An Undistracted Church
An Undistracted Church
The book of Acts shows us a picture of what Christians should be doing, living their lives as witnesses for Jesus. This is the whole purpose of Jesus sending his Spirit to empower his people (Acts 1:8). The disciples are not blessed with easy circumstances but rather the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome those obstacles. In the last few chapters the believers are challenged by opposition (chapter 4 they are wrongfully on trial before the authorities), chapter 5 is the challenge of corruption (Ananias and Sapphira want worldly recognition in the church), and now we face a different challenge, the challenge of distraction.
In DC we became friends with people who fled to the US for religious persecution. These people had trusted in Christ, one had a dream in which Jesus called him to go to a person and ask them more about Jesus. He trusted in Christ and began telling others about Jesus. One person had a similar experience and after trusting in Christ, his wife’s immediate family took back their daughter and his son and tried to take his life. They came to the US and found freedom. After being here they said they are grateful for how much better and easier it is. But one also said, “It is too easy. I can do anything and now it saddens me to see how I am not threatened in my faith, but everyday there are things that subtly take me from him.”
You will face those in different ways. We are going to read about the early Christians being tempted with distraction.
Disciples focus on God’s word and prayer,
And should push aside distractions.
In those days, as the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint by the Hellenistic Jews against the Hebraic Jews that their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution. 2 Then the Twelve summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, “It would not be right for us to give up preaching about God to wait on tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we can appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the preaching ministry.” 5 The proposal pleased the whole company. So they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 They had them stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 So the preaching about God flourished, the number of the disciples in Jerusalem multiplied greatly, and a large group of priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7 CSB)
- The Challenge of Growth
We have seen the church in Acts grow in incredible ways. Always happens. More people the more needs.
A complaint arises. Can you imagine that in the church. You get people together and you get complaints. Far more worried about inner unity that outward persecution.
Grumbling: murmuring, muttering; applied to a. secret debate, not openly avowed: as an expression of dissatisfaction grumbling, complaining (AC 6.1); (2) , skepticism, whispering, secret talk.
People murmured against Moses and now they are murmuring against the apostles.
But not all complaints are wrong. Can be wrong how you handle it. You always go up with complaints. Talk to someone who can help with it. Don’t just air out your concerns with the people next to you, whether in the pews or in the cubicles at the office. Being neglected every day (v1).
There is no perfect church, but there are healthy churches. We are going to have things happen because people are sinful, shortsighted, needy. We will have to deal with those in a healthy way.
They had an obligation to these widows. I think you look at this and see there is a legitimate complaint. They are being overlooked and the church was not meeting their needs. The complaint concerned the welfare of the widows, whose cause God had promised in the Old Testament to defend.
Also see the tendency divisions based on ethnicity(Greek-Hellenist and Hebrew), doesn’t seem malicious but not seeing things the way another sees them. Overlook is to look slightly at, overlook, neglect. Work hard to build love and unity, and it is often by knowing others. Churches thrive when relationships thrive. We need to work on that here.
The threat. Both the organizing to meet the needs and the handling of the complaint was threatening to occupy all of their time. If they did this then there would be no more preaching, no more telling others about Jesus, no more growth of the church.
Which do you choose: caring for the needs in the church or the needs outside the church? That’s a false dichotomy. You can do both.
- The Primary Calling of the Church.
What do you want to accomplish as a church? We want people to hear the word of God taught.
The church is overwhelmed. When you are overwhelmed you have to determine what your priorities are. Distraction occurs when everything is equally important. In those moments you have to choose what is most important. The believers do that here.
What are you willing to let go of?
The church’s unique calling is to share God’s word, the message of hope.
“It would not be right for us to neglect the (ministry of the) word of God in order to wait on tables (Act 6:2 NIV)
neglect, set to one side (Acts 6.2); (b) abandon, leave behind ( Mark 14.52); (c) leave over, allow to remain
Teaching and prayer is a focus of believers. God works through it. He works through his word and his people being faithful to it. Note the idea of delegating ministry to others so they can focus on the word please the whole church. The whole church wanted this, didn’t want to neglect it.
