March 31, 2019
Pastor Jeff Struecker
How many of you work for a boss who is just a total jerk and an absolute tyrant? You know the kind of person I’m talking about. This is the kind of guy or gal who only wants a promotion. They’re only looking for the big pay raise. They just want more power because they’re going to use it for their own selfish good. You’ve probably worked for people like that before. You probably know people like that.
Or, there’s this second kind of person who maybe you’ve worked with. They’re the kind of person who talks a big game, but when the time comes to put their money where their mouth is, they really only care about themselves, and it becomes pretty obvious when you give them a little bit more responsibility. There are really only two kinds of leaders on the planet. You have selfish leaders who only think about themselves and only care about themselves. Or you have selfless leaders. Very rarely do you find this kind of guy or gal who, when they become boss, start to think about others more than they think about themselves.
I’ll give you a quick example of this. I’m going to have to be careful how I say this because this is an example from right here in our church. Our church has leaders like this. Not long ago, we needed to give a couple of folks a pay raise. One of our pastors really needed a pay raise, but also, one of the people on our church staff needed a pay raise. We couldn’t afford both. So, after a lot of thinking and praying about it, we offered the pastor of the church a pay raise. One of their first questions was, “What about this person over here on the staff? Are they getting a pay raise?” I had to say, “No. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to give both you and them a pay raise.” They said, “Well, then take some of mine, and give it to them.” You see, great leaders are the kind of people who make life better for everybody.
Today we’re going to take a look at probably one of the most foundational passages in the Bible. This builds the framework for everything the New Testament teaches about leadership in the church. Great leaders think about what they can give, not what they can get. This is the difference between most people and a handful of really great leaders. Today we’re going to take a look at great leadership from this passage in Acts chapter six. We’re going to take an honest look at what Acts chapter six is teaching about church leadership. We’re going to take an honest look at where Calvary Baptist Church is, and for our guests, we’re going to have to do some hard looking at a couple of areas that need some attention around here. Then before we’re done, I’m going to ask you to pray for us because we’ve got some work to do. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and dig into Acts chapter six and take a look at church leadership from the Bible.
I. Elders are the servant leaders of the church
I’m going to use a couple of words today that don’t really show up in this passage, but what we know about these terms are all foundational to what we’re reading today. The first term that I would like for you to write down is elders. This phrase is not mentioned in this passage today, but the way that elders function in the New Testament is found in this passage. Elders are leaders in the church, but they lead in a very specific way. They’re the servant leaders of the church. For those of you who are new to our church, my name is Jeff. I would call myself one of the pastors / elders because in the New Testament, you have three words that refer to one person: Pastor (which means shepherd), elder (which is literally translated into English as leader), and bishop. All three of these words in the New Testament are referring to one category of people – the leadership of the church. This word elder is not found in this passage today, but all of the other passages in the New Testament basically point back to this as setting the groundwork. What does an elder do? How does he lead as a servant in the church?
In those days, as the disciples were increasing in number, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. 2 The Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.
The church in Jerusalem has this really well-formed pattern of taking care of itself. When the synagogue met together once a week, they would take up a weekly offering. They called it the Food Basket. In Hebrew, it’s called Quppah. People would bring clothes and food once a week when they came to church, and the church would distribute this to the other Jews who had need. There was also a daily offering in Jerusalem called the Food Bowl. This was an offering to the Jewish travelers who were passing through Jerusalem who were hungry and didn’t have any money. The church had something for the Jews who were passing through.
Now we have a group of people that are growing, and the church is exploding. There’s now a different race of people, a different ethnicity of people. The Greek system doesn’t have a way of taking care of these widows. In the Jewish system, they’ve got a good way of handling these widows. The Greek widows, they didn’t have a system for taking care of them. It’s not a bad problem; it’s not a good problem. -just a new problem. Now the church has to figure out how to handle this problem. That’s really what we’re reading in verse one.
I want you to understand that verse one is talking about a life or death, urgent issue. So, imagine you’re one of the people from the church who comes up to the apostles and say, “Hey, do you realize that there’s a group of women in your church who are literally starving to death? The government doesn’t take care of them. If we don’t give them something to eat, they’re going to die of starvation.” That’s what’s going on in verse one.
