The Willing Unknowns

If the first-century church had adopted a twenty-first-century corporate model for ministry, they would have hired “Distributors-R-Us,” whose slogan would be: “We specialize in cultural conflicts, griping Christians, and whining widows.” But the church didn’t do that then, and it doesn’t do that now. You know why? The church is a family—a blended one. That’s by God’s design. That’s how we learn to grow in grace with one another.

person in shadows
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When you’re a close-knit church family, you don’t hire everything done. Everybody pitches in! A corporate philosophy and a consumer mentality rob the body of Christ from the privilege of serving Christ. Instead, the church should say: “We have a need, and some of you can help us with the need.” That’s what the first-century church did.

Obviously, not every layperson is fit for every place of service. To deal with the problem of widows who were being overlooked in the distribution of food, the early church chose seven individuals who were filled with the Spirit. They chose people who were full of wisdom—so that the distribution of food to the Hellenistic widows would be fair and impartial. Look at how a church that was sensitive to the leading of God’s Spirit responded:

The twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. (Acts 6:2–5)

One wag has said that this was the first and last time in all of history that the entire congregation found approval in one decision! Interestingly, if you check the names of these individuals, you’ll find they are all of Hellenistic origins. Smart decision. What wisdom!

You know what else is interesting? While we see two of these men, Stephen and Philip, again in the book of Acts, five of them are never mentioned again. I love that because you don’t have to hear about them or see them. Why? They’re servants. They’re content to work in the shadows. They’re part of a group in the Bible I call “The Willing Unknowns.” These are the servants who find delight in serving without recognition or fanfare or applause. They are faithful without demanding tangible rewards.

Believe me, such individuals are rare. Are you one of them?


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