Study 10 LAY MINISTRY IN THE LOCAL CHURCH
STUDIES IN ACTS (Chapters 4 – 7)
by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Acts 6:1-8
In this study we are considering the ministry of the ‘layman’ in the local church. By layman we mean men engaged in secular work who are members of their church and who serve the Lord there. We must always remember the invaluable work done by the women, but men have a special and a distinctive ministry of leadership when it comes to administration. In Acts 6:1-8 we have helpful guidance as to the kind of men who should be appointed by the church to guide the policy and programme. Who should be placed in positions of leadership and responsibility?
1. Born-again Men
That is, men who have had a definite experience of conversion, who have received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour (John 1:12), and who have been born into God’s family (John 3:5). This requirement is seen in verse 3 where we read the words, “Choose seven men from among you…”. Men were to be selected from the membership of the Church, and in the early Church all the members were regenerate, they were born again. From Acts 2 we learn that they had repented (verse 38); they had received the Word of the Lord (verse 41); and they had been added to the Church and saved (verse 47). One of the tragic weaknesses of many churches is that good and gifted men have been placed into office who have never been born again. When it comes to choosing men, the first question we should ask is: Has this man a clear testimony, and does he give evidence in his life of a true change of heart?
2. Selected Men
See the word “choose” in verse 3. Here we learn that the democratic ideal was practised in the early Church. The apostles said to the members, ‘You choose men whom we may appoint’. The whole Church was invited to participate in the selection of suitable men to serve as deacons – not the decision of Peter only, nor of the apostles; all the members were privileged to share in this matter. Let’s remind ourselves how serious and how solemn a business it is to exercise any influence or to cast a vote in favour of appointing anyone into any position of responsibility. God’s work can be made or marred, advanced or retarded, by the quality of those placed into office. So we learn that men should only be selected after much prayer – compare Acts 1:23-26 with Acts 6:6.
3. Men of Great Variety
In verse 3 we are told that seven men were to be chosen – verse 5 lists their names. Notice that they were all different. God needs different kinds of men because there are different kinds of ministries – look up 1 Corinthians 12:4-13.
4. Men full of Honest Report (KJV)
That is, men of good reputation, not only in the Church but in the world as well. It is possible to have a good reputation in the Church and a bad reputation in the office or the shop, or among neighbours. Men who are to serve the Lord should be utterly sincere and thoroughly honest in their words and dealings with others. Great damage is done to the Church when those of bad or indifferent reputation are given any position in the Lord’s work. The questions should be asked: Is he respected by his worldly friends and by his fellow-workers? Is he consistent in his Christian life? Is he God-fearing and reliable? Is he a man of spiritual and moral integrity? Yet even these qualifications are insufficient on their own.
5. Men full of the Holy Spirit
Verse 3 reads: “Choose seven men…full of the Spirit”; verse 5 tells us that the supreme qualification is that they should be Spirit-filled. How can such men be chosen? How can you tell if a man is full of the Holy Spirit? Will he say so? No! If he does, beware of him! There is one infallible test: if a man is full of the Holy Spirit the fruit of the Spirit will be seen in his life (Galatians 5:22-23) – a high standard, but it is God’s standard, and in our church work we must not lower it.
6. Spirit-taught Men
Notice the words in verse 3, “full of…wisdom”. That is, full of discernment. Some people seem to be born tactless, and it would not be wise to give such people a position of influence and responsibility in the church. Others lack discernment and spiritual insight, and their outlook is worldly. They do not seem to appreciate the serious nature of the holy ministry in which they are engaged. These men are obviously not right for positions of leadership – look up James 3:13-18, and then refer to James 1:5.
7. Men of Faith
We read in verse 5 that “they chose Stephen, a man full of faith…” Why is it so important that men who are helping in the Lord’s work should be full of faith? It is important because God’s work is faith work, and the men who are appointed must obviously be those who know how to trust God – look up Daniel 11:32 (KJV).
We have seen the kind of men God wants the Church to appoint as His representatives, channels through whom He may pour out His blessing. This is God’s pattern for us all – for men and for women – but particularly for men, upon whom rests the responsibility of leadership.