Summary: As we align ourselves to the BIBLICAL model of church leadership, we can expect God to provide the GROWTH.
This morning we come back to our series through the book of Acts. We arrive at chapter six. One of the things that Luke, the inspired author of the book of Acts, has done is to comment regularly on the explosive growth that was happening in the early church.
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:47
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. Acts 4:4
And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women. Acts 5:14
Then he begins chapter 6 with these words:
1Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number… Acts 6:1a
Here’s what’s interesting about that brief description: In all the previous descriptions of growth he says the Lord was ADDING people to their number. But here in chapter 6 he uses a different word to describe the rate of growth. The word here means “multiplied.” In fact, the exact same word is used in verse 7, and it’s actually translated as “multiplied.”
The church has gone from addition to multiplication. It has gone from 1st grade math to 3rd grade math. The church is multiplying and it is experiencing incredible rapid growth. It is estimated that the church at this time is at least 20,000 members. This is incredible and it is huge church. And God is working supernaturally among them.
The fact is, God wants his church to grow. Whether you have a small church or a large church, God wants that church to grow. Jesus said, “Upon this rock, I will build my church.” God wants his church to reach those around us with the gospel. Some may say, “well I just want the church to stay the same size it is, because I know everybody.” That’s fine if you have that opinion, but that opinion is contrary to God’s design for His church. His design for His church (remember, it’s not our church, though we feel it is) is for His church to experience multiplied growth.
Now what follows this tremendous, explosive, multiplied growth is this: growing pains. Just like when human bodies grow, they experience growing pains – so too does a local church.
Let’s read verses 1-7 of chapter 6 and then I will briefly discuss the solution the apostles put in place to deal with the growing pains they were experiencing. 1Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve (DIAKANEO) tables. 3Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
When I read those verses and see that there were actual problems in the first church, that actually encourages me. Do you know why? Because some times when you read the book of Acts and see God working in such incredible ways, the impression is, "wow, we could never be like that." But when you see the New Testament church with the best Pastoral staff ever assembled. You do know who is leading this church right, the 12 Apostles. These guys were trained by Jesus Himself. You can’t get better seminary training than that.
The Holy Spirit is moving and working and miracles happening almost every day. The church was growing. And yet even in this super church they had problems. That encourages me. Because it doesn’t matter what church you are in, every church is going to have some problems. As long as there are people in the church, there is going to be some problems.
And the way the leaders of the church chose to deal with this particular problem was to spread the responsibility of leadership among a group of men that would serve as the prototype of the office of deacon in the local church. As we consider this text this morning there are four aspects I want to point out that we see in this episode of the ongoing saga of the church on mission. First of all I want you to notice…