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Sermon Acts 16 9-15

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Dear Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

In the book of Exodus we read the amazing story of how God rescued his people from the Egyptians.  The Lord God worked awesome miracles and demonstrated his power by bringing his people up out of the land of slavery.   It is an incredible story – when Jethro hears the story in full, he is delighted.

But now that they are out of Egypt, what now?  They have the Lord with them –there is no doubt.  Everyone can see the pillar of cloud during the day and the pillar of fire by night.  The Lord is with his people.

But still, they are disorganized.  In a nation of 600 000 men (twice the population of St. Catharines), Moses is the only leader.  He is the one everyone goes to as a judge.  A bottleneck like that creates a backlog, just like in the Canadian justice system.  Moses’ court was getting clogged by all the cases he had to hear.  He was too busy to do justice to everyone.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law sees the problem.  So, he suggests a solution.  Subject to God’s approval, he suggests that Moses finds capable men from all the people to serve as judges and officials – people to share the leadership, to share the load so Moses isn’t overburdened.

It is amazing to note that something very similar happens in the New Testament.  The Lord rescued his people from slavery to sin, through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  The NT people of God grew in number, led by the 12 apostles.  But as the church grew, they couldn’t keep up with all the duties.  In Acts 6 we can read how disputes arose regarding the distribution of food. 

So, when they gathered for a congregational meeting, Peter said that it wouldn’t be right for the apostles to neglect prayer and the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.  So they choose 7 men from among the people who were known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.  These men served as deacons within the early church.

In Trinity CRC, we have a regular rotation of leadership.  The responsibilities of leading are shared with the elders, pastor, deacons, and leaders of various ministries.  This spring 2 elders and 2 deacons will step down from office and be replaced with other leaders from among the people in our congregation.

At our Council meeting this week we received many suggestions in letters from the congregation about who could serve as elders and deacons.  Your input is much appreciated.  Thank-you for prayerfully giving your suggestions I don’t think we’ve ever had so many suggestions.

·        Next Sunday we’ll publish the nominations, after the elders have talked with each of the nominees

·        the congregation will confirm those nominations by ballot on May 27th and we plan to draw lots on June 3rd

What characteristics are we looking for in a leader in our congregation?  We read from the Belgic Confession, in which we confess what the Bible teaches about leadership in the church.  Guido de Brés, the author of the Belgic Confession points our attention to Paul’s instructions to Timothy in I Timothy 3, for choosing elders and deacons within the Christian church.

I’ve preached from I Timothy 3 one year as we followed the selection process.  Usually we read the description of qualities for the offices in I Timothy or Titus in our devotions as a Council as we go through the nomination process.  But this year, I thought we could look a little further back in the history of God’s people for the qualities for leadership in the Kingdom.

Now Jethro says the leaders ought to come “from all the people.”  The leaders must come from among the covenant people of God.  These are people who know and have experienced the way God rescues them from slavery.  In order to qualify as leaders, they must have seen the mighty powers of God firsthand. 

When the early church selects a church member to take Judas’ place, the apostles also specify that they should choose:

One of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.[1]

In order to serve as a leader among God’s people, you need to be a member of the covenant people of God, with the ability to take delight and bear witness to how God has rescued his people.

We are looking for capable people – those who have wisdom and God’s Spirit to give leadership. According to the Concise Oxford dictionary, to be capable means “having the ability or quality necessary to do something; to be competent.” 

It is hard to describe exactly what makes a person capable, except that you recognize they have the ability to fulfill the responsibilities.

Men who fear God – looking for those who recognize both God’s immense power and tender love.  People who appreciate God’s majesty and authority – they have an appropriate awe and respect for their Creator and Redeemer.

Trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain – in the book of Judges, telling the history of God’s people when they first conquered the land of Canaan, the dreadful refrain arises repeatedly that the people did whatever was seemed good in their own eyes.

In the book of I Samuel, we read how first the sons of Eli the priest and then the sons of the prophet Samuel are rejected by the Lord as leaders in Israel because they abused the authority they had as leaders in Israel.  They enjoyed bribes and demanded more than the required amount for the work they did.  They were negative examples of leadership – they turned away from the good examples provided by Eli the highpriest and Samuel the prophet.  Both Joshua and Samuel could publicly invite the people of Israel to come forward if they were guilty of dishonest gain in their work among God’s people.

 4     By justice a king gives a country stability,

but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down. [2]

God is looking for people after his own heart, people who reflect his concern for justice and compassion for justice and truth – untainted by greed and selfishness.  From Philippians 2 we are reminded to imitate the attitude of Christ:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Now this is a tall order to find leaders among God’s people.  As we confessed this morning, all humankind has been stained by sin – we are not righteous.  Yet by Jesus’ sacrifice, we’ve been redeemed.  By the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are being recreated to reflect God’s image.

There is a sense, as Rev. Eshuis reminded Council on Wednesday, in which any true follower of Jesus Christ could serve as an officebearer in the church – for we do not serve in our own righteousness or competency, but we serve in the strength God provides, clothed and guided by the righteousness we find in Jesus Christ.

You see, we find as we serve that God provides the strength and competence.  We would not dare serve the Lord or this congregation in our own strength, but we find God’s word in Philippians 4:13 to be true:

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”


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[1] Acts 1:21-22.

[2] Proverbs 29:4.

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