Printable PDF: 1-21-18 Stewardship 2 Sermon 2018
Extending Christ’s Kingdom… in my church ~ Acts 6:1-7 ~ David R. Clark
WE HAVE A CHURCH to Extend Christ’s Kingdom
1In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” 5This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Brothers and sisters, one in Jesus,
A young man of a single mother approached his veteran pastor with a question that had been asked a thousand times before, “Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?” The pastor smiled and thought about all the times Jesus had been asked tempting questions like this. Unlike Jesus, he did not know the motivation for the question. If he told him, “Yes,” would the young man believe that simply entering the doors of the church would somehow satisfy God? If he told him, “No,” would the young man stop going to church, become hardened in unbelief, and be lost to heaven with his own pastor as the excuse? How should he answer? Satan is a wily foe indeed!
Weeks after the Holy Spirit had been poured out, the Christians in Jerusalem knew exactly why they gathered together.
- …through the ministry of the Word.
1In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
It was one of those times when the church had a good problem. The Word of God spread by the apostles had been so successful that the apostles couldn’t keep up with all the work that had to be done.
Many people believed, both longtime residents and those new to Jerusalem. Some of those people had great needs, especially widows. Women usually didn’t have money making jobs. While their husbands worked for money, they did everything else: daily shopping, cooking, mending, raising of children. So when their husbands tragically died, women and children supported themselves through the generosity of others.
Christians were not going to let their sisters in Christ starve, so they continually gathered collections to help widows and their children. But the whole job of distributing food became so great that it was more than the apostles could handle.
So what to do? As important as feeding the poor was, the ministry of the Word was more important. The spiritual growth of those who were Christians and extending God’s kingdom through the word had to be the priority.
It is so easy for us to be distracted from that priority just as it could have been for the apostles. We need to constantly be vigilant that we keep this as our #1 priority. This is the only way we remain in the faith. Satan may tempt us to believe that as long as we know who Jesus is we have saving faith. That is simply not true. Judas knew who Jesus was. Satan knows who Jesus is, but neither had saving faith.
Having the ministry of the Word as our priority means allowing the Holy Spirit to keep us from falling. There are many ways that happens. People stop coming because their parents forced them to go to church and now they are adults. They had a bad experience with a pastor. They only came because of a boyfriend or a girlfriend and they broke up. They are angry with God because they are sick or a loved one died. Satan’s temptation is to get them to look at faith as going to church and not seeing it as the ministry of the Word.
You know that Jesus loves you through the Word. You believe that he suffered, died, and rose again through the Word. You have a positive outlook on life even in the midst of tragedy through the Word. Your friends and family also believe only through the Word. The ministry of the Word extends God’s kingdom.
- …through the loving service of all.
The ministry of the Word is not the only part of being a Christian. When we love Jesus, we love his people, even those with greater needs. Some of the Christian widows were not receiving support. That was important. So the church looked for men in whom the ministry of the Word had been evident to carry out that work.
We are here to show that same loving service. We do that in formal ways like helping parents who might not be as adept at teaching their children about Jesus by offering help through our Sunday School, our LES, our preschool and our VBS. We help those who want to be here but cannot make it because of physical weakness or illness by offering rides or taking the service to them. When people are straying from the ministry of the Word, people urge them to come back so that they will not be lost to God’s kingdom. We help each other in more informal ways than I can count through trips to the doctor, helping with cleaning, or just caring for those in need. That loving service is a responsibility all of us have and love to carry out. We get to put the love of Christ in action personally.
The young man waited expectantly for his pastor’s answer. The pastor loved the young man and answered with a question as Jesus did so many times. “Do you love your mother?” “Of course,” he blurted out. “I visit her every week. I buy gifts for her. I would do anything for her. She has given her life to raise me.” The pastor followed up: “Do any of those things make you her child or do you do them because you love her?” Brothers and sisters, Jesus has done more for us than any earthly mother could. See you in church. Amen.