I hated gym class when I was in school. While I enjoyed playing outdoor sports with my friends and brothers, gym classes filled my heart with dread. In high school I think the credit inequity proved to be a part of the problem – gym class awarded you ¼ -credit each year while an academic class gave a full credit. I made sure I had as few gym classes and study halls as possible. Why waste precious learning opportunities with play and homework time (duh … home provided the time for that!).
I think part of my dislike for gym class went back to grade school. Being generally taller than my classmates included a severe kinesthetic intelligence deficit (taking classes instead of gym at least gave me a decent vocabulary) – my body did not move very well. Paul must have seen people run like me when he said we should not run like one who beats at the air. When cool athletic types got to pick their teams, us air-beaters knew we would be standing on that red line until the very end. Captains would prefer an empty space on the ball field or the volleyball court than to encounter my elbows and knees on a critical play.
So much of life appears to classify humanity into two groups – the haves and the have nots. The ability to move one’s body provides only one example. Finances, musical ability, artistic eye, facility with words, divergent thinking, creativity, political awareness and so many other areas of life separate people into those two groups. What many of us knew as the IQ test represents an unfortunate example. The test does not measure practical intelligence needed in farming or pluming any more than it discerns the ability to recognize musical chords and meter. Fortunately the IQ test carries far less weight today than it did years ago. Too many people’s wisdom got overlooked or demeaned in the intelligence measuring process.
The church should be one place where the haves and have nots division gets exposed and destroyed. Acts 6 provides three examples of this act of godliness. While we do not know how much time elapsed between Acts 2 and 6, we do see some established behavior patterns emerging. Abiding in apostolic doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayers, wondrous signs, and shared possessions continued to be the norm. Unfortunately divisions in the surrounding world found mirror examples in the church. Greek speaking and Greek cultured Jewish Christian widows did not get the same level of care as the Hebrew cultured widows. Fortunately the Greek speaking community murmured against this sin. Fortunately the apostolic leaders recognize the righteousness of their grievance rather than holding on to the young church’s tradition (yes, every church quickly develops traditions). Fortunately the church developed a proactive way to address the worthy-of-care and not-worthy-of-care distinction.
The source of authority represents the second example of barrier deconstruction. The apostles refused to hoard power. The leaders called the church together to set the course at this critical juncture. The apostles would not directly provide the oversight of the expanding care ministry, but they would set some useful criteria for the process to follow. To control authority – something they would have seen regularly at the temple and government houses – would weaken their ability to fulfill their own leadership roles. The gathered “multitude of disciples” did the candidate screening based on the apostles’ proposed guidelines. The multitude selected seven worthy candidates. The apostles ordained the seven candidates for this new ministry. The seven deacons received the first church appointment after Pentecost.
The chapter demonstrates the wondrous work of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost said divisions of age, gender, and socio-economic class would finally disappear as controlling categories for the Spirit’s work. While we do not know about age, we do know class differences got obliterated in both those being served and those doing the serving. The Holy Spirit could be seen in wisdom, faith, wonders, and miracles throughout the chapter. The apostle group did not control the Spirit’s work. Now non-apostles began to exercise their spiritual gifts. Wonder followed! Church multiplication resulted! Abusive priests from the previous chapter began to obey the faith!
Overturning ungodly divisions within the body quickly moved into the church’s work in the world. Stephen’s spiritual wisdom and insight led him to the Greek speaking synagogues. Evidently this part of the Jewish community had few witnesses in the past even though they were present in the Acts 2 crowd. Now that divisions faded in the body, the division of worthy and unworthy mission fields crumbled. They would hear. They could not resist Stephen’s wisdom and faith. Naturally anger arose because the gospel always mandates “change[ing] the customs” which had stood for so long. The bread distributing demonstrates the indivisible relationship between care ministries and what we typically call evangelism outreach. In some ways the deacons took the point of the spear in fulfilling Acts 1:8 in this season of the church’s life.
Maybe I need even more “changing the customs” moments than I have had in the past.
I think I need to pray.
I need to both repent and rejoice. I really do not know which one to do first, but the joy is bubbling a little too strongly to be suppressed for later in the prayer. Thank You! You never make me or others stay on that red line of shame where we will be picked last. Thank You for including division busting in the out pouring of the Spirit. You force me to release the built-up reservoirs of shame that came from feeling worth-less than the cool, star players. You fill all of us, Your people, with the authority and power to do that which You send us to do. If I had the kinesthetic intelligence to do so, I think I would dance right now.
I repent of seeing myself and others as unworthy of care, spiritual wisdom, and strength. I repent of seeing some groups of people as problems for the gospel rather than opportunities for the Spirit to do a new work in new places. As I repent I need the Spirit’s work. Where can I spread the bread? How can I listen to the margins of the church and the world without hearing it as criticism? How can I better know my own place of spiritual authority so that I can better enable others to live out their spiritual gifting?
Finally, I intercede on behalf of others. Dear Lord, bless my brothers and sisters who occupy the red line of the Last Picked People (LPP). Help them to hear Your Words that say the LPP will be first and the first will be the LPP. Help them to feel Your Spirit empower them afresh to live according to Your purposes. Help the LPP value their ability to see the Never Picked People (NPP). Oh Lord! So many NPPs live in our cities, countryside, prisons, universities, Wall St., bridge shadows, Hollywood, and anonymity of subways. Oh Lord! Do You still have Stephens and Phillips who see NPPs and speak with authority and compassion? Our world needs them so! The world needs a multiplication of disciples and so many kinds of priests to become obedient to the faith.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.
In Jesus’ Name,
Thank you for walking with me through Acts 6. Perhaps the Spirit had nudged you off the LPP red line or opened your eyes to someone on that line. If you have served as an Acts 6 deacon and no one values your work, please know Jesus finds great joy in you. Accept the deaconate (servant) as a leadership role for this last day revival. We need the apostles. We also need people who can handle bread.
God bless … I really mean it, be blessed,
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