What is the result when we strive to follow Jesus as churches, pastors, and ministry leaders? What is the fruit of a healthy church body that genuinely strives to abide in the instruction of Jesus Christ? Scripture does not leave us in the dark about how to measure the success of our ministry and it is clear on what the aspirations of pastors and ministry leaders ought to be.
It wasn’t long after I shared that I thought God had called me to surrender to pastoral ministry. Someone with good intentions made the statement, “You are going to do great things.” At the start of my public ministry nine years ago, I had dreams of grandeur. I knew what kind of church I wanted to build and what kind of ministry I wanted to have! Over the years, I have heard many statements like the one above. “You are going to have a big church one day.” “You are going to get tired of little churches like ours.” “One day you are going to outgrow us and have to pastor a mega-church.” “When you have more experience, bigger churches will want to steal you away from us.” “We thought you’d say ‘no’ because you are overqualified for this little church.”
Then I read what God had to say through the narrative of His word. The apostles had no pastoral experience, so that didn’t actually matter. They didn’t envision a grand personal ministry, so that wasn’t on God’s agenda. They weren’t too important to give years of their lives to small churches, so God wasn’t interested in their personal advancement. They saw themselves as slaves of Christ and servants to the people.
For those who are deluded with visions of grandeur, contrary to the actual Biblical instruction for our ministry, read carefully. You are not going to do great things. You are not going to outgrow anyone. Your experience does not determine the plan of God for your life, no matter how much or how little you have. Check out my devotional for ministry leaders and church servants that will be released soon.
Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food.
So 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. And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
Notice the motivation of the apostles as the deacons were chosen to distribute food. They desired to devote themselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word. Their conviction was that the ministry of God’s word was the preeminent ministry of the church and that there needed to be an office dedicated solely to that particular ministry. So, others were selected and approved by the church to tend to other ministerial needs. When we arrive at verse 7, the result is that the word of God kept spreading and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly.
When we think about healthy vision in ministry, our motivation is only healthy when we are devoted to facilitating the teaching of God’s word to as many people as possible. If my dream is to go to a bigger church, I am not fit for pastoral ministry. If my vision is simply to build a big “church” or gain many followers or gain influence for myself, I am not fit for pastoral ministry. This is not only the case for pastors. Pastors are simply the ones who have the Biblical responsibility to perform the ministry of the word according to God’s instruction.
Notice the two other groups mentioned in this passage. First, there are deacons. Deacons were placed, by the decision of the church body, into other ministry positions so that the pastors could devote themselves to performing the ministry of the word. These deacons were interested in performing other tasks so that the ministry of the word could be rightly facilitated. Second, there was the congregation. This proposal pleased the congregation, which means the people of the church loved God in such a way that they wanted to see His word spread in their community. They recognized that the pastors’ ministry was not about the pastor, about the pastors’ dreams, or about grandeur. God is the only one who is glorified in this process and in this sort of ministry paradigm.
As we “do church,” as we pastor, as we deacon, as we meet, as we budget, as we make decisions, and as we take joy in one another’s company, we do so to the glory of God and for the good of God’s chosen people. God’s desire is that we advance His word, making disciples of all nations. We are not interested in self-promotion. We are all servants together so that through us the word of God might spread in our communities and around the world. Soli Deo Gloria.