“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines,” once wrote Robert Schuller. Or as Henry J. Kaiser put it, “Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.
Of course, we don’t like problems. Either personal problems. Family problems or church problems. However, problems may provide an occasion for ministry, growth, and greater involvement.
Our passage today in Acts 6 provides instruction and insight on dealing with a church problem.
The Jerusalem church was composed of two ethnic groups. Hebraic Jews. Or Jewish Christian converts who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. They were born and raised in Israel, a native of the land, and observed the customs. Then there were Grecian Jews, called Hellenists. They were born and raised outside Israel. Their culture and customs were different. Possibly due to racial prejudice, the Hellenist widows were being neglected for benevolence.
Step 1: Setting Priorities
There is an immediate response. The apostles said it is not our place to leave the ministry of the word, for the ministry of physical things. Spiritual leaders need to focus on spiritual work, “the ministry of the word.”
Step 2: Preparing a Plan vs.3-4
It began with congregational involvement. ”look among yourselves.” Furthermore, there is a clear statement of qualifications: “seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” Then there is a statement of delegation. We will turn this work over to them.
Step 3: Selecting the Right People v.5
This plan won the immediate approval of the congregation. They choose 7 men. Interestingly, the names are Greek. So, this dispelled any accusations of prejudice. Plus, these men would have known the widows who needed help.
Step 4: Commissioning the Workers v.6
Apostle laid hands on them. Prayed for them and they worked. It put the full authority of the apostles behind these men.
The Results v.7
There was a new receptivity to the Gospel message. New Converts. Even conversions in high places. All of this is a result of handling a problem and a ministry need in the right way.
#1 Don’t ignore people’s complaints.
Good leaders listen to the concerns of the congregation. While some complaints may be silly, selfish, or scripturally unsound, pay attention. Listen. Show empathy. And address valid criticisms.
#2 Keep the Main Thing the main thing.
Just like the apostles understood their calling, preachers and pastors must not be diverted from their ministry when problems arise. Stay focused on your spiritual work and responsibilities.
#3 No one can do everything
The apostles couldn’t do their work and feed the widows too. The same is true today. The Shepherds can’t do their work and do all the hundreds of things that need to be done in a church. The same is true for the preacher. He can preach and teach, equip, and visit. Do personal evangelism. But no matter how good he is, he can only be in one place at a time. Leaders must learn to delegate. Or else they will stagnate.
#4 Everyone can do something
The Bible teaches that every member ought to be a minister (Rom. 12:3-8; 1Pet. 4:10). While No one can do everything, everyone can do something.
Discover your gift. Develop your gift. And use your gift to serve others.
#5 Mobilize for Ministry.
This text reminds us of the need for leaders to equip the saints for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). Think of those who may have needs to be met? Impoverished saints. New Saints. Weak saints. Unfaithful saints. Sick saints. Discouraged saints. Prospective saints.
#6 Reap the Benefits
When we minister to one another as God has decreed, it will produce fruit. We will find fulfillment in serving. And the church will be fortified in the faith.
Finally, learn to see “people’s problems” as an opportunity for ministry. As Roy T. Bennett expressed it, “Turn your obstacles into opportunities and your problems into possibilities.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman