HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, July 31, 2022
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNbyI1MbJFU
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “Sharing the Work”
Texts – Acts 6:1-7; Ephesians 4:11-16; Ephesians 2:10
The early Church grew rapidly and was initially located in Jerusalem. Some of the pilgrims who had travelled from their homes in other locales to worship at the Temple came to believe that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. Many decided to remain in the city with the other followers of Jesus and this swelled the numbers of the Jerusalem Church into thousands. As their numbers grew, so did the number of people in need and in particular, widows who had no other family to support them. The Church eagerly took on the role of supporting one another, including these women, but a rift soon developed.
“WHEN THERE’S TOO MUCH WORK”
Acts 6:1-7 – “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.”
When Alexander the Great had created his Hellenistic empire in 334BC it came to have an impact on all the peoples of Egypt, the Middle East and even India for centuries. Hellenism, which was the spread of Macedonian/Greek culture, influenced people to synchronize their native practices and languages with those of their conquerors. By Jesus’ time, the first century world of the New Testament had been exchanged from Greek hands into Roman ones, but the influence of the Greeks was still very much alive and well. One sign of the continued influence was the use of the Greek language by the vast majority, including many Jews who lived outside of Jerusalem. Many, though not all, Jews also spoke Aramaic, which was more closely related to Hebrew and it is thought by some scholars today that Hebrew was less frequently used though still spoken by some. However, the cultural and linguistic differences between the Greek-speaking and Hebrew-speaking Jews had a somewhat polarizing effect on the early Church. Complaints soon arose from amongst the Hellenistic Jews that the Greek-speaking widows were being overlooked during the daily distribution of food by the other Hebrew/Aramaic-speaking believers. Even in the early Church we find the traces of racism and favouritism.
The Apostles recognized this as a problem, but knew that the time required to give proper oversight to the food program would take away from their teaching and healing ministries. What was their solution? Someone else was going to have to be entrusted with the responsibility. The Apostles proposed that seven trustworthy men should be chosen for the task. The other believers saw the wisdom in this and seven individuals were found—“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).” These seven are now known today as the first deacons, filling roles of compassionate service within the Church.
What would have happened if the Apostles hadn’t been willing to give up control? The discrimination is likely to have continued…they would have burnt out…the ministry of teaching and healing would have been diminished and lost some of its effectiveness. The Church would not have continued to grow as it had been able to do.
What would have happened if no one had been willing to step up and take on the responsibility? The discrimination would not have stopped…Greek-speakers would continue to have been overlooked…and the discrimination and the underlying racism would have been given a foothold into the early beginnings of the Church. Instead of being examples of unity, they would have splintered into a fractured following. The generosity that had attracted many to the faith, would have seen many leave in its absence.
And even though this is speculation on my part, don’t we see the truth of it working out in our day? Leaders burning out for lack of workers. People experiencing discrimination even within the Church because no one has the time, energy or inclination to fix the problems. People not being cared for well leaving the Church to find other places to have their needs met. Others leaving for the lack of opportunity to make a difference as their offers of help are rejected.
The Church of the 21st century has in many instances morphed into something that looks nothing like the early Church and I wonder if it doesn’t have something to do with this sharing of the workload. Volunteers are often relied on, but to do the behind the scenes work that is often considered less important, while paid staff are given the more ‘pretigious’ jobs. As a result, we have created a Church culture where people come to receive rather than to give.
When this happens, we have lost the truth of Scripture that tells us,
“12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (1 Corinthians 12:12-26).
In short, we need one another! No one is more important. No one is of less importance. In God’s eyes we are truly of the same worth. God has no favourites and neither should we. Leaders who find themselves too busy should be willing to relinquish some responsibility. And as a body, when we see a need to be filled, we should not require an invitation before making our offers to assist.
And these principles apply both within the greater context of the whole of God’s Kingdom as well as in the individual groups of believers we find ourselves in association with.
