I was reading the following passage from Acts this morning,
Act 6:1 A lot of people were now becoming followers of the Lord. But some of the ones who spoke Greek started complaining about the ones who spoke Aramaic. They complained that the Greek-speaking widows were not given their share when the food supplies were handed out each day.
Act 6:2 The twelve apostles called the whole group of followers together and said, “We should not give up preaching God’s message in order to serve at tables.
Act 6:3 My friends, choose seven men who are respected and wise and filled with God’s Spirit. We will put them in charge of these things.
Act 6:4 We can spend our time praying and serving God by preaching.”
Act 6:5 This suggestion pleased everyone, and they began by choosing Stephen. He had great faith and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they chose Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and also Nicolaus, who worshiped with the Jewish people in Antioch.
Act 6:6 These men were brought to the apostles. Then the apostles prayed and placed their hands on the men to show that they had been chosen to do this work.
And it struck me that many of our church leadership structures are wrong in how they go about choosing the church leaders, elders etc. In many churches that I know, including our own, it’s the elders / pastors of the church who make the decision as to who will be the elders in the church. Sometimes the decisions are a private leadership matter, other times the decisions are made from contributed suggestions from the congregation; but the final decision is made by the elders.
In this passage we read the Apostles telling the brethren that their own role was to preach the word and pray. They then told the believers / congregation to choose seven from amongst their midst to be the elders amongst them. The only proviso was that that they had to be: Men, spirit filled and well respected amongst the believers. (I do believe the overall thrust of Scripture allows for women elders / deacons; a topic which is for now outside the scope of this post.) Once the congregation chose who they wanted to be the elders amongst them, they brought them to the Apostles who prayed for them and appointed them into their positions.
We must take note that it wasn’t the Apostles who made the decision and appointed the elders. Instead, they gave some guidelines for the congregation to follow in making their decisions. They released the congregation to make their decisions. And they then respected, honoured and acted on those decisions. And they then released those who had been chosen, to do the work of the ministry to which they were appointed.