The Choosing of the Seven
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a]among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. – Acts 6:1-7
More and more believers were being added to the church on a regular basis. Luke talks about people laying their sick along Peter’s path so that his shadow may fall on them and that they might receive healing. The disciples healed the sick and drove out impure spirits. Such were the powerful works of the Holy Spirit that everyone who heard them and saw theses miraculous signs joined the fellowship of the believers. Peter and John were even imprisoned to strangle the spread of the gospel but the angel of the Lord set them free from captivity to proclaim the gospel in the same place where they were arrested and Peter and John spoke boldly, as the Holy Spirit led them, before the council.
On returning to the Church they faced opposition from their own people. The negative aspects, of a large group of people from different walks of lives, living under one roof, started creeping up. Jews who had adopted the Greek language and culture complained that their widows were being overlooked in daily distribution of food and possibly alms. In Acts Chapter 4 we saw that the Church had taken upon itself the responsibilities of caring for the destitute such that no one among them had any need that were not fulfilled. A few days passed, and clearly not all the needs of the Church were being fulfilled. Murmurs turned to grumblings which turned to complaints from a certain sect of believers. Racism showed its ugly head and we are able to see a different side of the Church for the second time in the book of Acts. One which does not treat all members as equals but reserved preferential treatments for a particular group.
The Twelve weighed their options, whether to get out each day ministering the word to all nations or stay back waiting on tables so that everyone is satisfied. Often times, taking care of the people we are responsible for, prevents us from getting out and proclaiming the Gospel. The disciples decided that it is not right to put the Gospel on the back-burner while they looked after the church’s needs. They called everyone and had their first elections to choose people who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom to handle the administrative matters of the church. The day to day running of the church would be handed over to these seven men chosen by the members themselves. And so the first administrative committee was formed. Stephen, Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas were the seven responsible for the entire church.
We love democracy when it comes to governing the country but not many believe a Church should be run the same way. In a large church, pastoral visits are a rarity, add to it the responsibilities of governing a church and the people will be seeing the pastor only at the pulpit. Overburdening the pastors with responsibilities or even giving them full control of church matters, both can do harm to the Church. Thus an admin wing is a necessity in growing churches as we see from the above example. It is interesting to note that even though the names of the seven appear to be in Greek only one of them was mentioned as hailing from outside Israel. Also, Philip was the only one who was part of this committee that belonged to the original Twelve. We don’t know where all of them hailed from or which group they represented but what we know is that these seven were full of Spirit and wisdom.
When we welcome new members to the church there is always some form of membership class which helps them learn where the church is heading and gives them a clear understanding of their role. Some churches exercise strict policy of minimum six months attendance before they extend membership to the newcomers, maybe to weed out the people wanting to join with unclear or wrong motives. The whole purpose of church is to welcome the un-welcomed, but when such practices are followed for filtering people coming into a church how much more strict the laws governing the people elected for the church office needs to be. Having the church run by ungodly men or even people unsure of their beliefs will lead the church to ruins. We need to abolish rules for people joining a church but choose only Spirit filled and Spirit led people to govern the church just like the early church did and seeing this more and more people started coming into the Church.