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Acts 6:1-7            July 9, 2000


Scripture: Exodus 18:13-23, page 115, pew Bible


Have you ever encountered poor administration?

I know --- somebody out there is saying, "Funny you should ask that. Why, where I work, they never even heard there was a need for proper administration."

Just so we are all on the same page, let's define just what administration is.

Administration is the process of managing, governing, conducting, or directing the affairs of an organization.

It can be done well. It's one of those things that when it is done well, we know it.

Or it can be done poorly. And poor administration is as obvious as a sore thumb.

You've been there ---

Problems that occur aren't handled well. They are not solved. They are perpetuated and even become magnified.

The issues and activities that are truly important to the organization seem destined to die on the vine.

There is little utilization of grass roots wisdom from the common man or woman.

It seems like all the wrong people are promoted to important positions.

And even when some capable person gets a chance, they are not given the enablement to really accomplish anything significant.

And you become discouraged because everything seems so useless.

You wonder if, when tomorrow comes, the organization will still be there.

You put in your time and go home only to face another day of the same self-inflicted blindness by the people at the top.

And that is where administration has to start, isn't it – at the top?

Administration is really what makes or breaks an organization.

It boils down to wise and prudent decisions for the good of the organization and all those persons connected with it.

The quality of administration is extremely evident in places like manufacturing plants, department stores, schools, hospitals, and even churches.

And believe it or not, even families fit in here.

It is important in the place where you live and work and go to school and worship.

          The quality of administration is especially important in fast growing organizations in order to keep up with the continuing change of pace.

Indeed, a fast growing organization is probably growing fast because of good administration.

And this brings us to our passage this morning in Acts 6:1-7.

Through the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit, and the obedience of the apostles and disciples, the fledgling church is growing by leaps and bounds.

Many are clamoring to obtain the spiritual freedom that faith in Christ gives them.

But this phenomenal growth brings the challenge of administration with it.

And that is the subject of this message.

This is the first instance in the church of the need for administration.

And what prompts this need for administration? - A problem has arisen.

What can we learn from how the apostles handle it? - Much.

We can take another look at what the term administration means as the apostles apply this concept to the church

If their primary task is to minister to the church, we could say that to administer the church is to add to their ministry – ad-ministry.

And ministry is the process of nurturing and caring.

There is a limit to how much just a few people can do.

Others must be added to insure success.

The whole concept of the church is to nurture and care for one another, even though there must be headship.

Proper administration must flow from the headship.

Indeed, there are those with the spiritual gift of administration or governing (1Cor. 12:28).

Those who are gifted must insure that it happens.

We can learn much from the apostles about how to administer the church.

They set a model for us. The Holy Spirit indwells them and has gifted them.

And they learned from the Master - Jesus.

But the principles we learn in the Bible are not only to be applied in the religious setting.

They have wisdom for all walks of life.

Indeed, 1Peter 4:10 tells us that, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms."

Let us see what we can learn about effective administration in how the apostles handle a problem that arises in the church.

And let us seek to apply these principles in our own lives, families, and organizational involvements where we can.

Big Question:

What must we learn from the apostles about the effective administration of the growing church of our Lord Jesus Christ?

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (v. 1)

We don't know just how long a time has elapsed here since the apostles had appeared before the Sanhedrin and were let go with a flogging and a warning not to continue preaching the name of Jesus.

But 5:42 says they never stopped and 6:1 says the number of disciples continued to increase.

The idea is that the church is growing because of the obedience of the apostles and disciples to the H.S.

But even in the midst of obedience, problems can develop.

It is a symptom of our fallen humanity, even in the church, even with the presence of the H.S.

Certain problems happen just because of human pressure, growth, and change.

Here we must understand that these Grecian Jews are those who have resettled in Jerusalem as opposed to the natives of Jewish Palestine.

It was considered virtuous to be buried in the land of Israel.

Many foreign Jews would come to spend their last days there, then die and leave widows.

So a disproportionate number of foreign Jewish widows lived in Jerusalem.

And this urban social problem spilled over into the church.

And the Bible mandates caring for widows who had no other means of support if they had no family nearby.

Both Judaism and the church took this responsibility seriously in contrast to Gentile cultures.

But the way the problem developed in the church was that this disproportionate number of Greek Jewish widows were being given second place to the Hebrew Jewish widows.

They were being discounted by the native power structure.

So here is a problem that threatened to poison the church.

Inequality was not right according to Christ's teaching.

If this problem were not to be handled, the whole enterprise of the church and its witness would be threatened.

What began as a new culture of grace through faith in Christ would give way to a 'culture of complaint'.

