The church in Jerusalem continues to thrive despite the oppression of the government. “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution”(Acts 6:1). The harmony of the group is threatened by accusations of racism and prejudice. Up to this point, the apostles have been in charge of the money to care for needy brethren (Acts 4:35, 37), which is distributed daily. The Greek-speaking Jewish Christians are saying that their widows are being unfairly overlooked.
The apostles respond. “And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word”(Acts 6:2-4). The apostles call together all the church. They need to divide the work so they can focus on their unique role in preaching. They hear and validate the complaint, yet express their concerns about their own limitations. They allow the congregation to select seven men to do this work so that they can focus on other tasks.
The apostles here present a great example of responsive leadership. Something must be done about the neglected widows, but that work can be shared in a transparent way. They listen, let the congregation hear about their thoughts and plans, and enlist the group’s help in resolving the conflict. This not only solves the problem, but also relieves concerns about unfairness and prejudice. It is a helpful model for leadership at all levels.
One thing to think about: Do I listen to people’s complaints about me—or am I quick to become defensive?
One thing to pray for: The humility to listen, change, and share my responsibilities with others
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Fairview Park church of Christ, 11820 Fairview Road, Little Rock, AR 72212
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