Thursday, February 21, 2008

Acts: Waiting Tables? (6:1-7)

As chapter 6 of Acts begins a shift occurs. The focus leaves Jerusalem and follows the Gospel as it begins to spread through the region. Here the Gospel becomes for the first time cross-cultural. Traditionally 6:1-7 has been seen primarily as the beginning of the Deacon. This is probably missing the real point of this passage, or at least sells it far short.

The first big conflict in the young church is not a theological argument, but a cultural issue. It seems all the church leadership was comprised of Aramaic speaking believers, and the Greek believers were being overlooked. Today many churches would mistakenly equate the Gospel to the culture and demanding that the Greek believers conform to the Aramaic way. Far to often, Christian cultures see their culture (behavior and speech) as the key to Christianity, and forget that the Gospel is the key.

The early church leaders took a different approach to the problem. They recognized the other culture as valid and equal. They led the church to recognize leaders from this other group. Their ministry would be to take care of administrative matters. Their qualifications would be three: reputation, administrative ability, and spiritual filling.
Today, in some traditions at least, this office of Deacon has evolved from table waiter and administrator. In a culture where the Spiritual leaders have become free agents rarely arising from within a congregation, they (perhaps correctly) see themselves as the true, local spiritual leadership. The problem is they see their leadership role primarily as that of cultural guardians. They make sure that everyone in the church conforms to the accepted culture. This is a far cry from the first seven of these ministers, men who took the Gospel on its first cross-cultural journey out of Jerusalem and into the Greek world.

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