Monday, April 16, 2012

Serving Tables: Leadership Qualities

Serving Tables: Leadership Qualities

Conflict divided the early church in Jerusalem. On one side, the Hellenists, preferring an intellectual emphasis in worship. On the other, the Hebrews, preferring a cultural, genealogical emphasis in worship.

The apostles, as leaders of the church, directed the assembly to create a committee:

"Brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty." Acts 6:3 (ESV)

The apostles required the "Table Serving Ministry" leaders to excel in three qualities:

  • Good repute
  • Full of the Spirit
  • Full of wisdom

First we will examine "good repute".

GOOD REPORT: martyreo (to be a witness, to testify, give evidence, bear record, be well reported of, testify); from martys (a witness, or a "martyr")

"Good report" is translated from a single Greek word that means "witness", whether of one telling what he has seen and heard, or of one which others report as being a reliable witness.

Becoming a reliable witness requires that a person to witness reliably. In other words, there must be evidence that the person has repeatedly told the truth in a variety of details. The evidence must be seen by other reliable witnesses, people able and willing to endorse another's honesty.

Having a reputation of honesty requires community. A recognized witness of "good report" must have lived among many people...talking, working, playing, trading, or praying...for time enough to gain that reputation.

A citizen must undergo questioning by the court before being allowed to serve as a juror. The citizen must have evidence of living in the community, and the person's work, recreation and philosophy are open to public question. The defendant, prosecutor and judge all have direct control over the decision to name a juror, because a juror will be a witness of the trial, and the juror will judge others who claim to be witnesses of the truth.

The apostles saw the ministry of serving tables as being essential and influential. They understood that the "Serving Table Ministry" leaders must be honest, and they must be known for their honesty.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Who in our church functions as a ministry leader? How do we determine the honesty of prospective leaders? Why would the "Serving Table Ministry" leaders be required to be scrupulously honest?

It is easily apparent that "good report" goes hand in hand with witnessing of Jesus. Christians in Jerusalem could hardly desire leaders who were not honest about Jesus, or leaders who were unwilling to be open and enthusiastic about telling the truth of Jesus. The apostles understood that serving tables was a direct obedience of the command to be witnesses of Jesus.

"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning." John 15:26-27 (ESV)

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8 (ESV)

Being a witness of Jesus is far removed from the emotionless statement of fact given by a witness in a trial. Christians are to witness with love and compassion, emotion and enthusiasm:

"You know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (ESV)

"Charged" is translated from the same word as "good report": martyreo (to be a witness).

The ones who benefited from the table ministry, as well as the leaders of the ministry, required a "good report" of being a faithful witness as well.

"Honor widows who are truly widows...She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day...Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work." 1 Timothy 5:3,5,9-10 (ESV)

"Reputation" is from the same Greek word as "good report" and "witness".

Dishonest leaders, or leaders who are unwilling to be openly honest, will tend to encourage followers who are dishonest or unwilling to be openly honest. Several years after the Christians in Jerusalem had organized the "Serving Table Ministry", Paul urged Pastor Timothy to be careful to follow the same requirements for honesty and good report.

Children and grandchildren who are able should support their parents, rather than expecting their community or church to provide food and shelter for them. People who withhold or hide their ability to help their parents fail to be honest...they fail to be reliable witnesses.

"She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives." 1 Timothy 5:5-6 (ESV)

Paul described a widow who is self-indulgent (King James Version: "she that liveth in pleasure", to be voluptuous, to make luxury and sensual appetite one's greatest desire). Paul said the self-indulgent person is dead even while they live. The Greek word for "dead" means "to die", a literal or figurative death.

In contrast, having a reputation for good works is evidence of a person who sets God as her greatest desire, a "Christian hedonist", one who treasures the pleasure of knowing God above all else.

Having a "good report", a reputation for honesty and being a reliable witness is solidly based upon one's faith.

"Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation." Hebrews 11:1-2 (ESV)

"Commendation" is the same word as "good report".

The writer of the Book of Hebrews described the faithful lives of several people, as recorded in the Old Testament. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and more are all examples of people living according to their faith, people who honestly and openly gave evidence of the truth, risking their lives for the sake of truth, refusing to conceal or distort the truth.

Eternal life depends upon our having a "good report":

"Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." 1 John 5:10-12 (ESV)

Faith in Jesus as the Son of God is evidence that God is true, that God gives eternal life, and that eternal life is in Jesus. Those who are reliable witnesses of Jesus as the Son of God and Giver of Life will have that extends beyond and above physical death of our earthly bodies.

Seemingly mundane ministries, work that perhaps appears to be lowly, even bureaucratic or minor, are in reality opportunities to be reliable witnesses of Jesus. Every moment of our lives, in fact, whether in daily routine or life-changing drama, serves as platform for praise, worship and appreciation for the grace of God shown to us through Jesus.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? What work is done in our church, with and for other believers, that could be described as "unspiritual" or "non-religious"? In what way can we proclaim the sanctity and importance of even mundane labor and the "witness-status" of every believer and every work?

The leader of a ministry must be full of the Spirit and wisdom, as well as having good repute as a reliable, honest witness of truth.

"Brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty." Acts 6:3 (ESV)

FULL OF: pleres (replete, covered over or complete); from pimplemi or pleo (to fill, imbue, influence, supply or fulfil)

SPIRIT: hagios (sacred, pure, blameless, religious or consecrated) and pneuma (a current of air, a breath or breeze; a spirit, soul, angel, daemon, God); from hagos (an awful thing)

WISDOM: sophia (wisdom); from sophos (wise); akin to saphes (clear)

"Full of the Spirit" or "Full of the Holy Spirit" is found 19 times in the New Testament.