“A PERFECT FIT”
Ephesians 4:11-16 – “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”
There are two levels on which I believe we are to understand our purpose and ‘fit’ within Jesus’ body. Firstly, as individual followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has given us gifts to be used within a local group of believers. The local groups to which we belong may be a local congregation, a house church, a ministry to the homeless, a kids’ camp, a shelter for battered spouses and their children…any group really that is doing the work of loving God and extending his love to others.
Each of those local groups in which we find ourselves serving, secondly, also function as a single ‘part’ of Jesus’ body, the Church universal. When the Church is functioning well, all the local groups will be found working together to support one another in the unique function God has called them to. Too often these local entities, however, have viewed each other as rivals, competing for the same small pool of resources—whether that be people, money or airtime. Rather than valuing the call and success of the other parts, we have wasted too much energy sulking, maligning, fighting and being envious. We have trapped ourselves by ‘small-minded’ thinking rather than recognizing the vast riches of God’s promised resources. When we are doing his work, he will provide…for all! Our part is obedience…His promise, provision.
How sad, even angry, this lack of unity must make Our Father. We are called to work together, not just within isolated congregations and parachurch organizations, but across all the lines that the enemy tells us should divide us, whether territorial, denominational, philosophical or political. If ‘they’ are Christ-followers, then ‘we’ should embrace them as equal members of the body of Christ, seeking to serve God in the capacity that he has given them and called them to.
If the Christian community, even in Collingwood and the Georgian Triangle area, began really working together—individuals involved in kingdom building within a local group of committed believers, recognizing and supporting the efforts of other local ministries—imagine how much greater our impact for God would be! No matter what reasons we may find to excuse ourselves, there is no legitimate excuse for assuming the role of spectator or critic. As Jesus’ disciples, each one of us has been specially designed for a purpose, to work together within his singular body!
“YOU HAVE WORK TO DO!”
Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Each human being ever born was made for a purpose, but that purpose will never be realized until we submit our lives to God’s authority. God wants to turn each one of us into a masterpiece of his by doing a new work in our lives when we choose to follow his Son, Jesus.
And what is our purpose? To do the good things/work, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Our goal in life should not be reduced to ensuring a spot in heaven for ourselves or even retirement from work. We may all have different work to do…but we all have work to do for the purpose of helping one another!
Bottom line? There are good things for us to accomplish during our time on earth that God has planned for us, both within the context of a local group of believers and in the greater community of believers, Christ's body, as each part does its work.
· Every follower of Jesus has been designed to do good work for the benefit of all believers…within our local groups and as a part of Christ’s larger body.
· There is no such thing as ‘important’ and ‘less important’ when it comes to our role within the Church….God designs each one of us to do good work, which he planned ahead of time, and as such how can we ever deem that work ‘unimportant?’ Think of it this way, if God didn’t want the work done, he wouldn’t have given it to you to do!
· We need to move away from the expectation that the ‘paid staff’ or an elite group of leaders serve as performers and everyone else is just an audience who pays according to how well they enjoyed the show. When God places you somewhere, look for the opportunities to serve; there are reasons he has placed you where you are!
· We need to actively work to support other local Christian ministries—they are not rivals, but simply another part in the body of Christ doing the unique work for which God has designed them for.
References and for further study / inspiration…
History – “Hellenistic Greece” - https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/hellenistic-greece#the-hellenistic-age
StackExchange – “Transition from Hebrew to Aramaic?” - https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/1299/when-did-the-hebrews-stop-speaking-hebrew-and-start-speaking-aramaic#:~:text=The%20Torah%20was%20written%20Hebrew,the%20people%20living%20in%20Palestine.
Upcoming Schedule ~ Donald Peck will be leading Sunday services for the month of August
Sunday, August 7, 2022 – “Stephen: First Martyr” (Acts 6:8-7:60)
Sunday, August 14, 2022 – “Paul: Life Changing Encounter” (Acts 8:1-3; 91-31)
Sunday, August 21, 2022 – “Philip: Evangelist to the Samaritans” (Acts 8)
Sunday, August 28, 2022 – “Peter: Itinerant Preacher” (Acts 9:32-43) - Communion & Sharing Sunday
Sunday, September 4, 2022 – “Holy Spirit Given to the Gentiles” (Acts 10-11:18) – Friendship Meal
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!