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Study Notes:

Acts 6:1-7
The Diversity of Ministry in a Healthy Church

Summary: Needs occur in any healthy, growing church but the gifts to meet them are often there too, after all, they come from Jesus.

All of Scripture is valuable; it serves a purpose, it’s there for a reason. But as you look at the whole of the Bible, there are some hot spots, some high points, parts that stick out a little further than the rest and Acts 6 is one of those spots, so we’re back again in the same passage we looked at last week to see and appreciate even more of what we Cind there.

You remember that this is the history of the early church. You remember that Jesus was cruciCied, buried and resurrected then He commissioned His disciples, his interns, his students, and gave them a mission to “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything He had taught” (Matt 28:19-20) and He promised they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit to do that (Acts 1:8).

As we’ve read through Acts together, we’ve seen the Holy Spirit come and we’ve watched as the Church was formed in the face of external adversity and internal difCiculties.

We’ve watched as the Church grew by thousands and then thousands more. And last week we talked about the difCiculties growth can cause. Rapid growth is exciting, but it also causes a lot of problems as leadership struggles to adjust and sometimes, things get overlooked. People get overlooked. People that were easy to see and hear when there were only 100 people are harder to see and hear when there are 300, 400, or 500 or more.

And so, sometimes you need to reshufCle and reorganize in order to care for everyone and sometimes you need to reassess – do we still need to be doing the same things the same ways? What do we have to make sure we hold on to, and what can we let go of or restructure?

That was exactly the issue they faced in the early Church and on a smaller scale it’s the issue we face today here at City Gates. So this morning I want to talk to you about three things we see in the early Church and our church. Let me warn you though – we’re going to cover a lot of stuff about our church and it’s future, and it might be hard to take notes on everything, so let me take a minute to remind you that you can Cind a copy of the message, including a transcript, on the church’s website so you can go back and review.

OK, so let’s jump in and read:

Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

We spoke about this last week – but let me summarize. The Hebrews are Palestinian Jews – natives of Jerusalem and the surrounding region. They are ethnically and historically- religiously Jewish though they recently put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and now they’re trying to Cigure out how they Cit into the way they were raised.

The Hellenists are also ethnically and historically-religiously Jewish, so they share a lot in common with the Hebrews. Where they differ is in their culture. The Hellenists have been raised in regions more dominated by Greek inCluence. So, they speak Greek and have different habits and styles of dress.

Think of it this way – people who live in New York City and people who live in Alabama have some things in common – they’re both Americans, they both speak English, but they’ve got some pretty strong differences too and if you put them together it’s usually pretty easy to tell them apart.

Well, back in Jerusalem, as the early Church was growing, you had both groups and one felt like they were getting overlooked. The question is: was that an issue of discrimination, or was it an issue of disorganization? If you were here last week, you remember I said it’s probably an issue of disorganization – no one was intentionally shutting out the minority group, this wasn’t prejudice and power at play.

How do we know that? Simple – there’s no rebuke of that behavior here. No one repents for anything that happens here. No one talks about the need to love others, even those who are different from us.

Instead, the issue is recognized and then addressed with some reorganization – the apostles added additional staff – and everything settled. The church continued to grow, and you never hear about the issue again.

So, what do we learn from all this? We learn that there are needs in the church. We know of the needs outside the church, we spend more time talking about that. But we don’t often talk about the needs that exist inside the church, and so, as a result, sometimes you’re disappointed because, like the Hellenist widows, you feel overlooked, unheard, or ignored and you grow upset or hurt because “it shouldn’t be like this in the church.”

And I agree, ideally the church is a place where we experience love, kindness, affection. A place where people are happy to see us and we feel known, we feel like we belong. It should be, as we say among the leadership – a safe place for sheep. That’s the goal. But, it’s not always perfect. Sometimes, especially in times of growth and transition, people can be overlooked. As new voices start to speak, or as new situations arise, our limited time, attention, and capacity for ministry is turned in other directions.

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Look with me again at this one single verse of Scripture:

Acts 6:1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

All of this happened “in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying.” This is an important detail, and it’s included for a reason. Growth created conClict and demanded change, and that’s a good thing. Growth in a body, either a physical body, or a spiritual, that is a congregational body, is natural, healthy, and normal.

