Today we are wrapping up an eight-week sermon series on the Calvary mission statement. We’ve been talking the last few weeks about a survey that was released that listed Columbus, Georgia as number seven of the top ten most miserable cities to live in. There are a number of reasons why researchers said we were at the top of the list. We are number one in the country for depression. We are number one in the country for those who least enjoy living in the city where they live. Number one in the country for those who just don’t like their life.
I’ve been trying to teach us that there are three ways as a church we can go about making a difference in a broken city. I am going to use a three-legged stool as an illustration. One of the legs of this stool is carrying out the Great Commission. Meaning we are making disciples who are able to make disciples who are able to make disciples, etc. We believe that will change our city. Last week we looked at “healing hurts”. We said it is more than just helping someone in need. These are soul level issues that take soul level solutions to fix those problems. One of the legs of this stool is healing hurts. I really believe that many of the hurts that are in our city are a result of people chasing after wants and believe that once those wants are answered their deepest needs will be met. Those things never work out together. The third leg of this three-legged stool is meeting needs, which we will look at today. It takes all three of these things for this stool to work. If one of those legs are missing you can’t sit on it because it is useless.
Today we are going to look at the comprehensive way that we are trying to minister to this broken city. How many of you would be willing to say that you are serious about trying to make a difference in a broken city? We are going to be looking at Acts Chapter 6 today. This is a pretty important passage in Acts. We will see three different things that we need to do as a church if we are going to get serious about helping to fix a broken city.
I. We must be serious about meeting needs. V. 1
1 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.
When the book of Acts was written the 1st century church was not completely defined yet. The church structure hasn’t been settled yet. The church was growing and the bigger the church got the bigger the problems were. This first verse in Chapter 6 is a complaint about a real need coming from a specific group of people. There were two main groups of people in Jerusalem at this time. There were those who had been born and raised there and spoke Hebrew. Many of them have come to faith in Jesus. The other group was foreigners that have come to Jerusalem. At that time almost the entire developed world was speaking Greek, although some spoke Latin. Many of them came to worship at the tabernacle. It would be like Florida today. You have the natives of Florida and then you have everybody else who lives there. The Hellenists is this group of women whose husbands are dead. They are not allowed by society to inherit property or money from their husbands. They were totally destitute and most didn’t speak Hebrew. Now there is a real need in the church. As the church becomes better at reaching different groups of people they will come with different needs. This is exactly what is happening in Acts 6:1.
The church took two approaches to try to meet these needs. One approach was a daily distribution of food called the poor bowl. The poor bowl was usually given out in the tabernacle and typically consisted of beans, bread and fruit. It was just enough food to sustain you for one day. The second approach was called the poor basket. This was usually given out once a week. It had a little more food then the bowl, some clothes and some money to help meet your needs. In the 1st Century church, if you had more than enough to meet your needs you were encouraged to give your excess to the church. The church would then distribute the excess to those in need. God was compelling his people to be gracious with what they had.
So, this need has arisen in Acts. The church realized they needed to get serious about meeting the need. The bigger that a church gets the easier it is to hide in it. This is true of Calvary as well. People want to hide. They come in with the big crowds on Sunday morning and leave with them. They don’t want anyone to know them or the problems they are going through. We respect that. However, that often means many times people can slip through the cracks. This is why as a church we talk so often about small groups. If you’re not in a small group you are really missing out. If you are only in the big group when you have a need we are probably not going to know it unless you bring it to our attention. When you are in a small group people will know when there is a need. It makes me crazy when someone says to me that they were in the hospital but no one came to visit them or they had a death in the family and no one in the church showed up because the words “was” and “had” are past tense. I get so frustrated because we want to serve you but we weren’t there because we didn’t know there was a need. I want to challenge you to find a small group to join.
II. We must be structured to meet needs. V. 2-4
2 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. 3 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. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
Let’s look at the qualifications for these men. These seven men were referred to as good men and full of the Holy Spirit. This was a very important task they were about to put them in charge of because these seven men were to distribute food on behalf of the disciples and were given the important task of distributing money as well. You don’t hand that kind of authority off lightly in a church.
I want you to pay close attention to verse two and what the original followers of Jesus said. The disciples said it was not good that the preaching and teaching of God’s word suffered for the sake of ministering to the widows. They didn’t say that it wasn’t important. In fact it was so important that the structure of the church changed to meet this need but God’s Word couldn’t be neglected by meeting this need. This was the opportunity of having the tail wag the dog instead of the dog wagging the tail. Every church has to be cautious about this. The Great Commission and making of disciples cannot suffer at the cost of healing hurts and meeting needs.
For those widows this was life or death so the disciples were wise enough to find a solution. They needed to find some men to help share the load. Many pastors are placed in the position where they have a choice to make. Should they spend their time healing hurts and meeting needs at the cost of carrying out the Great Commission? I think you can do both but you have to be very cautious and deliberate about it.
By the time the church is more structured in the New Testament, especially in the books of Timothy and Titus, we get a title for these men. The title they were given was Deacon. The word “deacon” literally means servant. These were men specifically directed to serve the church to meet a specific need. You could argue that when that need was met these men stopped serving the church. It was only for the purposes of meeting needs. Never in the New Testament do you find examples of deacons who lead or make executive decisions in the church.
