I stared blindly at the engine. I could not imagine how to solve my dilemma. I thought surely I could change my own sparkplugs. I quickly realized I was over my head and called for help. My friend had been a car mechanic for more years than I had been alive. As soon as I told him what I was attempting to do he routinely said, “Oh you need a double-headed ratchet”. What?! It was as if he were speaking Chinese to me. I had never heard of such a thing. Fortunately he had one and offered to come over and take over. He finished the job efficiently because he had the right tools and knew how to use them. This is important in mechanics and the local church
In Acts six we learn that the number of disciples were rapidly increasing in number. With the additional people there were additional problems and situations to deal with. There were at least three new potential difficulties that could derail the progress of the church. First, there were at least two different cultural groups involved. One group was Hellenists and the other was Hebrews. The Hellenists were Greek speaking Jews probably born outside of the land and the Hebrews were native Jews who spoke Aramaic. A second problem was the Hellenistic widows were being neglected in the daily food distribution. The third problem was the apostles were having to abandon their unique duties in order to make sure the Hellenist widows were being fed.
How would the church respond? Would they allow this issue to divide them and ruin all that they been accomplishing? God had a solution and it was the right tool at the right time.
Basically, the apostles assembled the disciples (followers of Jesus) and asked them to select seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and full of wisdom who could manage the distribution of food and goods to all the widows.
It is important to notice that the disciples developed a way to solve this problem that suited their situation. In following church plants, leaders are selected but not the same way or the same number. In this case, seven men were selected to meet this specific need. The qualifications are somewhat limited in comparison to the qualifications later given by Paul in 1 Timothy but that was all that was needed at this time. Is this a descriptive incident or a prescriptive one? Is this just information about the early church or is it given for all churches thereafter to follow? It is a little bit of both.
We know some of it is descriptive because it is a unique problem that other church plants in Acts did not face. We do not see it mentioned in Ephesus or Corinth for example. No where else is seven men chosen to serve the widows in order to allow the apostles time to teach and pray. This helps us understand what we must copy.
The church and its leadership selected Godly and wise men to meet a particular need. This example and others in the New Testament shows that churches were capable and encouraged to find ways to solve their own problems and meet their own needs. This is easily seen in the other churches after Acts twelve until the end of the book.
We see many examples the apostles and all future leaders prioritizing the proclamation of the Word, prayer and care for all disciples. In later epistles, leaders are commanded to do so. This aspect is shows what is expected of all future churches.
The Jerusalem church found the right tool for the right project. In our churches, we must find ways that protect leadership and mature the church. They must focus on the ministry of the Word and prayer. The church body is commanded to maintain care of each other. It is also important to realize the structure for this will look different in every local church. Each church is encouraged to explore new ways to meet each potential situation. Too many times we grab the wrong tool to meet evolving and new difficulties. Let us pray and seek wisdom to have the discernment to choose the right tool for the right job.