Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. - Vs 3
Leadership in the local church is critical. It has been since the beginning. And chapter six gives us a glimpse into the selection process practiced by the apostles when it came time for them to choose qualified leaders to help with the needs of a growing congregation.
Since that first exciting day when the church was birthed at Pentecost, a growing number of people had placed their faith in Christ. In fact, their numbers had skyrocketed, with as many as 3,00o being added in one day! Many of these, if not most, were Jews who had come to Christ. These people had been in Jerusalem in order to celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. According to chapter two, verses 9-11, there were "Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs." Talk about a melting pot.
As is often the case in a church, a conflict arose. It seems that the rapid expansion of the local fellowship there in Jerusalem had resulted in the need for food to be distributed among the thousands of new converts. Many of these were not permanent residents of Jerusalem, but had chosen to remain in town since their witness of the apostles' speaking in tongues, and their own conversions. According to chapter two, people were sharing what they had and generously meeting one another's needs. But there seemed to be a problem with the distribution of the food. It could have been due to the language barrier, because the Greek-speaking Jews are the ones who raised the complaint. But regardless of the cause, the apostles determined that a plan was needed. Their solution: Additional leadership.
This is where it gets interesting. Because the qualifications the apostles looked for in these men seem to make them overqualified for the job. I mean, even the apostles admit that these guys were going "to serve tables." They weren't asking them to teach or lead a small group. They were going to distribute food. But notice what they look for when they start their search for possible candidates:
Select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.
Luke gives us even more insight into the character of these men when he introduces us in greater detail to one of them in particular -- Stephen.
They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. - Vs 5
Stephen, full of grace and power... - Vs 8
But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. - Vs 10
This guy seems WAY over-qualified for the job. But was he? Obviously not. In fact, I suspect that the six others chosen that day were men of similar character. Stephen just happened to be singled out by Luke because of the part he was going to play as this story unfolds. But according to verse 3, all of them were men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom. And yet their job was to distribute food and wait on tables.
So why was it important to choose men of this caliber? What was it about their role that would require them to be men of good reputation, Spirit-filled, and wise? I think the answer is a simple one. In the body of Christ there is no small task, no unimportant role. Every servant of the Savior is to be a person of spiritual integrity, able to perform their role in the power of the Spirit, whether they are an elder, deacon, Sunday School teacher, greeter, small group host, usher, or senior pastor.
These men were going to be working with people and for God. So it was important that they be men of God. But isn't the same thing true today? Don't we each need to have the character of Christ if we are going to act as representatives for Christ? Stephen and his co-committee members were:
- Of good reputation
- Full of faith
- Full of grace
- Full of power
- And finally, servants
Stephen was selected to "wait on tables," but because he was a man who was full of grace and power, he would have greater impact than even the apostles ever imagined. I am sure he faithfully performed the responsibilities associated with his new role, but he didn't stop there. Why? Because he was Spirit-filled and God-directed. He was a man of God doing the work of God. Faith-fully.
So what kind of men and women are we? Are we of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom? Are we full of faith. grace, and power? As Christ-followers, that is exactly what we are supposed to be. Men and women under the influence of the Spirit, serving in the power of the Spirit, all for the glory of God. Whether we're distributing food, handing out worship folders, greeting visitors, hosting a small group in our home, rocking babies in the nursery, teaching a group of 3rd-grade boys, or visiting someone in the hospital. As the church continues to grow, so do the needs. And among the greatest needs of the church is leadership. Men and women like Stephen who are people of God, willing to do anything and everything in the service of God. Are you ready? Do you qualify?
Father, make me a man like Stephen - full of the Spirit and of wisdom. Increase my faith. Fill me with your grace and power, that I might continue to serve you and your church in whatever way you may need me to. Raise up an army of men and women who will step in the gap and serve sacrificially and selflessly. Men and women like Stephen. Amen.