Now think about this for a second. The apostles hear this problem and their response is, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching.” Blink, blink, blink. “Maybe you guys didn’t hear us. I said there are some women who are dying of starvation in this church. What are you all going to do about it?”
The English translation of the Bible just doesn’t do their response justice, because here’s what they’re saying: “Hey, every leader has to make decisions. We’re weighing what you’re asking us to do right now. We’re not saying that this isn’t important. In fact, we’re willing to admit this is urgent, what you’re describing today. We’re just saying it’s not most important. It’s not of the ultimate importance.” In fact, if you look at the end of verse two, they’re saying, quite literally, what Jesus said. A man doesn’t live by bread alone, but also by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. You need physical bread; of course you do, but you also need spiritual bread. The apostles are saying, “If we are being forced to choose between the two, the one that is more worthy of our attention is preaching the word of God. That’s where we’re going to give our attention.”
This should have caused a lot of people to get really nervous in Jerusalem, because they’re asking the question, “Are you guys saying that we’re going to let these women starve to death? Is that what you’re saying?” They’re saying very much what we’re experiencing as a church right now.
Did you know that our budget for 2019 calendar year, we anticipate receiving in the offering plate about a $1,018,000? That’s what we anticipate receiving this year. Did you know that the largest amount of money by far in our church goes to supporting some of the other ministries on this campus? We are underwriting those ministries because they’re in a bad way if we don’t write a check to them. In fact, $63,148 of our budget goes exclusively to the other ministries on this campus. When you add to that the amount of time and attention that the pastors and elders of our church are giving to the other ministries on this campus, this is exactly what we’re experiencing as a church today. What these elders or apostles are saying is, “God has called us to a very specific thing, and we’re going to give our first attention and most attention to this thing. We’re not saying that the other stuff isn’t important or even urgent. We’re saying that this deserves our greatest attention.”
Every church leader, not just at Calvary, has to make this kind of decision regularly. Where is my time and where is my attention going to be? So, the elders of the church, the apostles in Acts chapter six, come up with a win-win solution. They find some deacons. The deacons are not leaders in the church. They’re actually servants in the church, and they’re making the church better because of the way that they’re serving. Now, the word deacon doesn’t show up here either, but this is the foundational passage. Every other passage in the New Testament that talks about deacons harkens back to this right here.
II. Deacons are the lead servants of the church
Five years ago, when I had the privilege of taking leadership at Calvary, a couple of people in our church asked me, “Jeff, will you now reinstitute the deacon ministry at Calvary Baptist Church?” I answered every one of them the exact same way: “What do you mean by this? Do you mean a group of guys who are telling the pastors and elders around here what to do? Because if that’s what you mean, absolutely not. Over my dead body will that thing ever happened around here.”
But I’m going to be honest with you. Our church and many churches have suffered from one hundred years of bad practice when it comes to deacons. This dates way back before Dr. Byron Glaze with us. There are two sides of the same coin of deacon ministry done unbiblically. One side of the coin is when deacons have all of the power and all of the authority to tell everybody what to do. That’s just not what the Bible describes. That’s certainly not what we’re reading today. The other side of the coin is when there are no deacons doing anything. Now the elders and pastors of the church have to do it. So, look at this win-win scenario that the leaders of the church come up with from Acts chapter six.
Brothers and sisters, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 This proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a convert from Antioch. 6 They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
Would you pay close attention to the criteria? Who do we look for? What should we try to find in a guy who’s going to help with this problem? Verse three says to find men who have good reputations, who are full of the spirit and wisdom, and appoint them to this duty. It should be jumping off of the page of the Bible for you right now what’s not on this list? Because nowhere on this list does it say, “Hey, go find us seven guys who have experience taking care of widows, and we’ll give them a bag of money and let them go take care of this.” Here’s what the church is saying: “You give me some folks who have a passionate walk with King Jesus and who are listening to the Holy Spirit. We can trust them with a little bit of responsibility and then send them out to go do their thing and we know it’ll be just fine because the Holy Spirit will lead these folks to take care of this problem.”
