Do you recall who replaced Jesus’s betrayer among the apostles? More importantly, do you remember the qualifications he had to fill? Let’s take a quick look at where Peter gave the credentials required to replace Judas:
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“Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” . . . And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:21–22, 26)
If you search the gospels you’ll not find Matthias’s name anywhere. Many Christians today have never heard of him. He was a man just as qualified as the other apostles, but whose name never appears in the ministry of Jesus. Never. And yet, he was there the whole time! Never demanding attention. Not hung up on his position. In no way insisting on a particular rank or title. (How’s servant for a job title?) He didn’t stay faithful in order to get a pat on the back or in hopes of replacing anybody. Matthias had none of that. I love that kind of humble integrity in one who serves in ministry.
If you are one of those willing unknowns and sometimes feel discouraged because you’re overlooked, remember a promise the Lord has made to you:
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. (Hebrews 6:10)
An individual with that kind of selfless commitment to the ministry of Jesus was exactly who was needed in the first century. The church today still needs that kind of quiet modesty and availability among its servants.
See also: The Willing Unknowns, Part 1
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.
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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?