Summary: Exposition of Acts 6:1-7 specifically as it relates to the job descriptions of pastors and deacons
Text: Acts 6:1-7, Title: Table Servers and Bible Servers, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/23/07, PM
A. Opening illustration: select a few jokes from the Pastoral Search Committee thing
B. Background to passage: If you were here this morning you know the context of the growing church carrying out the mission of evangelism, and the problem of the widows being neglected. I felt like there was so much in this text related to church government that it really needed to be dealt with separately. So tonight I want to look at this text with relation to the church offices of Pastor/elder and deacon. Other passages and texts deal with their qualifications, but indicate little about their job descriptions. An interpretive issue is that the apostles are different from a pastor, and these seven men are never called deacons. Explain. Preface the comments made tonight with a few remarks about local church autonomy, congregational authority and accountability, as well as Christ’s headship. Also comment about the fact of good commentators disagreeing on the dogmatic points of church government. Affirm liberty and the right to be wrong. And confirm that my intention is to be as biblical as we can.
C. Main thought: In our text tonight, we will look at the job descriptions of pastors and deacons.
A. Bible Servers (v. 1-4, 6)
1. The text indicates that the apostles perceived the reality of the problem, but as mentioned this morning, they evaluated what the priorities were based on the amount of time that a pastor had in a week. And they decided that for pastor/elders, their duties were two-fold—praying and preaching. They did not indicate that the ministry of serving tables was unimportant, or even of lesser importance. In fact for ministry to continue both had to be accomplished. But as a calling, their primary duty was to spiritually feed the sheep and direct the flock. Preach and pray. And so they have a responsibility to preach the word, and to the authority to lead the flock. They are the ones that decided the priorities, summoned the congregation, instructed the congregation, and then ordained the seven deacons. By the way they were plural then, and they should still be plural now, as they are in almost every NT occurrence of the word elder, which is used over 35 times to speak of the office. These men acted as God’s representative for leadership within the congregation. Therefore they have a call to pray to seek God’s direction, and a call to lead with authority. These are not the full extent of a pastor/elder’s duties, just the main ones that our text indicates.
3. Illustration: Pastor, at home, to his wife: "When I told the board I spent one hour of study for every minute of my sermon, they voted to cut back my hours from forty to thirty!" A prophet once came to a city to convert its inhabitants. At first the people listened to his sermons, but they gradually drifted away until there was not a single soul to hear the prophet when he spoke. One day a traveler said to him, "Why do you go on preaching?" Said the prophet, "In the beginning I hoped to change these people. If I still shout, it is only to prevent them from changing me." On my first pastorate, I had requested $20 per month from the board to pay someone to mow the lawn and care for the flowers on the church’s property. "The former pastor did that himself," the oldest board member quickly pointed out. "I know," I replied, "But he doesn’t want to do it any more."
4. The expectation in our day sometimes does not line up with biblical expectation for pastors. Praying and preaching are their primary ministries. Churches should guard their preaching pastor’s time to pray and prepare for preaching. Church members should keep their expectations biblical about their pastor’s job. Churches should do whatever is necessary to provide the resources and flexibility for a pastor to prioritize that part of ministry. A quality pulpit ministry is essential to growing a church, making disciples, and advancing the kingdom. Interesting that a lot of investigation is done into a pastor’s preaching style and ability, but usually few questions are asked about his prayer life. But isn’t internal power from the Holy Spirit because one is close to God more important that one’s ability to communicate well? Another benefit of having a plurality of pastor/elders is that you can have agreement in prayer. Secondly, sufficient authority should be given for a pastor to lead. The congregation calls a man to fill the position of pastor/teacher/overseer (explain the biblical words and definitions for the office of pastor) and they should allow him the freedom to do so. We must remember that in matters of church operation a pure democracy is an American import, not a biblical directive. This is not to say that it is bad, just maybe a little overused. We must be careful about the traditions that we import, maintain, and hold dearly to.