That’s exactly what the Bible is describing for us today. In fact, the writer of Acts doesn’t let you miss this: Look at the list of names on the screen. Every one of these names are Greek names. In fact, at the end of verse five, the writer of Acts doesn’t allow you to miss it. These guys were converts new to the faith, and they’ve come to faith in Christ out of the Hellenistic (or the Greek) system. “Let’s let the Greeks who know the problems and know the people take care of the Greek problem in the church.” The church is growing. It’s experiencing some diversity. It’s experiencing some racial or ethnic challenges. The church finds people who are right there in their midst who know the problems and are able to take care of the problems. This is a win-win solution. By the way, everybody knows these seven guys. Everybody knows the kind of quality of guys that these are because of their great reputation in the community. As a result, the apostles give them a little bit of responsibility and say, “Hey, would you go take care of this problem for us now?”
This is really, really important. This word duty is temporary, and it is directly tied to the problem. Meaning, in the New Testament where you see people serving as deacons, it is because a problem crops up, they find a person who can handle the problem, and when the thing is not a problem anymore, they go back to doing what it was they were doing before. There are no deacons that exist forever in the New Testament. It’s kind of “as a problem crops up”. We find the folks who can address the problem, and we let them handle the problem so that the elders, or the apostles, of the church don’t have to do it.
Now let me give you some percentages. I asked all of our pastors to do this for us. Every pastor on our church staff works more than forty hours a week. Every pastor on our staff gives 8-14% of their total work week away to the ministries of this church, and the church gets nothing out of it in return. There was a point where the elders in our church were spending 80-90% of their time and energy devoted to the ministries of this campus because some of them were in such bad financial shape that they were facing bankruptcy twice. As a result, they weren’t able to give time and energy to the church.
I’m just going to be honest with you. I spend about 60-70 hours a week working around here. On a good week, I give between 40-60% of that work to the other ministries on this campus, which means the church is getting left in the dark whenever there’s a need because of the other ministries on this campus that don’t have deacons meeting those needs. For that, I’m sorry, and I owe you all an apology. Those apostles found a win-win solution. The win-win is to find deacons who are the lead servants in the church. They’re serving the church because there’s an urgent need.
Now I want you to do me a favor, will you? Actually, this favor is for you. Would you write down the word urgent and the word ultimate? Every leader in this room already knows this. Lots and lots of needs are urgent needs, and they’re screaming for a leader’s attention. But sometimes, the urgent needs are so loud that the leader starts to focus more time and energy on the urgent than on the ultimate. Ultimate is what’s most important. Urgent is what’s screaming loudest. Sometimes the urgent is the ultimate but it’s often not that way. You know that for those of you who are leaders, the challenge of leadership, the discipline that it takes to be a leader, is to make sure that the urgent doesn’t drown out the ultimate.
III. The church serves the community
Now let’s see what happens when the church does this really, really well in Acts chapter six, because the last group of people that you see here is the whole church serving one another, and it gets noticed. In fact, do a quick, informal survey for me this week. Find somebody who doesn’t go to church here and doesn’t have any connection to Calvary Baptist Church. Ask them this question: What do you know about Calvary? Just say Calvary. Don’t say anything else; just say Calvary. I can almost guarantee you the first words out of their mouth are going to be, “That’s the school over there on the other side of town.” They’re going to immediately associate the word Calvary with Calvary Christian School. -not a bad thing. Some of them who have friends or family who live in our elder care facilities will say, “You take care of senior citizens on your campus.” They’re going to think of Calvary Ministries, our elder care corporations on this campus. I can almost guarantee you they will not mention Calvary Baptist Church.
Here’s what I’m saying: This is how severe the problem has become in the Chattahoochee Valley. Our ministries have taken first place at the expense of the church, and somehow the tail started wagging the dog. What we’re going to try to do, if God helps us as the leaders of our church, is to reintroduce the Chattahoochee Valley to Calvary Baptist Church and our mission to make disciples who will change the world. Yes, we have a school. Certainly, we have a counseling center and three different elder care corporations, but we exist to make disciples, and it is Calvary Baptist Church that’s doing these things. So, look at what happens when the reputation and the reach of the church grows because they did this well.
So the word of God spread, the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly in number, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith.
