Big People Needed for Small Tasks

Reading: Acts 6, 7

They needed someone to look after the local food bank.

It might seem a little odd in this age of discovering “spiritual gifts” and finding one’s “sweet spot” to see that the early church leaders didn’t take an inventory of the likes and dislikes of the people they chose for the task of looking after the needs of the widows in the congregation. There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with taking an inventory of a potential candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes we miss the best by deferring to the good when we judge who can fill a vacancy in the church.

The leaders of the church in Acts may have checked out whether Philip or Stephen, or any of the others (Acts 6:5) actually liked handing out food to the needy, but they looked for other qualities first.

Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3, NIV). One of those selected, Stephen is described as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5, NIV).

The principle of “warm and breathing” often characterizes how we pick people to do kingdom ministry today. So desperate are we to fill vacancies, or to supposedly keep people engaged in “church,” that we allow just about anyone to do anything. Or we justify placing certain people in some responsibilities because the job is not a “spiritual” one. Bad idea, especially when we are shown here that even those looking after the storeroom needed to be Spirit-filled.

Also interesting is that both Stephen and Philip were gifted in other areas. Philip’s name appears in other parts of Acts as an evangelist (Acts 8:4-8, 26ff; 21:8). Stephen is described as “a man full of God’s grace and power [who] did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8, NIV). It turns out that he was a pretty good preacher too! Perhaps the example of these men gives weight to what Jesus said in Luke 16:10 (NIV): “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…

The apostles recognized the spiritual nature of food distribution that these men had been called to do. “They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid hands on them” (Acts 6:6, NIV). And when the right people, Spirit-filled people, were engaged in the right tasks, “…the word of God spread” (Acts 6:7, NIV) and the church grew.

There is no better model for church growth than the one we find in Acts. They even had the Food Bank covered.


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