Acts 6: The Importance of Delegation

Application

Being the pastor of a small church can be a challenge sometimes. Often, we are compelled to be a “jack of all trades,” even though we regularly feel like a “master of none.” Fortunately, in our church, we have a large number of people who are willing to step up and help out with just about anything that needs to get done, but I do know a number of pastors who feel compelled to do it all. So they call on shut-ins and the ill on Mondays and Tuesdays, teach Bible study Wednesday, repair the toilet on Thursday, mow the church lawn on Friday, clean the church on Saturday, organize board meetings, conduct Christmas and Easter cantatas, pick songs and Scripture passages for worship, create and print bulletins, preach on Sunday morning and again that night, and form the center of all the church’s ministries. (Again, this is not me. The congregation of Debra Heights is spectacular at working together to get things done.)

The placement of those last two items – preaching and ministry – was intentional.

It is so easy for pastors and other leaders to get so caught up in all the stuff that needs to get done around the church that we relegate the two things that we should be focusing on – expounding Scripture and meeting needs – to the very last of our priorities. It should come as no surprise, then, that we often find that our preaching and ministry endeavors are mediocre at best.

Acts 6 opens with a very similar situation. Confronted with the mandate to preach and minister with excellence and effectiveness and the logistical demands of a growing church, the apostles reached an impasse. Recognizing that the administration of the fellowship was interfering with their charge to lead, the apostles fought what I believe to be a powerful inclination of most people and decided not to rely on themselves to do it all, but to delegate. And I think that there are a couple of things we can see in who they chose, how they chose them, and what happened as a result.

First, let’s look at who they chose. Verses 5 and 6 give us the names of the specific candidates, but more important than their identities were their qualifications. In verse 3, when the apostles announced the plan, they called for “seven men… who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” In addition to these two qualities, I think we can add humility based on the fact that, of the seven men, only two are mentioned again in Scripture; these guys served well, but never saw any glitz, glamor, or even thanks again that we know of. (And one of the two that did reappear was dead by the end of chapter 7.) These three requirements for, essentially, a bunch of waiters. The fact that men who were to hand out food were expected to be full of (a) the Spirit and (b) wisdom to actually apply godly principles tells us that we can’t be content with just anyone and everyone who would get up. Even the most rudimentary of tasks and the simplest of servants in the church demands God’s involvement and must conform to God’s standards. And the implicit requirement of humility for the first seven leaders outside of the initial twelve demonstrates that, no matter who we are or what the task, we shouldn’t always expect a round of applause and a prize for our service. These are the people we should look for to delegate things to. And these are the people we should try to be like so that we’re ready to serve.

Consider, secondly, how they were chosen. Back in vs 3, the apostles actually said, “Brothers, [you] choose seven men from among you…” Now, obviously, not all things in the church can be democratic, but I believe that many things can and should be. Why? Because, while I might not see what goes on in a candidate’s life outside the church, others will. And while I might be fooled by some air of spirituality that a person puts on, others won’t be. In other words, when choosing people to delegate tasks to, we must consider the affirmation – or lack thereof – of the rest of the body of Christ.

And consider, finally, what happened as a result of this delegation. At the start of the chapter, we were seeing the first symptoms of a systemic problem which, if left unchecked, would have crippled the church. The truth is that most people who try to do it all end up doing very little with excellence or even, ultimately, adequacy. Some were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. In verse 7, though, the situation is dramatically different. From this point forward, no one complained about inequity in the distribution of food. And more importantly than that, the gospel message was spread, the fellowship “increased rapidly,” and even “a large number of priests” believed. This is even more significant when you recognize that by the end of chapter 5, the disciples “never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ,” but there was a striking lack of people being added to the fellowship. Clearly, the effectiveness of the first century church was dramatically increased by the apostles’ commitment to pray, preach, and minister, and their resolve to delegate all the rest.

In an age when everyone pays attention to the superstars among us, be they actors, athletes, politicians, etc., it’s easy to think that we, too, must be able to do it all. But the reality is that we weren’t designed that way, and neither was the church. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:12, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” In other words, the body of Christ – His church – has different people, each with different gifts, for a reason. We’re all supposed to be engaged according to our giftedness in the overall work of the church. So if you’re a leader or pastor, delegate. If you’re not, make sure you are qualified and available to serve.

Notes

  • (2-4) Delegation is essential to leading an effective church. God has gifted different people within the church with different gifts to accomplish different tasks.
  • (2-4) Notice that the apostles’ intention here was to “turn this responsibility over to them.” I.e., the men chosen would be completely responsible for overseeing the daily distribution of food. Ultimately, they were accountable to the apostles, but they had free reign and latitude within the bounds of their mandate. In other words, they were free to implement the distribution of food according to their own design and style. How many pastors would do well to learn this lesson? How many burn out prematurely because they busy themselves obsessing over tasks which could – and should – be delegated to others.
  • (5) Of the seven men to which the distribution of food was delegated, only two would reappear in Scripture. The other names may have been familiar to some, but their work would never garner the same attention. Ministry is about meeting the needs of others, not getting credit. We would do well to remember that!
  • (6) Even something simple like distributing food was treated as an essential and spiritual ministry such that the apostles prayed for and commissioned the men elected to oversee it. Never underestimate the significance of ministry.
  • (7) Because the apostles elected to delegate, the church demonstrated increased effectiveness. The gospel message reached new people in new areas. The fellowship was enlarged. And as the highlight of their effectiveness, even a number of priests – members of the Sanhedrin that had opposed them in chs 3 and 5 – believed.
  • (10-11) Just like atheists and others who can’t overcome the logical arguments for God and faith today, the members of this Synagogue of Freedmen resorted to false accusations and personal attacks.
  • (12-14) The accusations were blatantly false, but people are predisposed to embrace such things.
  • (15) It is interesting that Stephen’s face is transfigured here. It was a clear indication of his approval by God and the ridiculousness of the accusations. We must live our lives in such a way that, even when terrible accusations are leveled at us, people will see and know that they are untrue.
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