I need your prayers. -not just me, but the other pastors and the elders of our church too. We need your prayers because we’ve got some work to do about biblical, faithful deacon ministry at our church. What does that look like? How do we do that so that the pastors and the elders of our church are no longer waiting on tables, but they’re making disciples who are trained and equipped to make more disciples? They’re allowing the ministries of the church to be taken care of by the people of the church. This is where every member is being a minister, and this is what it looks like when that happens in a community. I’m going to ask you to pray for me. Pray for the pastors and the elders of our church, because we’ve got some work to do here. Pray that we start to look at what it looks like to step away from some of these ministries and perhaps put deacons in charge of them and let deacons lead the ministries on this campus completely.
Let me tell you a true story. By the way, this story is so spectacular that Disney is getting ready to make Richard Montanez’s life story into a movie. Richard is the son of a Mexican immigrant. Richard’s daddy came to the US legally and was a migrant worker on a US visa in Southern California. Richard’s daddy brought his entire family to live in a migrant work camp. Richard, his eleven brothers and sisters, and his parents lived in a one-bedroom house. Thirteen people, one bedroom.
Richard wasn’t really good at school. He didn’t know a lot of English. So, Richard failed out of school and ended up dropping out before high school. He started to get minimum wage jobs. He worked in a chicken slaughtering house. He worked as a gardener. He was working in a car wash when a friend of his said, “Hey, the local factory in town, the Frito-Lay factory, is hiring. You should apply.”
Richard couldn’t even fill out the application. He needed his future wife’s help to just fill out the application. He got a job at the Frito Lay factory as a night janitor. This is kind of the lowest of the low on the totem pole, right? This is an entry-level, minimum wage job. One day at the Frito Lay factory, there was a problem on the factory floor. The machine that makes Cheetos broke down. They had these undone, useless Cheetos. Richard had to clean this big mess up. He took some of the Cheetos home and started to experiment in his house. He says, “You know, my people, we like it hot and spicy, so we like chili powder, jalapenos, and lime on stuff. That’s what we like.” Richard started to play around with some hot and spicy Cheetos, and he created the Flaming Hot Cheetos.
Now, just before this machine broke down, the company’s CEO, Roger Enrico, sent out a message to everybody in the company and said, “This is your company, not mine. If we’re going to get better, then you have to take ownership of your company. If you’ve got a good idea, let me know.” Richard was at home playing around in his garage with Flaming Hot Cheetos and decided to call up the company’s CEO to ask for a meeting.
Richard tells you, “It’s amazing that I could even get a meeting with this guy.” But he shows up in the CEO’s office and says, “I have an idea for the Cheetos. Why don’t you consider making a spicy version of this? Call it Flaming Hot Cheetos.” The CEO did a little market research. Right now, today, Flaming Hot Cheetos make a billion dollars’ worth of sales. Richard went from being a night janitor to an executive with Pepsi Cola, the owning company of Frito Lay. He goes all over the world; he talks about the importance of diversity. -why it’s important in a company. He also talks about taking ownership. Here’s a direct quote from the mastermind behind these Flaming Hot Cheetos. Richard said. “Don’t take your position for granted. Regardless of what that position may be, CEO or janitor, act like you own the company.”
When you see people serving in some capacity and everybody’s giving what God has called them and equipped them and gifted them to give, the whole church is better for it.
• I believe that Jesus came as the suffering servant. Today, I surrender to him for the first time.
• I am not currently leading anyone. Pray that God reveal the name of someone that he wants me to reach this week.
+ I’m ready to start leading at Calvary. Please contact me about areas that need leadership.
- How would you define what makes someone a leader? Read 1 Peter 5:1-3. How does the Bible define leadership in contrast to our culture?
- What church leadership positions/titles are listed in the Bible?
- Does a leader’s personal conduct affect the people he or she leads? Why does this matter? Explain your answer.
- Read Numbers 12:4-9:
- a. What is the relationship between a leader of Israel and a servant of the Lord?
- b. What happens to God’s people when His leaders are not united?
- c. Why does God expect people to treat leaders with respect?
- Do great leaders in the church make life better for people outside the church? Explain your answer.
- Pray for the leadership of our church this week and that God would continue to raise up great leaders.