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Circling the Square

On Becoming an Acts 6 Church

Posted by Bill Lovell on

Acts 6:1-15 was last Sunday's sermon text here at Christ Church Carrollton. This rich passage has great significance in the life of God's people. Drawn from the earliest post-Pentecost experiences of the apostolic fellowship, it establishes at least three principles.

First, it establishes the primacy of the ministry of the word and prayer. "It is not right," say the apostles in verse 2, "that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables..." Of course, it's not that the apostles thought less of serving tables than we do today; it's that they thought so much more of preaching and praying. They understood these two activities to be (a) the church's special responsibility (Acts 4:29) and (b) the most powerful tools at their disposal (Acts 4:30-31). This is especially noteworthy in a day such as ours when both preaching and praying are fairly regularly the object of so much scorn and derision. "Don't pray," someone recently challenged me on Facebook, "do something that matters." Well, prayer does matter, and, according to the apostles, nothing--not even the care of our neediest church members--can be allowed to distract the church from its primary responsibility to pray and to proclaim God's life-giving word.

Second, it establishes the urgent importance of generous pastoral care. While the primacy of the ministry of word and prayer is firmly established, Acts 6:1-15 also makes it quite plain that, confronted with real life problems (like hungry widows), the apostolic church, led by the Holy Spirit, intended to pray, to preach, and to provide (verse 3). Only praying and preaching had higher priority. Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-37 contain some of the Bible's most beautiful images of a community that gets it. It turns out that the sharing, giving, loving and caring were to remain hallmarks of the church. To this day, there is nothing more important than prayer and gospel proclamation, but there is more--much more--that flows from it, like sharing what we have and supporting these who have the least.

Third, Acts 6:1-15 establishes the principle that the primary way God provides for his people is through other people. The men from Acts 6--Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus--the first seven of what we today call deacons--are simply the personification of the loving community described in Acts 2 and 4. They are representatives of how generosity is supposed to be lived out--incarnationally! God doesn't simply write us a check--though we might like that--and he doesn't send angels to serve our needy neighbors and church friends. Instead he sends us, ordinary people, and empowers us with extraordinary wisdom and the Holy Spirit himself.

Here at Christ Church Carrollton, we are taking note of the needs of our church family and of our community, and calling for nominations for new officers--new deacons and new elders--to assist me and our current elders and deacon in helping our church to grow into the living, loving, praying, preaching church God wants us to be, and to advance and deepen the incarnational ministry Jesus has entrusted to us. Please pray that we will be more and more an Acts 6 church, and that, like Jerusalem in Acts 6:7, the word of God will continue to increase and the number of the disciples will continue to multiply!