Sunday, July 19, 2009

Acts 6

I was just talking about the first half of this chapter with my friend Carreybeth. We are both involved in leading the small groups at our church campus. She leads the women's groups and my husband and I (with another couple) lead the married couples' groups. What we are both upset about is how we have allowed the government has taken on the role of the church in the area of welfare, the care of the poor and needy. We wondered aloud what it was that caused the church to fail to such a degree that it was ever necessary for the government to usurp our role.

Was it that the Great Depression overwhelmed the church's financial reserves? Surely the Church has seen far darker days than an economic crisis. Did the church get too inwardly focused? Even here, the native Hebraic Jews were inadvertently forgetting the newcomer Grecians, but they handled it just fine. Is there something about the very democratic-sounding "deacon" administrative structure described here that has changed so much over the centuries that made us ineffective? Maybe, but many pockets of the Church adhere to these structures religiously and I don't see a marked correlation to those denominations' effectiveness over more modern leadership structures.

I think, bottom line, it comes back to the fact that we just don't believe that all of our resources are God's. We don't know how to be rich. We believe (and it's borne out in our behavior whether we state it or not) that when "God blesses us" with wealth, that it's for us and not for His purpose. The more money we make, the more we need to get by. We spend our margin on ourselves. Greed and selfishness.

Something wonderful about Stephen though made his life so above reproach that people had to make stuff up about him to take him out. His teaching was irrefutable. His morals were exemplary. His faith was undying. And not only in his life and short term of service to God's people did He serve God wholly, his death was a catalyst for an astounding chain of events that spread the gospel like the wildfire it is.

So can I find answers to today's problems in the church in Acts? What in Stephen's brief ministry can I apply to solving the issues of poverty and greed? I think the key here is selflessness. Stephen was living a selfless life. He probably had some kind of occupation and maybe even a family to support. Yet when called upon to lead in the church, he rose to the occasion. When confronted with hostile unbelievers, he preached boldly. When threatened with arrest, he didn't flinch. He continued to be the steadfast servant that he already was.

I think as individuals choose to live a selfless life like Stephen, that their lives would become catalysts for a movement. The church would again become THE place to go to to receive aid and care and love. Selflessness is the solution. So, let it begin. I want to be more like Christ by following the example of Stephen.