In Exodus 18, Moses takes his father-in-law Jethro's advice and appoints officials and judges to share his heavy administrative and judicial workload. Likewise in Acts 6, the overworked Twelve ask “all of the disciples” to “choose seven men from among you” to oversee the daily distribution of food.
This strikingly democratic delegation of work and authority produces two outcomes:
1) It addresses a serious internal "growing pain" in the Jerusalem church. The “flatlanders” (Greek Jews) think their widows receive less food than the widows of the “locals” (Hebrew Jews). The apostles’ decisive action prevents the carpenter ants of greed, tribalism, bigotry, and fear from destroying the church from within. The work was neither glamorous nor popular. “I’m sorry, Miriam, but Philomena over here hasn’t eaten in two days….what’s that? No, I’m not saying that you look like you eat too much….yes, I know it was your ancestors and not hers who ate manna in the wilderness….”
2) It prepares future leaders. Pastor Al Lamos of the Lamoille Valley Church of the Nazarene stated this morning, “ministry is messy.” He then recounted how this week he had volunteered to drive the manure truck (“the poo wagon”) for a church member and farmer whose fields were flooded. To Jesus, leadership = work no-one else wants to do. One new servant, Stephen, was called to burn in the Spirit hot, bright and briefly. Another, Philip, spent many years in humble, supernatural service, while raising godly, serving children. The impact of their ministries has been traced and admired by church historians, but will only be fully known when they receive their victors’ crowns in heaven. More about Stephen tomorrow, and more about Philip as his story unfolds through the Book of Acts. But both of them got their start by saying “yes” to driving the poo wagon, a fact I will try to remember the next time I am offered some stinky, thankless task.