Stephen is the one mentioned first on the list. He was not only full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, but also full of faith. Wow, what a combination. You could really do with a few like Stephen in your church, in your ministry or on your team, couldn’t you? I know I would love a few like him around me… (Actually, I’m blessed because I do!)
However, we need to remember what they were being set aside to do. They had not been chosen as the senior pastors, the bishops or the overseas evangelists. These men had been chosen to sort out the daily donated food allocation to the poor people in the church; the widows, in particular, and especially those of other races who felt disadvantaged. Not what most of us would consider to be of the highest ministry value.
The apostles wouldn’t agree with us, since we read they actually set them apart to the work and laid hands on them. Wasn’t that a bit over the top? After all, these men were only looking after food. Yes, they had to deal with people and that can always be a challenge, but food allocation is hardly at the forefront of ministry, is it? Had they been set apart for worship leading, the music ministry, prayer ministry, counselling and pastoral care, maybe. Yes, and we would, of course, lay hands on our youth ministry team and set them apart but what has food got to do with church or ministry?
Quite a lot, according to the apostles. What an amazing statement follows the commissioning of these men. 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. What was the connection? Church growth to food? Priests becoming obedient to the faith? Maybe we should stop and examine this section a bit more and a bit more often.
Of course, the numbers of disciples grew. The apostles were released to do what they should be doing. There was no longer a drain on their time and energy, and they were released to fulfil their God-ordained ministry. But, was there more to it than that?
What impact did these men have in the community? The church was seen to be caring for the widows and the poor in their community, regardless of race or orthodoxy. Good News travels fast. If the Church opens its arms to the needy – the needy will show up. For most of us that is why we don’t open our arms to the needy. We don’t want ‘more work’, as we are flat out as it is trying to keep the Christians happy. No wonder our Churches don’t grow. Actually, the Church exists for those outside the Church.
The next verse is even more astonishing. Or is it? Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. Did he feed 5000 with 7 loaves and 2 fish? We don’t know, do we? All we know is that he did signs and wonders. Actually, I think it was the Holy Spirit who did the signs and wonders but Stephen just allowed the Holy Spirit to use him. What if God started doing that through us?