My college Bible Professor, E.V. Srygley, once quipped, “Jesus said when two or three are gathered together, I will be in their midst. I’ve found that when two or three are gathered together, there’s going to be a problem.”
Problems. They’re part of life. The church and Christians are not exempt from problems. However, as Chuck Swindoll observed, “Every problem is an opportunity to prove God’s power.”
Acts 6 records a problem that threatened the growth, influence, and unity of the first-century church in Jerusalem. The Hellenists were pointing a finger at the Hebrews and complaining that their widows were being “neglected in the daily distribution of food.”
The Hellenists or Grecians were Greek-speaking Jews who had migrated to Palestine from other nations. Their customs and language were different than the native Jews. They were considered “outsiders.” And now this racial divide was affecting the fellowship of the church.
The way this problem was addressed is a great example of how to solve church problems.
1. There was an immediate response.
The apostles did not ignore the issue. Excuse it. Or “sweep it under rug.” They heard the complaint. And looked into the matter.
Too often church leaders try to dismiss problems. Hope they will go away. Or pretend they don’t exist. I once heard an elder say when trouble was brewing, “We need to lay low for a while.” Seriously? That’s a time for leaders to step up. Speak up. And lead the way.
2. The apostles involved the whole church.
They didn’t meet behind closed doors and try to put a lid on the problem. They admitted it. Openly. Honestly. And fully. The text says they “summoned the full number of the disciples” together. The apostles had a plan and asked for the congregation’s input.
Good leaders solve problems by being transparent. Involving others. And soliciting their help. This requires meekness and humility on the part of leaders.
3. Guidelines were given to find the right men to minister to the need.
The church was to look within for “seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” to administer this work. The names recorded are both Hebrew and Hellenistic. These good men would work together. There would be no prejudice or partiality on their part. They would see that everyone was properly served.
Years ago I heard a speech by a successful businessman entitled “Delegate or Stagnate.” In essence, he said that if you want to grow your organization you must enlist the assistance of qualified people. Pastors and preachers need to learn that lesson. It’s a Biblical model. The bigger your goals and the bigger your group, the more you need others to help.
4. The apostles understood the importance of priorities.
They had a work to do. They were ministers of the Word. They were commissioned to preach the Gospel. Their spiritual work was a priority. It’s not they were too good “to serve tables,” but it just wasn’t their God-given assignment.
Leaders today desperately need to learn this lesson. Don’t leave your work to do what others can do. It’s important, as Stephen Covey once wrote, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” No one can do everything. But everyone can do something.
There’s an old saying that goes like this. “Preachers need to preach. Elders need to “eld.” And Deacons need to “deac.” Also, teachers need to teach. There is work today for men and women. The young and the old. There is a ministry for everyone. It’s a matter of understanding one’s gift and applying the principle of priorities.
The text tells us that the apostles’ plan pleased the church. It was implemented. The men were empowered. Prayer was offered for God’s blessing. The problem was solved. Peace prevailed. And the church continued to grow.
This Biblical model for problem-solving worked then. It will work now.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman