Adapted from the Book of Acts Chapter 6.1-7
Dear Lord, The community of Disciples grew in number and factions developed. Greek-speaking believers—“Hellenists”—argued that the daily food lines discriminated against their widows. So the Original Twelve said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” The seven men they selected managed the day-to-day tasks. They were full of the Holy Spirit and had good sense. What can we learn about leadership from the way Your early followers chose to address this challenge?
The early church had many of the same practical problems we face today. How does a society provide basic food, clothing and shelter in a way that does not unjustly discriminate? Obviously the category of “widow” allows a certain expectation of support—but the Hellenists complained against the way the Hebrews were treating their widows. Willimon maintains that the “preaching disciples” were not “disparaging” the act of waiting on tables—rather they were “taking decisive action.” He goes on to suggest that we can “draw a few conclusions about leadership within the community of the Spirit.” He highlights three basic principles: “(1) Leadership arises from the community’s basic needs. (2) It arises from below not above. (3) Ordained ministry in its present form is an adaptation to the Church’s needs for leadership.”
First, “leadership arises from the community’s basic needs,” Willimon argues that the community’s “quite mundane and utterly necessary functional needs” are not separate from ordained ministry. The seven men who enable the twelve to pray and preach are equally important. So while we all have different gifts—every gift is essential. Second, in the process of ordination “God does not leave the community bereft of leadership but gives worthy service beyond the bounds of the first apostles.” God is working in the lives of everyone in the community—inspiring them (that includes each of us) to “answer the needs of the people for guidance and service.” Lastly, ordained ministry has evolved, it was not “fixed in stone from the beginning of the church.” In all three of these suggestions, Willimon is arguing that the Acts of the Apostles “responded creatively to new challenges.” It is possible that they dealt with cries of discrimination by including Hellenists among those chosen to serve. The Holy Spirit worked then and still works now through every facet of humanity’s needs.
Will we work to expand how people see God’s inclusive call to lead and to serve?
(Three leadership styles and quotes are from Willimon, Acts, 1998, pp. 58-60)
Recap prayer: Dear Jesus, Help us to pray for your guidance and then to act, as we discern where we are being called to serve You on earth as in heaven. Amen.