Every parent knows this. Madeleine tells our kids they don’t have permission to grow up, and they just keep doing it. They’re rebellious and deCiant physiologically, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them. How many of you have bought your kids new shoes only to discover a few weeks later they don’t Cit any more? Remember those pants you feel like you ‘just bought,’ when did they turn into capris?

Growth makes things that used to work, and things that used to be good, not Cit anymore. And yes, we may groan about needing to buy more, or make adjustments, or we may struggle internally with the realization that they’re growing up faster than we wanted and they’re never going to go back to what they were, but we realize that the growth of our children is good. It’s a function of health. In fact, if a child is not growing, that’s often a prime indicator that something is wrong, something is off. So, you get used to making adjustments, you get used to buying new clothes, you get used to changing routines.

And sometimes you even give thanks, because now instead of someone needing to get up and feed the baby, you tell them to Cind something to eat in the fridge, or better yet, make enough bacon and wafCles for mom and dad too since they’re cooking their own.

So let me say this again, based on what we see here in Acts 6 – growth is good – Jesus wants the Kingdom of God to grow. But as it grows, it creates moments of chaos and friction, and requires some readjustments.

And we have seen all of that here at City Gates, and I hope, by God’s grace, we continue to see more. Not because I want conClict, I hate it, I’m not competitive by nature. I know some people are, they’ll turn anything into a game because games have winners. That’s not me.

But I’m pro-Jesus. And I believe Jesus is pro-growth. And so I want to see people grow and I want to see this church grow, because I believe there are too many people outside the church who need to be brought in and there aren’t enough healthy churches for all of them to come to.

But I also believe that when they come, they will begin to grow and one day we will send some of them out to start new churches, to reach more people, because Jesus is in the business of saving souls and I don’t think that’s going to stop.

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I believe this is healthy church – by any metric you want to use. People are coming and our attendance numbers continue to increase. So I want to ask again – if you call this home, if this is ‘your church’ – would you consider parking further out and sitting closer in as an act of worship to God and sacriCice for others. Most visitors, most new-comers don’t want to come sit up here in the front sections, they want to sit in the back and take things in. So, please, make sure we’ve got some room for them.

So, we’re healthy because people are coming – but people come to all sorts of things, the question is: are they growing? And I believe the answer is yes there too. Last year at this time we had 75 women sign up for our Bible Study in 1,2,3 John. Now we have over 100 women showing up for the current study in Colossians and since we’re using the same stuff for the men we’ve printed somewhere around 160 copies because people just keep coming, and they’re digging into the Word, they’re learning, making application, and sharing it with each other. And, men and women are being raised up to start new discussion groups.

On a similar note, in youth ministry, we now have more youth workers coming alongside Pastor Stephen and Tiffany than we had youth when they started a few years ago.

And when some of those youth graduated last fall, they started a new college-age ministry for themselves and anyone who else who wants to join – they meet at 9AM in the Nook for Bible Study and get together throughout the week for all sorts of stuff that you can do when you’re in your late teens and early twenties with a little spare time, boundless energy, and a sense of adventure.

We’ve been able to make countless improvements and repairs to the facilities and grounds and to pay for it all with cash, and we’ve received generously discounted or donated materials and labor from several vendors.

So, we’re healthy and we’re growing, and that’s good. But we don’t have it all Cigured out.

There was a need with administering the support of widows in the early church. Let me tell you some of the needs we’re aware of here at City Gates.

1. And most everything else comes back to this, is, Organization. We’ve spoken a lot among the leadership – ministry leaders, staff, and elders – we’ve
spoken a lot about the idea of the trellis and the vine. The vine
is the organic part of ministry – it’s the people who grow and

bear fruit – it’s a picture Jesus uses in John 15. He says that if we abide in Him, that is, if we stay connected to Him, we will grow and He will produce fruit through us.

But, if you’ve ever grown grapes or tomatoes, or even beans –
anything that grows on a vine, you know you also need a trellis –
you need something to support the vine so that it doesn’t sprawl all over the ground and get eaten by bugs, infected with disease, or rot. A strong trellis helps the vine grow and produce more fruit.

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The trellis is the organization of the church, the systems and structures that provide strength, guidance, and direction. It supports the vine, directs the growth, and makes fruit accessible. But without a vine to support the only thing a trellis is good for is to show off the skills of the one who made it.

And sometimes that happens – people design the best system and structures, the best policies and org chart, vision and mission statement – it’s a gorgeous trellis – and you can see that, you can appreciate all the details, because there’s no vine in the way to block the view.

