Note: If you are planning to pick apart every thing I say, I'm not interested. If you really want to dialogue about the subject, I'm all ears (and my ears are big, literally).
This week, let’s explore Acts 6:1-7 for few minutes as we glean some important truths about church polity.
Notice that there is a conflict occurring in the Jerusalem church about the serving of the widows that were present among the church--Jewish widows and Hellenistic widows. Out of this conflict, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, we can glean some important truths even though the church is fairly young at this point in history.
First, there is a consensus of decision-making among the church. The apostles gathered the disciples together to give information about the situation. The apostles instructed the disciples as to the best method for solving the conflict and moving forward. The disciples chose the seven who would be appointed to this task of “serving tables” to aid in the ministry to the widows, particularly the Hellenistic widows. The seven were brought back to the apostles for affirmation and appointment. There was consensus among the church and the leadership (apostles) all under the Lordship of Jesus and leadership of the Holy Spirit. If you will notice the process that we have used the last couple of years in our Deacon Nomination process, we have tried to follow this pattern ourselves.
Second, there is a division of labor among the church. While pastor-teachers are not equivalent to apostles, there is I believe an analogous relationship that is borne out in this passage with respect to the primary responsibilities of pastor/teachers. The apostles primary responsibility was to “prayer and the ministry of the word”. While serving tables was not out of their purview of the apostles’ ministry and they did participate, it was not primary. The ministry to the widows had become too much for the apostles to handle to the point that they were neglecting their primary calling and responsibility to the disciples in prayer and the word. Therefore, in order for the apostles (and by analogy, pastor/teachers) to give primary attention to “prayer and the ministry of the word” to the congregation, there was a division of labor among the church with the seven taking the lead on the task of serving the widows among the church.
Third, notice the result in v. 7 - “and the word of God continued to increase and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” The conflict was resolved and the church unified. The word of God increased and the church was strengthened. This passage gives us a picture of church polity and division of labor among the church that promotes a healthy church that bears fruit for the kingdom and glory of God in making disciples.