This week I answer a question from my friend Chen. He is wondering what light Acts 6 sheds on the issue of serving where we are not gifted.
1. Churches always have problems
1. Internal – 5.1ff; External 5:17ff; Internal 6:1ff; External 6:8ff
2. Luke is telling Theophilus, and the Spirit is reminding us that church is messy, but God is at work in it all.
2. Healthy leaders know their limitations
1. Looks like the Apostle had overseen this need up to now, Acts 4:35
2. Now understand it is beyond them
3. Given the cultural tensions, they may not be the right people to ‘solve’ the issue – they are all Jewish, of course
3. Leaders look for solutions
1. Apostles do not indulge in shaming or blaming
2. They set the parameters: full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom
3. They involve the people
4. A Spirit-led church will prioritise those with the need
1. The ‘whole group’ (v5), i.e. Jews and Greeks chose the people
2. The men chosen all had Greek names
3. Love and humility is in action
5. Problems need the right kind of person, not the person with the right gifts
1. “Like Samson, you might be extraordinarily gifted. But if you don’t develop the character to support your gifts, they will actually become destructive to you. Your shadow mission will win out and your gifts will crush you.” Overcoming Your Shadow Mission, John Ortberg, p50
2. Nothing said here about their previous experience, gifts, talents, qualifications
3. “evidently refer to guidance by the Holy Spirit and skill in administration and business” Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. EBC
4. But, can we be sure of this? Nothing in the text is explicit
– The text is sparing in detail. We must be careful regarding the conclusions we draw.
– The men may have been the ones trusted to plan a solution for the problem, rather than do the work. They have the ‘responsibility’ delegated to them, not the detail. Were they gifted at running the first Christian food bank? We do not know.
– The fact that Stephen and Philip appear later (Acts 7 & 8, 21) as preachers/evangelists indicates they were not stuck in one role
– Gifts are meant to be exercised, Romans 12:3-8
– But, that does not mean we cannot serve effectively in an area in which we are not gifted
– Of course, that is different from being shoe-horned into serving into something necessitated by a narrow church culture
– Serving where we are not gifted can be helpful when it:
– Develops Christian character – serving in humility and love
– Enables us to connect with people in different life circumstances to ourselves
– Is temporary – before we do damage to ourselves or others
– In a local congregational context the questions we want to ask are:
– How much of disaster is it if a need goes unmet? How essential is it to the well-being of church members, the congregation and our impact on the world?
– How injurious would it be to someone if we asked them to serve in an area not within their gifts?
– In what way might someone, or a group grow in Christlikeness by serving even though it is not within their gifts to do so?
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
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God bless, Malcolm