We want, and we need, a healthy trellis to support the vine that God is growing here at the City Gates. And we’re working on – but we’re also trying to

tend the vine. Each week the staff tries to get some trellis work done to support and direct growth – planning and preparing Bible Studies and Home Groups, preparing for the trip to Israel next fall, working with the County, and an engineering Cirm regarding permits and planning. But we also have to give time to tending the vine – setting up chairs and tables for the Bible Studies, preparing for worship, organizing children’s ministry curriculum,

writing the sermon, scheduling, counseling, and dealing with correspondence and email.

And to be honest, we don’t always keep up. Balls get dropped. Calls aren’t returned quickly. Emails sit for too long. People make offers and we don’t follow up appropriately. I want you to know it happens, I know it happens, I’m responsible for it sometimes. But I also want you to know the staff and ministry leaders are working hard, praying hard, and they want to love, serve and lead.

But we need some work on the trellis. And that takes time. Time to pray, think, study, and discuss – where is the Lord leading us? And how does He want us to get there? We want to be led.

And as we have been seeking Him, it looks like one thing He’s leading us toward is adding another staff position – someone with the professional skills to help us get and stay more organized, but with a pastoral heart. Someone who can help with planning, scheduling, and budget and who can also teach, train, and disciple. So, we’re hoping to be able to build that into the budget for next year.

2. We also have a need for help with communication and design. That’s an all volunteer effort and our one, main, volunteer has done some great work, but there’s even more to do, especially as we’ve already begun to prepare our next Bible Study in Daniel and it could use some help with text layout, maps, and graphics. There’s also a need for help with the website and the possibility of an app.

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3. But one of the biggest, literally, needs we have is for space. We can Cit 464 people in here according the Cire-marshal. We typically set out chairs for about 445. But when the service is over, we don’t have enough space for everyone to spread out and enjoy some fellowship.

We’re also competing with each other for classroom space – a few weeks ago Madeleine, Stephen, and I were walking the halls looking at what spaces are available on Wednesday night for men’s groups, women’s groups, and youth discussion groups. And the answer is: not much. We would love to have more classes on Sunday morning, but we don’t have space – the college group is already meeting in the Nook because it was the only space open.

We need to build. And God has given us the space to do it. We need a Master Plan for how to use the property He has entrusted to us. We need a fellowship hall. We need additional classrooms, and we should eventually consider a larger sanctuary so this whole space can be used for the youth or other events. We need a landscape plan.

And we need someone to head all that up, to run it through the County and work with the engineers, designers, and contractors needed to make it happen.

We need the giving to make it happen. We have no debt. Praise God for that. But think about this – most of us have spent our entire lives beneCiting from churches and ministries other people built. There was a generation before us that bought this land, and built this building. We beneCit today from their planning, sweat, and giving.

What are we going to leave for the next generation? It will be a pain, a huge pain, and it will be expensive to build – we’re talking millions of dollars. But look around and tell me – do you see many other places for churches to build or grow? There’s not much open land around here, and God has given us this large piece of property while the community around us continues to grow. We don’t have to do it all at once, but we need to begin thinking and praying about what God wants us to do.

4. We need to provide more training, equipping, and opportunities for new leaders and growing leaders. As the men’s and women’s studies grow, as the youth group grows, as home groups grow, there’s a need for more leaders – where do we expect them to come from?

Some will show up because they just moved to town – we will be blessed by gifts that grew somewhere else and were then brought to us. But we need to help people from our own church discover their gifts and talents and help them grow, knowing that some will stay and God will move some of them on to be a blessing to others. We need the time and help to think through all this leadership development and then make it happen.

5. We need to help people grow and respond to the questions and issues of the culture around us. We need some focused times of teaching and reClection on how the gospel affects issues like gender and sexuality, the role of technology, apologetics, dealing with doubt, issues like depression, and the list goes on and on.

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Most of the needs I’ve just mentioned are things we need to think through, pray over, and build out, but we also have some immediate needs you can plug into right now.

  • –  We need vocalists for the worship team.
  • –  We need people who are willing to learn to how to run sound, especially a lady or two.
  • –  We need people who would be willing to join the video team and provide some relief to Jake who has been shouldering this ministry almost since its inception.
  • –  We need people who are willing to serve God and parents by loving and teaching their kids in children’s ministry.

