*Slightly edited manuscript from Sunday’s sermon
Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Look around. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church.
But what if the church has problems?
What if the church is filled with flawed people?
What if the church looks a lot like this one?
We are in a series titled, “Equip.” We are learning that the church is designed to equip, not entertain. The congregation is designed to serve, not sit.”
Acts 6:1-7 will help us this morning. Join me as we read from God’s word.
The church is imperfect and has problems.
As the early church grew in size it experienced growing pains. A certain segment of the church was getting overlooked in the distribution of food. The early church was not free of problems. Whew! Even the greatest global movement to hit planet earth had some hiccups. Do we have problems? Absolutely. I’m sure you’ve witnessed some. I’m sure you’ve been affected by one or two.
But you have better options than mumbling and grumbling.
Your gifts and spiritual maturity can provide solutions.
The church in Acts 6 encountered a problem. Rather than allowing the problem to create division or bitterness … they sought a solution. The church formed a committee of men full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit to take care of the distribution of food. They encountered a problem and provided a solution by using the gifts and spiritual maturity.
In light of everything we’ve discussed through this series, I want to empower you this morning. You have been called to this church. Because you have been called to this church, you have been given gifts to serve this church and community. As a result, if you encounter problems here, I give you authority to put your gifts and spiritual maturity to use in order to create a solution. Spiritual maturity is key. There is no place for mumbling and grumbling. It is the use gifts and spiritual maturity that allows the word of God to spread in v7, “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” I want such statement voiced here.
There is a priority on preaching and prayer.
Take note of a few things: In v2 the apostles say, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” In v3 they instruct the church to gather a committee to take care of the food so, as stated in v4, in order to “give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
In our Baptist history this passage gives us our structure of the deacon body. In fact, in the phrase in v2 for “wait on tables” is the Greek root word “deacon.” The Greek word “deacon” means “servant.” These men are called to serve tables so the apostles can devote themselves to preaching and prayer. As long as I’m your pastor, there will be a priority and commitment to preaching and prayer. I’ll make the argument that you can’t function as a church without the ministry of the word and prayer.
Yet, some take this beautiful passage as an escape clause: Look! Some are called to preach and some are called to serve. I’m just a servant!
… not so fast.
But you are not off the hook.
In the previous point we witnessed the formation of table waiters. Yet, if you keep reading Acts 6 you’ll find these table waiters do not merely carry bread to hungry widows. Stephen, one of these table waiters, performs great wonders and signs among the people. Because of this demonstration of the power of God, he is eventually arrested and brought before the religious rulers under false chargers. Stephen then stands, full of the Holy Spirit, and gives a rundown of Old Testament history and proceeds to preach about the resurrection of Jesus.
The opposition grows furious at Stephen’s preaching and begins to stone him. Stephen preaches the gospel to his very last breath.
This is not merely a table waiter. This is a gospel preaching table waiter.
You might not be the one standing behind a pulpit each week, but you are not off the hook.