Then the church is no longer the church.

Those of us who have been around awhile in several different churches can attest to it.

Once a culture of complaint starts, it is hard to stop.

Sometimes the only thing that will stop it is the death of the church.

The only other thing that can stop it is extremely wise and prudent leadership and administration.

What is a culture of complaint?

It is when all the wrong things that people notice, and manufacture, are placed in the foreground of every conversation rather than the good things that can be found.

It is when people expect the problems to outweigh the solutions because they have become used to poor administration.

But much better to handle the problems equitably before they get out of hand.

They are inevitable. We can count on them. We must be prepared for them and not be surprised by them.

But Christ is the Lord of his church and the H.S. he gives us is our primary resource of wisdom and strength to handle whatever comes.

          B.      Implication

Handle problems. We must not ignore the inevitable difficulties that will arise. We must be aware of them, understand them, and handle them.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (v. 2)

The 12 apostles are especially anointed with the power of the H.S. and with the gift of administration.

They, like Jethro's advice to Moses, are about to utilize their wisdom.

They know what the priorities are for the church.

Those priorities are the ministry of the Word of God and (in v.3) attention to prayer.

They know that they cannot do everything alone.

They know that if they tried to do everything alone, the church would get off track regarding what is truly important.

Now, this is not to say that meeting the needs of the widows is not important.

That is a ministry of the church but not the primary focus.

If meeting the needs of the widows were what the apostles were supposed to do, then the preaching of the Word and prayer would not be seriously attended to and the church would die out from a lack of growth.

The apostles use their headship and turn this problem with the body over to the body.

And here we get the first mention of the idea of an office of deacon, meaning 'one who serves or ministers'.

This precedent was established by the Lord through Moses who had the people appoint leaders over them in the enablement of his administration and leadership (Deut. 1:13).

But the apostles had the wisdom to keep the main thing the main thing.

It is the preaching of the Word and prayer that will fill the ranks of the redeemed and usher in the kingdom of our Christ and his church.

But this cannot happen without the wisdom of administration.

          B.      Implication

Keep vision. We must not ignore the over-riding priorities that must prevail. We must be aware of them and understand them.

          C.      Illustration

One a warm spring evening in may 1998, Christopher Sercy, a 15-year-old African-American boy, was playing basketball with a few friends half a block from Ravenswood Hospital. Three teenage Latino gang members looking for a black target approached and shot young Sercy in the abdomen. His frantic friends carried him to within 30 feet of the hospital and ran inside for help. The emergency room personnel refused to go outside to assist the dying boy citing a policy that only allows them to help those who are inside the hospital. The boys called for nearby police to attend their wounded friend. When the officers arrived on the scene they proceeded to call for an ambulance, but refused to carry the boy inside. While passersby pled with the officers to get the boy into the hospital, he lay in a pool of blood unconscious. When, after several minutes, the ambulance had not yet arrived, the police gave in and carried Sercy into the emergency room. By then, nothing could be done to save his life. By holding to standard operating procedures, the whole purpose and vision of being a hospital had woefully fallen. Initially, the hospital administration vehemently defended their ER's lack of involvement. Only after a barrage of community outrage did Ravenswood Hospital reverse its policy of treating only those inside its doors.

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 3-4)

Sometimes it takes a lot of faith to let go of the reins.

In the case of the church, we have to believe that the H.S. resides in other people besides us.

The apostles let the body of Christ choose who they believe are those filled with the H.S. and able to wisely assume responsibility for the resolution of this problem – as well as whatever else may come along.

And we can be certain that this issue of food distribution was not the only problem these first deacons would ever be concerned with in this ad-ministry alongside the apostles.

This is elder-led congregational church government at its finest.

Leadership is necessary, but leadership must necessarily trust and enable the effectiveness of common wisdom.

Especially in the church, we must be able to assume that the H.S. is active in all true believers.

Whereas one person may be misled by their sin nature, we can trust the wisdom of the many in whom the Spirit is operative.

Here it will be evident that the body of Christ chooses wisely.

Even in our own elder body of three we find wisdom in our mutual accountability together rather than apart.

The administration of the church must be applied as a function of the entire body of Christ.

Even though actual and potential problems must be recognized by the head, it is the working of the entire body that is necessary to heal them.

We must believe in the working of the body and actively delegate.

We must trust the presence and the work of the H.S. in others.

          B.      Implication

Utilize others. We must have confidence in the Holy Spirit wisdom of the church body.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

          A.      Narrative (v. 5)

These 'Seven' were the first appointed officials in the church besides the apostles.

