In Acts Chapter 6 I noticed these things:
1. The church was growing so fast that it needed structure
2. Lay ministry was introduced
3. Others were threatened by this success
4. Leadership requires resolve, and sometimes, sacrifice
In this story, the new Christian community was trying to live according to the teachings of Christ, but elitism crept in, so there was conflict between the native Hebrews and the Hellenistic Jews over the distribution of food. Stephen and six others were elected by their congregations and approved by the apostles as lay ministers, setting up the first hierarchical structure in the church.
Imagine what our churches, workplaces and communities would look like if we were all able to live by Jesus’ message that one person is not better than the other. If we could learn something as seemingly simple as that, we wouldn’t need the complicated bureaucracies that we all live in today. So what does this say to me?
I recently achieved a revolution of sorts at work (on a smaller scale than that of Jesus and the apostles), and it is now necessary to create a structure so that the success can be maintained. People from the front lines have to be identified and empowered, and probably some of those will become leaders themselves. We have to guard against others’ perceptions that the changes are disrespectful of the old ways. If others choose to feel threatened, we have to remind them that we are all working toward the same goal, and we will get there faster if we work together.
There will be challenges, human nature being what it is. Not everyone is ready to embrace change, just as in the first century as well as now, not everyone is ready to live according to Jesus’ message. We just have to do our best to continue doing the right things, be kind to friends and enemies alike, and trust that God’s plan is taking shape in our little corner of the world.