Acts 6:1–4 (ESV) — 1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.
In Acts 6, we are told that the Apostles recognized that as the Church was growing that they were being stretched too thin. There was much holy work to be done, but they could not do it all. It caused them to stop and ask what the primary work they had been called to do by Jesus. In such reflection, they were reminded that the Lord had given them first the work of prayer and the Ministry of the Word. They found others to take up the other God-pleasing work that needed to be done.
In today’s Church, I keep reading things that seem to suggest just the opposite. They say things like “Pastor must stop being chaplains.” or “Pastors must not be the primary caregiver.” They suggest a Pastor must give up much of the Ministry of the Word and prayer to others in order to truly lead the people. In fact at times, they suggest the pastor must go out and essentially wait tables instead, doing the very work the Apostles said they had to leave behind to others in order to be faithful to their calling.
We have forgotten what the true work of the Pastor is. It is not to lead, unless of course you mean the leadership that flows from the proper work of the Ministry. It is not to wait on tables in the local coffee shop unless of course you meet there to pray with others. The work has been and remains the work of the Ministry of the Word and prayer.
People suggest that congregations will not grow if the pastor focuses on these things. I say all growth that occurs because the pastor leaves behind his true work is not the true growth of the Church. The true growth of the church, whether it be numerical or simply in faithfulness, occurs precisely because of the work the Lord does through pastors as they devote themselves to the Ministry of the Word and prayer.
Let us not turn Acts 6 upside down because some sociologist suggests that it will produce better results. Let us model Acts 6, trusting the Spirit to bring about the results He desires.