I don’t really love food crises. At all. But there is one that happened among the first Christians that we can learn a lot from. The sad fact is that there should not have been a crisis at all. They actually manufactured the crisis because of their poor behavior, which might have been some racism or prejudice.
This week we’ve been looking at three crises in the early church. The food crisis is the third one, and it is found in Acts 6:1-7. Before reading further, go ahead and read that.
I love this passage for a number of reasons. Let me count the ways:
First, I love that the earliest Christians had a food distribution ministry for widows. In their society widows could be extremely vulnerable, so the church is lovingly caring for them. This is an important reminder to us, that we are caring for the vulnerable people in our communities: homebound people, widows, single moms, family in need, and seniors. The early church followed the pattern of Jesus who demonstrated a heart for social action.
I also love that this passage reminds us that people are people. Well, I don’t love what happened, but I’m glad that the writer of Acts includes this story, showing us that the earliest Christians had flaws and struggles just like anyone else. We saw that pretty clearly with Ananias and Sapphira, and here again as there was some bickering and infighting. Notice that this quarrel had an ethnic nuance to it. Though they were all Jews, it was the Jews from Greece versus Jews from Israel. The Grecian widows weren’t being treated fairly.
Next, I love how the apostles, when they thought about solving the problem, were clear about their own role and responsibility. They had a leadership role, and it was okay that they didn’t need to take care of this problem. In fact, they identified that if they did try to solve problems like this, they would not have time to fulfill the duties in their job description.
I love that they have a job description: they were to focus on the ministry of the word and prayer.
And I love that the apostles fulfill their leadership role by raising up other people to address issues that are not on the apostles’ job description.
I love that they have a certain kind of person they are looking for. In the NIV we read two qualities of people they are looking for, as we see in verse 3: they must be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. But there is actually a third quality, and you might see that if you are reading a different translation. The NAS for example says, “Men who are of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” They didn’t choose people in the food industry to deal with a food distribution problem. Instead they looked for people with spiritual maturity.
I love that this passage, supported by teaching in other New Testament letters that Paul wrote, gives us a two-part leadership structure in the church: leaders (elders) and servants (deacons). That is why at Faith Church we have a leadership team and we have serve teams. The leadership team leads the church spiritually, and the serve teams lead the church through various serving ministries.
I love that the apostles choose the qualifications, and then allowed the church to choose the seven men who fit those qualifications.
I love that the church chooses seven men with Greek names, meaning that they identified the marginalization of the Greek widows and wanted to make sure it was resolved, as those with a Greek background would be more likely to be extra sensitive to their plight.
I love that the seven Deacons are commissioned by the apostles to serve through the laying on of hands and prayer, those showing the apostolic authority the Seven had.
Finally, I love the result. The church continues to grow! Even if the church hadn’t grown as a result, I love all the previous steps they took to address the crisis. But I must admit that it is affirming to see the principle of “healthy things grow” illustrated here. I know that in the church sometimes getting healthier means a church gets smaller, but even still there is growth, just not growth measured in more bodies or buildings or bucks.
To summarize this week’s posts, in Acts 5-6:1-7, we have seen three crises in the church, and each one had various lessons:
Crisis #1: Ananias & Sapphira – Be generous and loving to your church family, and don’t lie about it or make a show of it. Be ready to give all you have for the Kingdom.
Crisis #2: Imprisonment – keep introducing people to Jesus, telling the story of Jesus, no matter what people do or say to you. Be ready to give your life for the Kingdom.
Crisis #3: Food Distribution – Practice social justice to those in need, and raise up godly leaders to lead and serve the church. Be ready to serve for the Kingdom.
We covered a lot of ground. We’ve watched how the church handled crisis. They didn’t avoid it, but dealt with it. Through it all their focus was on Jesus. They were ready.
Christians, are we ready? Let’s be ready at a moment’s notice to part with our stuff, to give of our lives and our time, because the greater joy is found in seeing Jesus as our King, and serving his mission. I am so thankful that word is already out in our community that Faith Church is a loving church that seeks the good of the community: Good News Club, Summer Lunch Club, CVCCS, Trunk or Treat, Community Picnic, Serving those struggling with homelessness through Breakout’s City Gate outreach, Community dinners, and soon coming ESL classes. All awesome stuff that we actively support. Perhaps your church has a very similar community outreach. But let me ask you this? What if we took it to another level? What if word got out that we were selling off personal property, giving up vacations and hobbies, living very simply, so that we could help others in need? Imagine the impact!