Summary: The early church’s response to an internal problem teaches the contemporary church some valuable lessons.
* The dramatic growth of the early church: last count (4:4) around 5,000 men (probably around 20,000 total)
* Such growth led to a “good” problem: many more needed to be ministered to than there were people to minister
* The 12 did not have the ability to both effectively deliver the Word and minister to all the needs in the congregation
* Text: the church’s response to the problem reminds the church today of some valuable lessons
1. Focus is to be turned inward after it has been turned outward
* Difference between inward focus (us/those within the church) and outward focus (them/those outside the church)
* Focus up to this point in the book has been outward
- Their task started with those without Christ and the challenge they were given to reach out (1:1-11)
- They got organized and fulfilled Scripture in order to reach out as effectively as possible (1:12-26)
- The Holy Spirit arrives to empower them to reach out (2:1-41)
- They experience dynamic fellowship with each other so that they would be on the same page and reach out (2:42-27)
- Reaching out commences in earnest (chapters 3-5)
* THEN, after focusing on reaching others lost in sin, they reach inward
* They were fulfilling their primary mission...then they could look inward
* Churches often reverse the process today and look outward only after they are satisfied with how they’ve looked inward (problem: inward satisfaction is rarely achieved)
* Early church reminds us that our first priority is to get the gospel to those who have yet to accept it...then to find a balance of focus
* The church has no business looking inward if it has not yet attempted to look outward
* If the balance does not occur...
- Failure to have an outward focus = lost are not reached and we are held accountable
- Failure to have an inward focus = needs go unmet and we fail to be a true family of faith
2. Satan will use an unbalanced focus to divide the church (v. 1)
* Something deeper was at work than just unmet needs: Satan hoped to use this problem to divide the church
* Satan knew (and still knows) that division brings disaster = Mark 3:25
* The reality is that at times our focus will become unbalanced. However, we can keep division from occurring when our focus is unbalanced by following a few biblical principles...
A. Stay away from divisive people (Rom. 16:17-18)
B. Treat everyone in the church equally (1 Cor. 12:21-25)
C. Stay united on the mission of God (John 20:21)
D. Give priority to Christ above all others (1 Cor. 1:10-13)
3. The practical priority of church leadership is the Word of God (v. 2-4)
* The 12 are not saying that “waiting on tables” isn’t important or that its beneath them
* The 12 are saying that “the ministry of the Word of God” was their most important task as leaders in the church
* By neglecting the ministry of the Word of God, the congregation is doomed to spiritual infancy
* Paul’s philosophy of the pastor’s task = 1 Cor. 9:16
4. Service to others must be done by those who are spiritual (v. 3-6)
* Similar situation faces the church today that was present in the church in Acts: the body of Christ is called to minister to each other
- Gal. 5:13
- Gal. 6:10
* Not just “anyone” is given the privilege of serving the body of Christ. The early church’s example reveals that those who were spiritual were selected as servants of Christ.
* Qualities that we should seek to have as a spiritual servant...
A. Commitment (v. 3) = “from among you”
B. Spirit-filled (v. 3): to serve in the Spirit; to do things that coincide with the Spirit
C. Wisdom (v. 3): to know how to best meet needs that are present
5. When the church functions properly, great things happen (v. 7)
* Things went from great to greater...
A. God’s Word permeated the area
B. The number of disciples increased
C. The religious let go of rituals and clung to their relationship with God
* This was a direct result of the church functioning as it should!
- The Word increased because people saw the church learning it and living it.
- The disciples increased because they saw other disciples fulfilling their calling
- Relationships trumped religion and rituals because authentic service and ministry were taking place