Read Acts 6:1-7
1 But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). 6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
7 So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. (NLT)
Rapidly growing organisations can sometimes be a bit disorganised. The growth outruns the resources or the plans. The early church had its growth spurt and along the way some things were not done as well as they might. Like helping the poor and needy. Everyone conceded it was an important task, but who was to do it? The chosen Twelve seemed to have taken on the responsibility but with all their other tasks, this one got a bit untidy and there was grumbling in the ranks.
So they decided to delegate the task to others. Not because it was not important or beneath them, but rather because if they did all that practical welfare work they couldn’t also do their major job of spreading God’s message through preaching. A reminder that we can’t do everything and are not called on to do everything. If we try to do too much, not much gets done well. There will be grumbling in the ranks. And the thing God wants us to do most might get neglected. The important will be overshadowed by the urgent.
Beware, though, of drawing the wrong lessons from this. First, the practical welfare work is not somehow inferior to preaching. As if there is an elite group who preach and teach and others who drone-like do the other stuff. Beware of the phrase ‘full-time Christian work’, as in a sense all our work is full-time Christian work, whether we preach or whether we prepare food in a restaurant. Second, the practical work is something that requires the empowering Spirit of God just as much as the preaching. The church was pretty choosy about whom they chose to do the social work.
As a result of good reorganisation, clear delegation, and above all prayerful appointment of the right people to do the right jobs, the church flourished. A problem had turned into an opportunity for growth. All because a few Christians didn’t think they had to do everything and realised they couldn’t do everything.