The complaints are an opportunity to demonstrate what is important to a group.
Your devotion to God is reflected in your attitude toward the things of God. People who are indifferent to church, indifferent to hearing God’s word, have little excitement for they typically have distanced themselves from God. The devotion to the word is what makes them distinct. They did not set it to the side! They value being with other believers and learning from others. Want to grow cold in your walk with God separate yourself from those. Don’t hate it, Don’t mock it, but just push it to the side.
We have struggled with this as a church. We were distracted from the word, prayer, discipleship for quite some time. We finally got those things right. But has it moved us as individuals?
How do you approach the teaching of God’s word? Do you approach it as though it is lifegiving, direction imparting? This is what changed my life! This is what has pulled me out of the ditch. This is what has kept me from a 1000 bad decisions.
Devoted to prayer and teaching God’s word. What is your focus in life? If you do everything well you will do nothing well. If you pick one thing you are going to get done or do well this week what is it? Is it knowing God and his word? You get this and everything else will fall into place. You have a million things to do this week. Most of those if you don’t do it will be ok. Now some of those are more important because it’s what God calls you to do, but remember God is more interested in a relationship with you than you getting stuff done.
Like marriage, Amanda wants me to get stuff done this week, but if I do those and ignore her the whole week it won’t go well. Those things are opportunities to show her my love. So also with you. Don’t miss out on your walk with God.
Think God’s word is hidden and lost in churches. Lost in the good advice preachers give. I want to make the word as prominent as possible. Cut the fluff. Not just what we believe, but is it evident. We are distracted when the word is not prominent.
V4 devoted to. with the dative of person be loyal to, attach oneself to, associate closely with. Your Bible needs to be like your phone!
Churches that are neglecting their primary duty are made of up individuals neglecting their primary duty. What does your calendar show is important to you. Connecting with believers in God’s word.
There is power in the word of God. It will change your life. Love it, hunger for it, read it, hear it, receive it. Don’t let the devil distract you.
We also have to have an eye on the community outside. A church that is focused only on its own members and people in the walls is a distracted church. The early church was driven by a desire to take this teaching to those outside the church. They are praying for this. They feel the weight of being a witness.
Churches failing in growth and evangelism are made of individuals failing in evangelism. This is something we should be concerned about.
- The Need for the Church Body
The whole reason the church is able to be devoted to the outward ministry while caring for the inner ministry is because of the larger group. Believers who are gifted step up to serve. The whole gathering is giving themselves to the mission. This is beautiful.
The leaders lead in the idea and the whole congregation is behind them.
You do not reach people and help them grow in their faith by doing just a little bit. It’s all out focus and devotion.
Men of good reputation, full of the spirit and wisdom. All to aspire.Good repute, the word is literally witnesses, seven men “being witnesses.”
Needs its members. Leadership goes nowhere if it is consumed with secondary issues. It goes nowhere if people are not there to back it up.
They are put in charge of this duty. Appointed to this task. The role of deacon in church. They don’t oversee the whole church, but they are appointed to various tasks that are absolutely necessary for the flourishing of the church. Each person doing their part. People are being entrusted with ministry. It’s not the pastors who do everything.
neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. (Act 6:2 NIV)
This is leadership in the church. It is serving others.
We have been rebuilding. We finally have clarity in all the major parts of the church. We need people to start pushing on these.
- The Flourishing of the Church.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. (Act 6:7 NIV)
So the preaching about God flourished, (Act 6:7 CSB)
It’s the word of God being spread. It is a seed. When people spread it with their mouths there is a natural process,
The number of disciples increased
Became “Obedient to the faith.”
Isn’t this interesting. Even priests were converted. A lot of questions on what exactly that means, but there are people in ministry that have not been awakened to the message of Jesus and the power of the word of God.
The church continued growing because from head to toe, from the pulpit to the pews, it was focused on the word of God and praying for it to go forward. Personally engaging and investing themselves in that mission. It is not about buildings, programs, community, fun; it is primarily about the word of God. Hearing it, applying it, sharing it. This is what we are to be focused on.