Summary: The early church was comfortable with innovating and changing its methodology; even today, Biblically grounded churches have freedom to adjust to the times as long as the truth of Scripture is not sacrificed in the process. Our text provides us with a mo
Flexing to Adjust to What Is
1. This was in Friday’s news:
LAGOS (Reuters) – A father took his 20-year old son to an Islamic court in northern Nigeria for idleness, asking that he be sent to prison for refusing to engage in productive activities, state news agency NAN said Friday.
"He is not listening to words and he is bringing shame to my family. I am tired of his nefarious deeds. Please put this boy in prison so that I can be free," Sama’ila Tahir, a market trader in the northeastern town of Bauchi, was quoted as saying.
Tahir told the court that his son had refused to go to school and accused him of belonging to a criminal gang.
The court sentenced the son to six months in prison and 30 strokes of the cane -- which were immediately administered on the premises -- for being disobedient to his parents, NAN said.
2. The Kingdom of God does not quite work this way. We cannot force people to serve, for it is the ministry of the Spirit to make people willing.
3. But sometimes willing people wait in the wings because churches are not organized enough to use them. The need is there, the solution is there, but no one connects the solution to the need because connecting takes change and innovation.
Main Idea: The early church was comfortable with innovating and changing its methodology; even today, Biblically grounded churches have freedom to adjust to the times as long as the truth of Scripture is not sacrificed in the process.
TS ----- > Our text provides us with a model as to how the early church addressed changing situations.
I. Changing Circumstances Create PROBLEMS (1)
The idea of charity and giving to the responsibly needy without receiving in return comes to us from Judaism, and the church was very much this way; Roman and Greek cultures valued giving only with strings attached -- reciprocation, "owing a favor"
The setting: The church had grown to several thousand people; in that number were widows; a certain percentage of widows had no family in the area to care for them, so the church organized to feed them. How many? Perhaps 50 would be a good guess?
In I Timothy 5, Paul makes a big distinction of responsibility the church has toward widows who have family in the area who are helping them and widows who have no one to depend upon.
In our society, we are so afraid of "discrimination" that we often put people in the same category: a widow is a widow. As a result, the truly destitute widows receive less attention than they should while the widows with family receive more than they need. These widows were of the destitute category.
But there is a form of discrimination that is not based upon circumstances, but upon cultural background. The Grecian or Hellenistic Jews were the Jews whose native language was Greek. Many of them were Jews of the Dispersion who had been raised outside of Israel in places like Iraq, Iran, Italy, and Greece.
These widows may have moved to Israel with their husbands, because many Jews wanted to die in the holy land. Their husbands died first, and they were left widows. Most of them would have had enough wealth to get by, but some did not. Or perhaps they lived longer than anticipated.
The Hebraic Jews were from the Israel and probably spoke middle Hebrew, a Hebrew that incorporated some Aramaic phrases and words. This group was culturally related to the Apostles, who were all Hebraic Jews.
The Apostles had a lot on their plate, but they probably saw to it that "meals on wheels" were delivered to these widows in a piece-meal fashion. This was really not their realm, but leaders often end up doing odds and ends that fall between the cracks, and they usually don’t do them very well. As a result, the Hebrew widows probably knew the apostles and their families, while the widows who did not have roots in Israel did not. There was no intentional slight, but you are more likely to note the needs of those you know in contrast to those you do not.
A. The church needed better ORGANIZATION
1. The balance between freedom and organization is subjective. The more organization, the less freedom
2. Some people are spooked by organization, some by freedom
3. But sometimes the need for more organization is obvious; it is time.
B. Being overlooked does not mean being SLIGHTED
1. People tend to emotionalize what happens or does not happen
2. Being overlooked may feel like, "nobody cares," but it is often the result of people being busy or absorbed elsewhere…
3. All of us want to be somebody, and we are deathly afraid of being nobody… and conflict comes when we feel like others view us as nobodies…