Problems of growth.Acts 6:1-7:
‘6 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. 2 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. 3 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 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ 5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 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.’ NIV
In the Book of Acts we find a church growing in numbers. It also grew spiritually: ‘’…the word of God spread’’ (7a), but it certainly grew numerically. Today’s passage opens and closes between statements about growth and further growth. It was a time of rapid growth. Probably most of us have not lived through a period of such prolific church expansion, and known from the inside not only its exhilaration, but also its tensions. The growth was also, in some ways, surprising and strategic with ‘’a large number of priests’’ being enfolded into the bosom of the church. God’s Spirit was on the move, and who would not want that?
However, when huge growth takes place, and particularly when it happens quickly, you can:
Expect problems (1b): It may not be inevitable, but it is likely. The particulars of the contentious issues will differ from church to church, and context to context. But with growth, some people (and it is often those who have been around longer) can start to feel overlooked and left out. Such a situation calls for wise, strong and decisive leadership, and that’s what we see in our reading. (It also calls for a humble mind on the part of all, and a willingness to embrace the stranger; the kind of Christlike attitude which looks not only to its own interests but also to the interests of others; that considers others better than oneself: Philippians 2:1-5)
Somebody once asked, ‘Does good leadership move towards a problem or away from it?’ The answer of course is that it moves towards it; and tomorrow we will see what these leaders did.
Prayer: Lord, where the is even the tiniest dislocation or fracture in the life of the church, please pour in your healing balm.