Selfless - Acts 6:1-7:60

1.      In a world filled with unmet needs and good causes that clamor for attention, how do you decide where to start? (Meeting needs effectively requires insight and organization.)

2.      Is the church filled with unmet needs and expectations that are beyond any one individual’s ability to fulfill?

Today’s study provides a great example of what happens when needs are not being met and the division that can easily come, even in a church.

God calls and equips Christians for a variety of ministries. All are important and necessary but everyone is not given a burden for the same ministry. So we shouldn’t get upset when someone doesn’t have the same passion for a particular ministry that we do.

 

Key point in today’s Scripture passage: Every Christian has the Holy Spirit living inside them and has been given at least one spiritual gift for ministering in the church. However, regardless of what other responsibilities we have as members of the church, we are called to do the work of evangelism. Secondly, if there is a ministry need in the church it will not just happen, there must be someone in charge to lead that ministry!

 

A Need Discovered! Read Acts 6:1-2

 

1.      Based on this passage, what unmet need did the early church encounter? (As the early church grew, so did its challenges. Some scholars estimate that the church is approximately 5 years old now. Some of the Greek-speaking widows were not being cared for properly. Widows did not have the economic and physical protection a man provided in that society. There may have also been a language barrier to overcome.)

Some believed an unusually large population of widows lived around Jerusalem because they wanted to spend their final years near the Holy City. The unmet need of the widows was a legitimate issue. In fact, the Bible provides instruction about caring for widows (see James 1:27 and 1 Tim. 5:16).

2.      How was the care of widows a way for the church to demonstrate God’s love selflessly? (The selfless act of caring for widows demonstrated love that is shown without any expectation of return. This principle led the early church to direct their attention to the place of ministry needs within the body of believers.)

3.      What action did the apostles take? (They summoned the church together to resolve the situation.)

4.      What did the apostles say that some church members might get upset about? (All they want to do is preach the Word; they are not interested in serving us.)

5.      How might the increasing involvement of the apostles in the care ministry for widows have potentially weakened the effectiveness of the church?

6.      How does understanding one’s call to a particular type of ministry give clarity when facing choices about involvement?

7.      What challenges were involved in meeting the newly discovered need? (They recognized the importance of balancing a newly discovered need with the church’s ministry of proclaiming the Gospel.)

The apostles realized that if the need were left unaddressed, it could create a potential rift in the church. Believers can help spread the gospel by meeting needs before the need becomes a stumbling block to others.

 

A Solution Reached! Read Acts 6:3-7

 

1.      What did the apostles not do to resolve this issue? (They did not ask the congregation what they thought should be done. They came with a plan and allowed them to select the men.)

It is the responsibility of the church leadership to “lead” the congregation. Part of that is to bring proposed solutions to problems the church may face. But notice the church gave their stamp of approval.

2.      What was the plan proposed by the apostles? (Their ultimate concern was to do what was pleasing to God.)

3.      What were the qualifications for these men to be selected to serve in this capacity? (“Good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom”.)

4.      Why are these characteristics important to be leader/servants in the church?

The early church members were cooperative and demonstrated appreciation for different people’s gifts. The body of Christ is only healthy when all members function in accord with their giftedness. Therefore, it is essential for each member of a local church to find a meaningful role of service to Christ in accordance with his or her unique giftedness.

When you are serving within your giftedness you will be energized but when you try to serve outside your giftedness you will be drained. There are times we all must serve outside our gifted area but not for prolonged periods.

5.      How would you compare the way this issue was handled to the way similar issues are handled in our church?

6.      What were the results of the church stopping and organizing how they were going to minister to needs within the church and preach the gospel to others? (If friction within the church is not dealt with and solved the outward ministry of the church will suffer! Satan likes nothing better than to get a local church fighting among themselves, because it stops the spread of the gospel and is an eye sore to the community.)

7.      What were some ways meeting this need brought about a rapid increase among those who were seeing and hearing the message of Christ lived out among its members?

This is one time when the church as a whole was seeking to do the will of God. Corporate problems should involve the church leadership prayerfully seeking to guide the body to solutions. Without a connection to one another, we forget the call to work together as members of the same body.

 

A Servant Tested! Read Acts 6:8-15

 

1.      What uniquely qualified Stephen for his ministry? (He was “full of grace and power”)

2.      What role did Stephen’s dependence on the Holy Spirit play in his life?

3.      How does the Holy Spirit provide us power to take a stand for Christ?

4.      What do you think prompted these men to bring false charges against Stephen?

Virtually all of chapter 7 is Stephen’s message to the Sanhedrin about the gospel starting in the Old Testament through Jesus’ death and resurrection. It so inflamed the “Council” that they became a mob and stoned Stephen. (If time permits read Acts 7:51-60.)

 

Summarize and Challenge!

 

We can see that the practice of selfless love was critical to the church’s ministry, both within the body and for the eventual expansion across the world. How we love one another in the church should be contagious and not a distraction to the world around us.

1.      In what ways do you feel uniquely gifted to serve? (Every believer has an important role to play in a local church.)

2.      There are numerous service opportunities open right now in our church. Could you be the person God would have meet one of those needs?

Sometimes all we need to do is volunteer for a position to find how God can bless you and others through your faithful service.

 

This week, evaluate the ways you are serving God. Consider your motivation. Are you serving selflessly and through the power of the Holy Spirit? Prayerfully consider other ministry opportunities for which you may be uniquely gifted. Your church staff can help point you to current ministry needs in which you may be interested.

 

Ask for and listen to God’s direction!