In Acts 6 we see the first instance of strife within the body of believers. It very well could have led to divisions. Churches have split over less. But the apostles answered according to wisdom because they kept things in the right order.
The problem: Acts 6:1 “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”
At this point in the church’s history all the believers were sharing things in common and what the Grecians were noticing was a problem with the administration of goods.
The Apostles could have had any number of responses to this potential crisis: They could have brushed it off because it was Gentiles who were complaining and they were Jews. They could have treated it as a matter beneath them and not worthy of their concern. Or they could have listened intently and taken the complaint to heart. Thankfully, they went with that last choice.
The vision: They never lost sight of it. Acts 6:2 “…It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.”
This wasn’t arrogance. This was just statement of fact. Yes, there was a potential problem brewing amongst the believers, but the apostles never lost sight of the big picture. Sometimes we can get so focused on one problem, that it becomes our mission and we lose sight of God’s true calling. What would have happened to the gospel had the apostles allowed their ministry to become an awareness movement focused on the needs of widows? Is that an unworthy cause? Of course not, the apostles were careful to take care of it, but they also understood that they had bigger responsibilities to take care of and that this problem could be delegated.
The solution: Acts 6:3 “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.”
This showed great leadership and great humility. The twelve were not afraid to delegate responsibility and authority. They learned this from their walk with the Lord. He often sent them out to be His witnesses abroad, sending them ahead to get people ready for His arrival. To help his disciples do this, Christ gave them both responsibility and authority to carry out their tasks. This is important because to send someone out with the responsibility to carry out a task, and deny them the authority to accomplish it only leads to frustration and failure.
The conclusion: “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
I think their choice of words is significant. They said “to prayer” first, and then to “ministry.” In our modern-day churches it’s so often the ministry and then prayer (maybe). Sometimes, it’s just the ministry. The apostles’ core response to the issue was still prayer first and then the work. What’s also telling is the people’s response to that statement: “And the saying pleased the whole multitude…” Yes, part of it was that their concerns were met, but they were also responding rightly to the order of priorities. A powerful church is a prayerful church. A prayerful church is a powerful church.
To be effective as believers both individually and corporately, it must always be prayer first, then the work.