves from the conflicts that arise around money, greed and power? Is the apostolic model here an example to them?


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