These were the first deacons, meaning 'to wait on, serve, or minister'.

Notice that all of the names are Greek.

The wisdom of the body of Christ decided to recommend an all Grecian Jewish body of men to be appointed church officials to handle the Greek-Hebrew Jewish problem in the church; and this with the Greeks being in the minority power.

The entire issue is handed over to the offended minority.

This is the first recorded instance of 'affirmative action'.

This would be like a large white American church with a small African-American attendance to complain that they were being overlooked in their greater need.

And so the white power structure in the church would then decide to appoint an all-black body of officials to oversee the resolution of the problem.

It is not too often we see this kind of power yielded, even in the church.

It takes a certain kind of trust in God to trust Holy Spirit power in others rather than yourself.

Now, all but two of these men we never hear of again.

The next message in this series will focus upon one of them – Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.

He is one of my very favorite champions in the Bible.

Just thinking about him brings tears to my eyes and swells up the presence of the Holy Spirit in my heart and soul.

If it can be said of him that he was powerfully indwelt by the H.S., then we can also assume that the rest were also men of H.S. power.

The body of Christ had made powerful choices.

The apostles had no corner on the Spirit.

In fact, Stephen's message in the following chapter rivals the preaching of Peter.

And we also hear about Philip again.

          Chapter 8 speaks of his evangelistic zeal in bringing the gospel to Samaria and his miraculous signs of healing and deliverance.

He was the one who converted Simon the Sorcerer and the Ethiopian eunuch.

He later settled in Caesarea and had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

We hear about this in chapter 21 because Paul stayed at his house on the way to his arrest in Jerusalem.

          B.      Implication

Recognize excellence. We must discern and make special use of those who are gifted and responsive to the Holy Spirit, giving special recognition where the need is greatest. Excellence may come from those where we least expect it if we trust God for it.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

          A.      Narrative (v. 6)

It is the body of Christ who has chosen these men, and they now present them to the apostles for affirmation.

In a sense, what we see here is a service of ordination or setting apart for the task of being deacons.

The action the apostles take shows that they considered this office of social ministry quite important.

They delegated it to others but they were not disinterested.

They realized full well that they were at the head of the church, and that for these men to have any real authority, they would have to give it to them.

In full view of everyone, they consecrate these men to this important task.

How often have we observed ineffective delegation because there was no real power or authority conferred?

The apostles were laying their hands on these men and sharing with them the gift of administration.

          B.      Implication

Enable excellence. We must consecrate and enable those whom the Holy Spirit reveals.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application

VI.    Cycle Six

          A.      Narrative (v. 7)

So far in Acts, Luke has taken us point by point and case by case to show us the growth of the church in the power of the Spirit.

What we see in this passage is further obedience to the Spirit.

The Spirit is being trusted to work through others.

And the continuing results are stupendous.

The word of God continues to spread and the number of disciples continue to increase - rapidly.

Good administration presents a good image of the truth behind it.

We have seen people flock to the church because they have seen the Spirit's power, because they have seen the obedience of the disciples, and now because they see the effectiveness of organization.

And if anyone would notice this it would be the priests of Judaism who themselves have struggled with the administration of God's people and would know excellence when they see it.

And many of them become obedient to the faith.

When we do things right, we can expect results.

          B.      Implication

Reap reward. We must prepare to reap the harvest that comes from Holy Spirit dependence and enablement.

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application


Big Answer:

What must we learn from the apostles about the effective administration of the growing church of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Handle problems. We must not ignore the inevitable difficulties that will arise.

Keep vision. We must not ignore the over-riding priorities that must prevail.

Utilize others. We must have confidence in the Holy Spirit wisdom of the church body.

Recognize excellence. We must discern and make special use of those who are gifted and responsive to the Holy Spirit.

Enable excellence. We must consecrate and enable those whom the Holy Spirit reveals.

Reap reward. We must prepare to reap the harvest that comes from Holy Spirit dependence and enablement.

Jesus' model of administration – the use and application of these principles.

The use and application of these principles in raising our children.

The place of the church in helping parents raise children.

Timeless Truth:

Administration is ad-ministry; it is the process of ministry effectiveness and multiplication.

Proper administration may start at the top, but it must not stay there.

Proper administration means working together to achieve results – whether it be on your job, in your home, or in our church.

And in our context today with the dedication of these children, we can say that it means the church and the family working together for the salvation and future ministry of our children.

We just had a great victory in this during our very successful week of Vacation Bible School.

Let's have everyone who participated in VBS stand up.

All this is the challenge this message has for us – that we should keep working together in the power of the H.S. to achieve the results that God intends for us all.

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