GROWN UP CHRISTIANS – How Do We Care for a Big Family
Acts 6:1-7 (p. 762) June 7, 2015
Have you ever thought... “Man, my life is crazy with all these kids!”
I know last week when I had just Peyton, my 7 year old grandson, Papaw was pretty busy with work, getting him to school, homework, meals...I look back and wonder why Kari didn’t kill me when we had 3 children under the age of 6...and then 5 years later added a 4th.
I was doing some research for this message called “How Do We Care for a Big Family” in this series called Grown Up Christians, so I typed in my search engine, “Largest Families Ever.” Here’s some of what I got:
1. THE VASSILYEV FAMILY (SHOW PIC)
The Vassilyev family holds the record for the most children a couple has parented. Mrs. Vassilyev has given birth to a total of 69 children, including 16 pairs of twins and 7 sets of triplets. 67 of the 69 children survived infancy.
2. THE CHANA FAMILY (SHOW PIC)
Ziona Chana lives in a 4 storey, 100 room house in Baktawng, India. He has the world’s biggest family with 30 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren. He admits to marrying 10 women in 1 year and is the head of a sect which permits polygamy.
3. THE DUGGAR FAMILY (SHOW PIC)
The world’s largest immediate family, and probably the most famous...Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have been married almost 30 years...and have been on a TV series since 2008...in 17 kids and counting, then 18 kids and counting, now 19 kids and counting. In 2011 Michelle suffered a tragic miscarraiage while carrying their 20th child. Michelle is 47, Jim Bob is 48...their children range from age 4 to 25...there are 9 girls and 10 boys...I like Jim Bob’s quote: “We are by far outnumbered!”
I was watching the news the other day and the Schwandt family from Michigan had just welcomed their 13th boy...the newscaster asked if they wanted another one (she’d just had her 13th!) and if they’d like it to be a girl...Jay, the dad said, “Well every father wants a princess...but Kateri, the mom said, “No, I’ve got this boy thing down pat!” (lol)
When asked how they dealt with the requirements of a big family...all of them gave the same answer...everyone has to pull their weight...The older kids help with the younger. They do a lot of the driving and homework.”
And I thought...no wonder God made His church a family...No wonder we call Him “our Father who art in heaven.” No wonder scripture continually addresses its words to “Brothers and Sisters in Christ.”
If we are going to be Grown Up Christians then we’d better start thinking as the family of God instead of people who “Go to Church.”
And ministry takes place when “everyone starts pulling their weight.”
God never designed His church for “clergy” to care for the needs of “lay” people. He created a family so each member cares for the body.
Paul writes the Galatians for just this reason, to instruct them on how the family of God takes care of struggling people and hurting people.
GALATIANS 6:2-5 (p. 813)
Burdens are lighter if others help tote the load, humility is essential because pride has to be killed to accept help and give it...all of us are different...not better or worse, different. And if you don’t do your part...no one else can do it for you.
In Acts 6 the Church is in its infancy and so are many of its individual members. But Jesus, His resurrection and the Holy Spirit’s influence are the motivation to transform each believer...but there is a clear truth.
I. AS FAMILIES GROW SO DO THEIR NEEDS
If you look at the verses that precede our text Peter and John have just been beaten for speaking in the name of Jesus...but they leave rejoicing. (WOW) REJOICING! That they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name (Jesus’ name). And it spurred them on. Day after day, in the temple courts and from neighbor to neighbor they never stopped teaching or preaching the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.
And instead of this putting a stop to people coming to Christ... “Verse 1 in chapter 6 says, “the number of disciples was increasing.” Scripture tells us in another place “Daily.” (Acts 2:4)
The reason: “This body of believers...these disciples were convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead, the Holy Spirit was powerfully moving...and they were focused on others...even when they were flogged, beaten for sharing the truth.
But as families increase in number so do their needs.
The Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews...that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
There were Greek speaking Jews and Hebrew speaking Jews and the Greek speaking Jews felt they were being discriminated against, and their widows being ignored.
We don’t know if it’s true...or to what degree, but these folks thought it was...so they complained to the Apostles.
Folks, the Church would always be a harmonious, peaceful, loving family if it weren’t for one thing...and that one thing is...Anyone??? PEOPLE.
If you put three people in a room one will think it’s too hot, one will think it’s too cold, and one will think it’s just right.
There were hundreds of followers before Pentecost, at least 3,000 were baptized and added to the Church on that day...the best guess is there are 5,000-6,000 or more believers now...Acts 6:7 says, “The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly...and a large number of priests (from the Jewish temple and synagogues) became obedient to the faith.”
