“So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly…” (Acts 6:7a)
The book of Acts is about the start of the early church and the growth it experienced as the gospel was proclaimed, lives were changed, and new people came to faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. The official title is “The Acts of the Apostles,” but many scholars say that the book could easily be titled “The Acts of the Holy Spirit.” The work of the early church was driven by God’s guidance and the Spirit was listened to as the church did God’s work.
The verse above talks about the results of a decision to expand the church’s leadership to include more people. While the earliest church was dependent on the Apostles at the core, it soon became clear that keeping the work of the church flowing through them would quickly limit the ability to care for people, share the gospel and continue to help people come to faith in Jesus.
As was (and is) often the case, the people on the margins are the first to be left out. In this case, gentile widows were being excluded from food distribution in a church that was still mostly Jewish. It was clear that this was not what God wanted and so the church leaders had to figure out what to do about it. Dividing up the work and expanding the leadership and workers was the solution. The first deacons, seven men of good standing, faith and character, were selected to take on the responsibility.
This is a continual lesson to be learned over and over again. We often settle for the ones who are doing things to be the ones who do most things. But the church is most effective when we continue to listen to the stirring of the Spirit that calls all of us to be involved and for leaders to be watching for others to raise up and help take on new leadership roles.
Where this is happening, the church is effective in doing God’s work and like in the early church, “The word of God spreads and the number of disciples (in the Elgin area) increases rapidly.”