If you’ve been around here for a long time, you know that our church met needs better with Lamax Thompson, our minister of Pastoral Care, then ever before or since. It bothers me that we are not meeting the needs of our congregation like we once did when Lamax was serving. We put a great deal of time and effort into changing the structure of our church so we can better minister to each other and to this city. You will see a link to our Calvary Cares on the website. Starting today, if there is a need in your small group there is someone within the group that will meet your need. We teach that every member is a minister and every minister has a ministry. Our small group and Sunday School leaders function almost exactly as the Bible describes deacons and deaconesses in the New Testament. You are the first line of ministry when there is a need. If you have a need in your family, click on this link and let us know. We will ask if you are involved in a small group and if so we will notify them. If you’re not involved in a small group, each day of the week one of our pastors visits the hospitals. We always start with the members ministering to each other first, and then the pastors. Someone in our church is volunteering to coordinate all of this. Maybe some of you feel this is a ministry that would fit you. Would you please let us know that you want to be a part of Calvary Cares? It is our long-term goal that we would have members and pastors in the hospitals, emergency rooms, and homes visiting the members of this church when you have a need.
III. We must be staffed to meet needs. V. 5-7
5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
I think when this need from the Hellenist widows came up the whole church began to get nervous. I think many were worried that their needs would be neglected to meet this need. When the disciples decided to choose seven men, I think the entire church breathed a sigh of relief.
I want you to look at this list of names. Does anything jump out at you about this list of names? Most of these names are not Jewish names, which means chances are the disciples wisely selected men who were Greek. We do the same thing around here in Class 301 – Discovering Your Shape for Ministry. We look at your spiritual gifts, your background, your life experiences and your talents. God has wired you to meet a need in our church. These were probably Greek men ministering to Greek women because they understood the culture and the language.
The church made another decision that was incredibly important. That decision was to not neglect the most important thing – the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. I think verse 7 is here just to remind us that God blessed their efforts. Had they so engaged in meeting this one need that it cost them their ability to carry out the Great Commission the Gospel wouldn’t have spread across Jerusalem. Because these men were very wise in sharing the load and empowering others to serve in the church the ministry in Jerusalem thrived. The church took this need seriously, they changed the way they were structured and they staffed themselves to meet this need.
About 150 years ago, pastors would often include these three initials after their name when signing papers. The initials were V.D.M. This was not an academic title. VDM was a Latin phrase, Verbi Domini Minister, translated Minister of the Word of the Lord. By signing these initials behind their name the pastor’s were reminding themselves and the church that they serve the mission of spreading the Gospel and carrying out the Great Commission. The most important act that they performed as ministers was preaching and teaching God’s Word.
I owe you all an apology. I have been too busy to effectively prepare sermons and to preach and teach. For the past several months I have been working 70 or more hours a week and I continue to fall behind. God got my attention a few weeks ago. I had been praying about this and the Council of Five helped to guide me along with Bro. Don Wilhite, our Pastor Emeritus. Both of those groups told me that what I was doing was wrong for myself, wrong to my family, and wrong to this church. They said if I am to pastor this church for the rest of my life then something has to change. A couple of weeks ago Pastor Allan Runner came to me and said he felt God was calling him back to Augusta and they would be leaving in December. Allan had taken on an immense workload since he came here. I want you to pray for him, Aimee and their family that God would open the doors for great opportunities and minister in Augusta. This news threw me into a tailspin because I knew I couldn’t keep doing this.
The Council of Five, Bro. Don Wilhite and myself all knew something had to be done about Allan’s position. In the future we will look to hire a Pastor of Discipleship, not an Executive Pastor, who will do what we have been teaching and equip us as a church to make disciples. There is a big part of what Allan was doing that I don’t feel comfortable handing to any pastor. It is basically the business aspects of what is happening in the church and its ministries. Since Norman Drummond left to become the pastor at the Gardens there has been a huge hole in our ministry. Not only the business aspect of our church but the leading of the other ministries on this campus fall to my position as well. It is a lot of those responsibilities that have overwhelmed me as a leader. It has cost me my ability to prepare, teach and preach.
So, with the help of the Council of Five and Bro. Don Wilhite, we have decided to create a new position, the Executive Director of Calvary Ministries. This new position will have leadership responsibilities over the Counseling Center, the Gardens, the Greenhouses and the Community. I will still remain in the leadership role over the school. This will free me up to spend a lot of my time focused on teaching, preaching and leading this church. I was very concerned about hiring for this position because this person has to understand our culture. DonnaJune Waller has accepted the position of Executive Director of Calvary Ministries starting in January. She already knows more about these ministries and will do a better job leading them then anyone else. I will still remain as the President of the Boards of these ministries. I am thankful that I will be able to hand some of these responsibilities over to her. If it weren’t for Sara Ketcham, Debbie King and Lisa Dodgen, I would have already had a nervous breakdown trying to lead all of these ministries.
Here’s what I want to ask of you. Will you pray for me? Pray for me to find the right person to be the Pastor of Discipleship. Pray for DonnaJune as she makes this transition. It is a lot of responsibility and a lot of authority and she needs your prayers. Pray for Pastor Allan Runner and his family as they transition back to Augusta.
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- How well do you think Calvary Baptist Church meets the needs in our city? (On a scale of 1-5). What could our church do better to meet the needs in our city? What would you say is the greatest need in our city?
- Read Exodus 18:17-27. (Notice the similarities between these two passages.) Why was it wrong for Moses and the disciples to try to handle all the needs personally?
- How does sharing the work load in meeting other’s needs benefit the whole church? How does sharing the load benefit those who are meeting someone else’s needs? How does sharing the load benefit those that are in need?
- What qualifications does God look for in a person in order for them to meet real needs in our church and our city?
- A church that is serious, structured and staffed to meet needs will soon be able to meet needs outside the church as well as within the church? Why do you think that most churches in our city do such a poor job of meeting needs in their neighborhoods?
- Pray for each other’s needs today. Pray that our church would make a difference in our city. Pray that God would use you to meet someone’s needs this week.