Greek speaking disciples, Hebrew speaking disciples, young couples, older couples, single people, widows and widowers, mature disciples, and infants in Christ and others at all stages in between.
The New Testament never leaves out the struggles...it paints the picture of God’s people, warts and all. People with all kinds of needs...even including food... What did people do? Acts 2:45 says “They sold property and possessions to give to any who had need.”
Lots of needs...not taken care of by the Apostles...but by each other.
When the complaint came to the Apostles they didn’t stop the preparing of others through prayer and the Word of God to immediately placate a disgruntled group...they did what God planned...they taught them to love one another...to be a family.
II. HEALTHY FAMILIES EMPOWER THEIR MEMBERS FOR THE RIGHT JOBS
I’m not sure if anyone in this Jerusalem family ever said, “The Apostles must not care about widows because they didn’t come serve us food.” But it’s sure possible.
The Apostles...the leaders of the Jerusalem Christian Church had a clear understanding of their job. “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the Word of God in order to wait tables.” (Acts 6:2)
Healthy Church families have leaders who understand their calling, but also are able to empower others to serve in theirs... “God, according to Ephesians 4 gave leaders to the body of Christ so that others can be equipped to serve.”
Maybe our modern churches would be a lot healthier if we understood our job isn’t to dispense Biblical knowledge...our job is to share God’s truth to those who understand they’re in training...they are being made ready to serve the needs of others. Understanding and implementing this truth will make pew sitters and self focused attenders uncomfortable...but it’s what revives a lack luster, meet my needs “unscriptural Christianity.”
So the twelve gathered all the disciples together...they had already prayerfully made a decision about the focus of their ministry and they say,
“Brothers and sisters choose 7 men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and we’ll give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word.”
Most believe these are the first deacons “Deaconos.” It simply means servants...and 3 things jump out at me that we can apply today.
First, they are chosen from “among” the people. That word “among” eliminates those who are unwilling to share their lives with other disciples. The family bond extended way beyond worship on the Lord’s day into the struggles and needs of daily life....Koinonia... “The fellowship” was a bond that had them sharing life daily...among each other. Effective ministry servants aren’t bosses...who are absent until decisions are made...they are co-workers in the trenches with you. That’s the kind of disciples that Stephen, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas were.
And Secondly, the Apostles could let go of responsibilities to others... “They empowered” other people to do the job. If you ask someone to do a job but don’t give them the freedom to do it...it’s not empowering...it’s draining.
Here’s an important truth of leadership...5+4=9. So does 6+3. Both arrive at the same place but not in the same way. Just because it’s not done in the way you would do it doesn’t mean it’s wrong. And boy will a church be stunted if you and I cannot turn responsibilities over to Spirit filled men and women and trust them to do their jobs.
Finally, being spirit filled and full of wisdom are the first qualities of true servants. It’s so easy to allow the world’s definition and qualities of leadership to invade the church.
Jesus told us that definition in Matthew 20: “The rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them and their High officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great AMONG (there’s that word again) you must be your servant.” (v. 25-26)
Worldly leaders make decisions and expect them to be followed...or there are consequences.
Godly leaders become servants among His family. They don’t order people to “Go.” They say, “Let’s go together.” And the Holy Spirit is providing wisdom for the direction and purpose of their journey.
When these 7 godly servants were put forth before the entire group... “it pleased everyone.” Maybe one of the great miracles of the Church.
I believe Satan’s goal in America is to make churches an afterthought...or Christianity insignificant in our daily lives.
Instead of Jesus Christ being our all in all, our Lord and King. He tempts each of us with other involvements and successes. “After all...God will understand...if I don’t worship Him on Sundays, Jesus will be OK if I show my kids more enthusiasm for a ballgame than His resurrection.”
Instead of seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness we keep dropping it farther and farther down the list. Justifying it with “At least it’s still on the list.”
And Satan creates hectic, busy lives that don’t allow us to be “among each other.” Sharing life becomes a burden covered in guilt instead of a joyful fellowship. Church becomes a place we go instead of a people who are family. With our Father who art in heaven.”
It’s a crazy cycle and getting off it gets harder and harder.
My answer is to do what you’d do if you were in debt financially. Do a time budget. Ruthlessly eliminate the excess spending of time and prioritize. Write it down. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give wisdom and courage. Seek the kingdom of God first...and allow Him to reveal how you can be among people in your life...and serving instead of being served.