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The Church at Work


No matter how elaborate or beautiful a watch may be, if certain parts are missing or not working properly, the watch will never function the way it was designed. The church is similar, and today we see that although the number of believers was growing, problems persisted.

A complaint—a literal translation of the Greek word here is “muttering”— arose because one group was being neglected in the distribution of food to their widows. The problem was a lack of organization and administration within the community. Once aware, the Apostles quickly worked toward a solution. Notice, however, that what drives the solution was a sense of calling in the body of Christ. The Apostles understood their calling to be about leading the community in prayer and preaching the word, not “to wait on tables” (v. 2). This did not mean they looked down on the ministry of food distribution, but that they understood their own calling and realized they needed to leave certain functions to others to perform.

In turn, once the community chose seven men specifically called to serve in the important ministry of food distribution, the Apostles “laid their hands on them” (v. 6) authorizing them for this work. In other words, for the church to function well, all the necessary parts were needed—those to lead in the ministry of the word and those to lead in other ministries of service and administration. The result: grumbling and division disappeared, the word of God spread, and the community continued to grow.

Notice that one of the seven, Stephen, was called to preach in the synagogue. As an example of someone serving in accord with his calling, Stephen preached boldly, despite opposition, and carried out his ministry “full of God’s grace and power” (v. 8).

Apply the Word

The church cannot be led by pastors alone; the whole body of Christ is called to serve in a variety of ways. What service in the church might God be calling you to? This week, ask a leader in your church if certain tasks or roles need to be filled; then prayerfully consider whether God might be calling you to respond to that need.

BY Bryan Stewart

Bryan A. Stewart is associate professor of religion at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas. His particular interests are the history of Christian thought and the way that early Christians interpreted the biblical canon. He is the editor of a volume on the Gospel of John in The Church’s Bible series (Eerdmans), and he has done extensive research on the ways that the early Church preached on this Gospel. He is an ordained minister. 

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