    But the greatest need we have is something everyone can be part of: it’s love and patience. Patience as we respond to growth, patience as we prayerfully Cigure out the way forward, and patience as we try to prepare for the future and deal with the things that have to happen this week. Patience as we build the trellis and tend the vine at the same time.

    Along the way some balls are going to be dropped. Some loose ends won’t get tied up. And you’ll see the equivalent of awkward, growing kids walking around in high-water pants. We’re sorry.

    But here’s the good news – the church in Jerusalem faced a need as people came to Jesus, but they also found that the gifts they needed to meet the need were already there in the congregation. Look with me at:

    Acts 6:2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

    5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.

    Do you remember that I said God is pro-growth? He is pro-growth individually – He wants us to outgrow our pants. And, He’s pro-growth congregationally – He wants the Kingdom to expand. It’s going to happen as we keep having kids, and God, by His grace, through a miracle, saves them. We will bring them to church, but God will add them to His church. And, we will grow as Christians move here and the population of our city grows. But, we will also grow as the gospel continues to penetrate hearts and brings spiritually dead people to life.

    And as all of that happens, God will give people in the church the gifts and abilities needed to build the trellis, tend the vine, and produce the fruit.

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The church in Jerusalem found seven men already in their midst who were able to step up, press in and join the ranks of men and women previously serving so that the ministry of the Word and prayer could continue and practical needs could be met.

Listen to what God says about what He has done to help us meet the needs we face.

Ephesians 4:16 (NLT) [Jesus] makes the whole body Cit 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.

1 Corinthians 12:7 … the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the proCit of all…

Romans 12:4 (NLT) Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. 7 If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. 8 If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

So – do you catch this? God is giving us, individually, gifts to help each other and build His church. It’s His Spirit working in and through us, enabling us to do things especially well, or do to do things we’ve never done before. He enables us, if we are willing, to do what needs to be done for His glory and the good of others, so that the Kingdom can expand.

There are needs to meet in the world, and needs to meet in the church, and God has given us gifts to be able to do it. You have a role to play and without being overly dramatic, eternity is at stake.

You have been given physical abilities, skills, and aptitudes along with spiritual gifts – you are what you are because God’s Cingerprints are all over you. So how are you using it all for Him? At work, at home, at school, and in the church – are you available to be used by God?

Look what happened when seven men in Jerusalem said yes:

Acts 6:7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

The church grows when men and women love Jesus – when they are obedient to the faith, the Word of God spreads, the kingdom expands, and the number of disciples greatly multiplies.

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God wants to grow His church. God wants to reach people – to save them, to comfort them, to counsel them, to lead them, to love them, to train them, to encourage them, to protect them, and He wants to do that through people – people like you and me. Will you let Him?

Those of you in the Colossians study know:

Col 1:18 [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the Cirstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

When the body grows, when we surrender and serve God by serving each other – the Head of the body, the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ – is gloriCied and His preeminence shines. That’s our motivation. We don’t serve or give out of guilt. We don’t serve or give in an effort to pay off or make up for our sins – He already did that on the cross. We serve and give because there is an opportunity, and He wants to use us to meet it.

So, here’s what I want to do – I want to ask you to take a minute before you leave this morning, while they’re passing out the communion, or during the last song, or in your chair before you leave, and I’d like you to tell us a few things and ask us a few things. There’s a piece of paper in the seat pocket in front of you – on the front there’s a place for you to tell us some of the abilities and skills you feel like God has given you. And on the back there’s a place for you to ask about certain ministries or let us know about a need or ask a question.

I’d like you to take that out, Cill it out – put your name and the best way to contact you on it – and then drop it off at the welcome table on your way out, or you can slide it into the giving boxes inside the back doors.

If you ask for information about a ministry – we will have someone get in touch with you in the next 7-10 days and tell you more about that ministry.

If you have a question, we will do the same thing.

If you have a need, we will see what can be done.

And if you list your skills and abilities, and they seem to be a match for a need we know of, we’ll work to connect you. And then, we’ll keep a list of these skills and abilities on Cile for future use.

We know of many, but not all, of the needs in this body, let’s see what kinds of gifts He has given us as well. Let’s see what God wants to do with us as we press into Jesus. As we grow in our affection for and service to Jesus. As we grow in our understanding of all that He has done for us.

Let’s take the time to remember and reClect right now as we receive communion – a reminder that the greatest work has already been done, and we are the glad recipients.

Let’s pray

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