Have we SET our PRIORITIES on PRAYER & PREACHING? Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:1-4)
At a time when the infant church at Jerusalem was doubly blessed with an increasing number of people coming to the Christian faith along with an abundance of financial resources that came from various generous donations, the church started passing through some ‘growing pains’. Satan was actually using two methods to destroy the church that he has employed throughout history: internal dissension (6:1–7) and external persecution (6:8–15; 8:1). If Satan cannot destroy by attacks from without, he will seek to overthrow by dissensions from within. The growth of the church had made some administrative changes necessary within the church, and the time had now come for the New Testament church to get organized suitably.
In the midst of great spiritual blessings, there arose out of a rift between the Greek-speaking Jews and the Hebrews (the Aramaic-speaking Jews). In those days, it was customary to make daily disbursements to the poor widows of the church who had no other means of support. Some of the believers who had been Greek-speaking Jews complained because their widows were not receiving the same treatment as the widows of the more traditional Hebrew-speaking Jews (those from Jerusalem and Judea). This complaint came to the attention of the twelve apostles that now included the newly elected apostle Matthias (Acts 1:26). This was the time for the twelve apostles to make a decision concerning their priorities after evaluating their "upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14).
The twelve apostles realized that with the increasing growth of the church, some provision would have to be made for handling these business matters. They themselves did not want to forsake the ministry of the word of God in order to handle financial matters, so without spending much time in debating this matter, the twelve apostles called all the disciples together and asked them to seek out seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and full of wisdom. These men would be responsible for administering the charitable allocations for the widows (see 1 Tim. 3:8–13; 5:3–16). Upon the appointment of such men, the twelve apostles could give themselves to the ministry to which they were called: prayer, and to the ministry of the word (preaching). This solved the problem, and the word of God continued to spread in Jerusalem, resulting in the conversion of even some Jewish priests!
This episode points to the primacy of the ministry of prayer and the word of God (v. 2), which always keeps the death and resurrection of Christ in the foreground. The apostles would give themselves continually to prayer and to declaring/teaching the word of God. The order here is significant—first prayer, then the ministry of the word. They made it a point to speak to God about men before speaking to men about God. In serving tables, the seven men released the apostles for their ministry of prayer and the Word; and the result was an increase in conversions in the early church (v. 7).
The question to ask ourselves today is: Have we set our priorities on prayer and preaching God’s Word? It is important for every spiritual leader to share the ministry and delegate the various job functions in the church. The twenty-first century church would do well to take this advice given by the twelve apostles of the first century. However, many church leaders today are not free to devote themselves to the two prime aspects of their ministry, prayer and the preaching of the word. Unless our spiritual leaders follow the example of the apostles, our churches will not grow and prosper as they did during the first century.