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Growing Pains

Acts 6:1-4
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, 'It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.' (NIVUK)

Growth always brings challenges. It is not just about increased activity but the need to deploy people differently. Everybody's capacity to take on more work is limited, so it is usually more efficient for skilled workers to focus on work which they will do best, and for managers to coordinate different numbers of people or projects according to their ability (Exodus 18:13-26).

As the numbers increased in the Early Church to over 5,000 (Acts 4:4), and they shared together as one family (Acts 4:34-35), the apostles were spending much of their time coordinating the welfare programme. Widows, without a family to provide for them, were glad that the believers supplied their food each day. However, Jewish women seemed to have priority over the non-Jews, who complained about being neglected. It was right to let the apostles know. They decided to appoint seven godly men who were well known for their wisdom and ability to get things done.

The apostles did not despise the practical, social care work, but they could not do everything. Their main task was to teach about Jesus, urge people to devote themselves to Him and to train the new believers in how to live the Jesus-life (2 Timothy 4:2-5). So they needed to spend time in prayer, discerning God's instructions and then informing the church. Their priority ministry was to preach and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Without that the church would die.

The world is full of pressing human need. It is right to share food and possessions; but that activity must never be allowed to eclipse the priority of sharing God's Word. If people do not know how to find Jesus personally their physical wellbeing may become an idol instead of a reason for praise. If they are not saved, a long life is nothing compared to a lost eternity. Christian leaders must constantly evaluate their priorities, appointing wise people to supervise social action, so that prayerful gospel ministry will not be hindered. Everybody who cares for others should be able to explain the gospel, so that their motives can be understood (1 Peter 3:15). People are saved when they hear and believe the gospel. So share God's Word to honour Christ, and make disciples where you live and work, and care for people

Dear Lord. Thank You for caring for me, not only supplying my daily needs but also giving me Your Word to feed me and share with others. Forgive me for the times when I have made wrong priorities in helping people by failing to tell them about Your love for them in Christ. Help me to fulfil the spiritual work You have given to me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams