Defining Ministry in the Midst of the Stuff
“And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:1-4).
“The Word of God Prospered: During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers — “Hellenists” — toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn’t be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we’ll assign them this task. Meanwhile, we’ll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God’s Word” (Acts 6:1-4, from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)
I’ve often read that familiar passage and assessed that the two priorities, and wings of ministry, are prayer and the ministry of the Word. Unarguably those are certainly paramount and pivotal in the life of the church and in advancing God’s kingdom. Acts 6 gives a wider perspective of ministry. It shows the ministry big picture and unfolds the body ministry Paul later annunciates. It’s easy to skip through the chapter thinking it’s all about establishing deacons. It’s beyond that and moves into the realm of clarifying roles in ministry. “Ministry” is the big idea here: not people doing big ministry and others doing little ministry. One group doing big stuff and the other burdened down “in stuff.” It’s about discovering and defining “ministry” in the midst of the stuff.
The apostles weren’t saying waiting on tables lacked ministry. They were saying it wasn’t their ministry in that particular season of life. It wasn’t their priority, calling, and gifting.