"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. 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. 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 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’
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. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
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."
There is another thing that the Apostles swiftly lead the church to do in response to this danger of growth. They multiply ministers(3-6). What and who is a minister of the gospel? I wonder how you’d answer that. And what is the job of those who teach us the Bible?
We have a tendency in our evangelical churches to view the minister as the person paid by the church to do ministry. Except the Bible has a different take that challenges our misconceptions. It talks of every member ministry and of those who teach the bible equipping those listening for ministry in every day life and in actively serving one another. The ministry doesn’t happen exclusively in the pulpit, it happens afterwards as you talk to one another and care for one another, it happens as people give out refreshments, it happens in the preparations for and during shared lunches. It happens as we leave and go about everyday life and live and serve as church during the week equipped by what we have heard taught from God's word.
Here in Acts the Apostles means of growing both word and practical ministry is to multiply ministers. Not in terms of taking on paid staff, but in terms of recognising the gifting of others and giving them responsibility for practical mercy ministry which will flow from the Apostolic bible teaching. And notice who they pick, it isn’t just people who are very organised, but people who are “full of the Spirit and wisdom.” They must be godly characters who live life to please God. They commission those people and set them to work as practical ministers of the gospel.
We need to pause and ask what does that mean for us? Am I thinking of ministry rightly? Have I restricted it to the job of the paid staff? Do I think about Bible teaching equipping me and if so what is it equipping me for? Are there ways we can help our churches multiply ministry? Are there places where those who we set aside to teach God’s word can be freed up to do so better by others of us using our gifts to serve?
It is always enormously encouraging for those who teach the Bible to see people motivated and energised by the gospel using their gifts to practically serve one another; people painting, mowing, driving, visiting and cooking for others, people starting and maintaining mercy ministry. That practical service is a valuable expression of the grace of God, it is what the Bible taught is designed to equip us for.
This is especially vital as churches grow. As they grow they must think about multiplying both involvement and people to head up practical care, to oversee pastoral visiting, youth work and so on. So that practically we put the gospel we are being taught to work.