6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
I used to be an idealist and I hate disagreement and confrontation. Put those three things together and the role of being a pastor has really kept me outside my comfort zone. Why? Because there is the way the world should be and there is the way it actually is. There is the way the church should be and the way it is.
The truth is the conflict over how the food was distributed never should have happened. I mean why are Christians having such issues to begin with? And did you notice we are never told what the source of the conflict actually was? Were the widows of the Hellenists really being ignored or did they just perceive that they were being cheated? See it doesn't really matter because whether the problem was real or perceived it was still a problem. Yesterday we saw that behind it all was a clever ploy of Satan to distract the apostles from preaching yet the problem demanded attention and a solution.
Here is what we need to notice. The point of this story is not the problem itself but how it was handled. First it says the apostles (the 12 original disciples) called together the multitude of the disciples. This means the 12 were not hoarding power but rather developing leaders. This is critical to the growth and success of any endeavour. Second they acknowledged the problem and exposed a deeper problem that perhaps they had not thought of. You see these other disciples still saw the 12 as being the leaders and so brought the problem to them. Without being rude or demeaning the 12 took the problem, exposed a deeper problem (dealing with this will prevent us from prayer and preaching) and handed the problem back. However when they handed it back it was not without a plan. Notice the brilliance of the plan. They were to choose from among themselves seven capable, trustworthy, Spirit filled men to handle the situation. The 12 could have appointed seven men but they didn't. They gave the task of choosing the men to the group. This is not top down leadership. They are giving responsibility, freedom, and decision making power to the people. The Bible says this plan pleased the people.
I have learned that people act more responsibly when they are entrusted with responsibility rather than treated as second class. It brings growth to the individuals and a sense of ownership in the plan and process. Many of us struggle to delegate. We struggle to share "power". We struggle with control issues.
Here at the very beginning as the budding movement of Jesus followers begins to experience growing pains and internal conflict God lays out for us the successful strategies of servant leadership.
1, Know your role and stick to it despite distractions and demands that could easily side track you.
2, Work as a team, not as a lone wolf.
3, Be constantly developing leaders
4, Give those leaders autonomy to handle tasks, make decisions, problem solve, etc...
5, Let new leaders emerge from the group by consensus, not by appointment.
6, Leave them free to function in the role for which they were appointed while you stick to your role.
7, Trust God to lead His church and after responsibly putting a structure in place let go of the need to micromanage or control.
These principles don't just work in the church. They work everywhere that people are called to work as a team.