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness." Luke 4:1 (ESV)

Stephen, chosen by the church in Jerusalem to be part of the Table Serving Ministry, was specifically described as "...a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit..." Acts 6:5 (ESV)

Later, Stephen did great wonders and signs, "full of grace and power", speaking with "wisdom and the Spirit". (Acts 6:8)

Stephen was also "full of the Holy Spirit" at the moment of his death from stoning. The experience allowed him to see Jesus standing at the right hand of God in heaven. (Acts 7:55)

The church sent Barnabas, "full of the Holy Spirit and of faith", to preach in Antioch.

Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit when he rebuked Elymas the magician, calling upon the Lord to blind Elymas temporarily. (Acts 13:9)

Being filled with God's Holy Spirit is not a common phenomena. The biblical references to being filled with the Spirit are to specific people, implying that it is not a universal human experience.

Being filled with the Spirit is not under human control or will. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment of conception in his mother's womb (Luke 1:15).

Without warning or willing desire, John's mother was filled with the Holy Spirit, prophetically blessing Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:41-45).

John's father experienced the same thing, suddenly given words of blessing and prophecy regarding his son being the herald of the Lord, the "horn of salvation" (Luke 1:67-80).

The apostles first experienced the filling of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, overwhelming them with crushing sound, glorifying them with fire, amazing the city with miraculous words of praise of God in foreign languages (Acts 2:4).

Peter confronted the religious rulers who had arrested him, exalting boldly the sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Peter was released from prison and reported what had happened, and the whole church exploded in prophetical song, filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8-31).

Most of the instances appear to be spontaneous, without conscious effort or will of the person experiencing the filling of the Spirit. However, a disciple at Damascus, Ananias, responded to a dream that directed him to lay hands on Saul of Tarsus, later to be named Paul the Apostle. Ananias, although frightened by the violent reputation of Saul, obeyed. He layed hands on blind Saul, and specifically told him "be filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:13).

Whether suddenly surprised by the experience, or sobbing with great desire for it, the filling of the Holy Spirit is always under the direct control of God Almighty, and it is allowed only for the purpose of showing the mercy and grace, the holiness and righteousness, and the power and wisdom of God.

Paul described the filling the Spirit as being overwhelmed with God's power:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope." Romans 15:13 (ESV)

Paul understood that the power of the Holy Spirit fills a person in order to overwhelm them with hope: confident expectation based upon faith in God. This filling of the Holy Spirit's power brings immeasureable joy and peace: cheerfulness and calm delight, happiness, well-being, and spiritual prosperity, being completely reconciled to our Creator.

Being filled with the Spirit is to be filled with the fullness of God. All that God is, His glory, power and love, begin working in us:

"I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)

We can recognize the phenomenon of being filled with a spirit, whether good or bad, by examining the emotions and behaviors that a person expresses, whether of one's own self, or of others.

Being filled with the spirit of humanity results in a person controlling others, exalting personal power and pleasure, outward beauty with inward ugliness, injustice, unforgiving, untrusting, greed, self-indulgence, uncleanness, hypocrisy and lawlessness, murder, poisonous, cruelty and persecution (Matthew 23). Refusing God's Holy Spirit brings ungratefulness, futility, foolishness, idolatry, impurity, lies, unnatural relations, consumed with dishonorable passion, error, debasement, evil, covetousness, malice, envy, strife, deceit, gossip, slander, hate, insolence, haughtiness, boasting, disobedience, faithless, heartless and ruthless (Romans 1).

Being filled with the spirit of divinity results in a person expressing cleanness, fruitfulness, joy, knowledge, truth, boldness, repentance, righteousness, justice, godly worship, peace, reconciliation, glory (John 15-16-17). Gladly treasuring God's Spirit brings freedom, life, adoption by God as His sons and daughters, heirs of glory, redemption, hope, goodness and victory(Romans 8). Spirit-filled believers experience every spiritual blessing, lavish wisdom and insight, a purpose for living, unity with God, wisdom, revelation and knowledge, enlightened hearts: the immeasureable greatness of his power (Ephesians 1). Christians are strengthened, rooted and grounded in love that surpasses human knowledge, singing and making melody, giving thanks and caring for others. (Ephesians 3-5).

Paul summed up nicely the wonderful experience of being filled with God's Spirit:

"We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father." Colossians 1:9-12 (ESV)

The leaders of the church in Jerusalem understood that the conflict between the Hellenists and Hebrews, on the surface, was a lack of adequate organization. Assigning a small group of men to be responsible for fair distribution of food to needy families was the first, initial solution to the surface problem.

However, the apostles wisely realized that the root issue that caused the conflict in the first place was not lack of organization. Rather, the deeper cause of conflict was the lack of knowledge of God as revealed by Scripture. The apostles made biblical knowledge the ultimate solution. They insisted that the Table Serving Ministry leaders be filled with God's Spirit, as demonstrated by their reputation as reliable, bold witnesses and wisdom in words and behavior. This would immediately increase the number of leaders who were obviously filled with God's Spirit, men who were allowing God's power to control their words and actions.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Imagine attempting to write a brief, one-page application form for prospective ministry leaders. What three, simple questions would you suggest for the application form? What key words would you look for to support someone's claim that they were "filled with God's Spirit"?

Image provided by Stephen Oung,, Creative Commons License.