Acts 6:1–15 (NKJV)
1 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. 2 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. 3 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; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”Acts 6:1-7
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them.
7 Then the word of God spread, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith.
With any burgeoning movement, there can be moments where the learning curve is steep and some oversights occur. Men and women can make mistakes, miss things, overlook an important situation. People can be hurt or feel left out, less important than they really are. This happened in the New Testament church as the Gentile (Hellenist) widows seemed to be getting less provision and attention than the Jewish widows. The apostles did not hesitate, but had a meeting of the disciples and proclaimed a need for what would become known as the diaconate ministry, or the ministry of deacons. They were to choose seven men with a good reputation that were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. These men would serve to oversee the business and serving aspects of the ministry.
This was Godly wisdom that would make sure that the apostles would have the time and energy to devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. This made both aspects of the ministry stronger: the preaching and teaching ministry and the service ministry. Service is often seen as less glamorous than the preaching or teaching ministry, yet has an equal importance in the kingdom. Serve where you find yourself. Be happy with the station in which you dwell. Know that God honors ministry and service, regardless of the glamour attached to either. It is interesting to note that the deacons were called forward and anointed, signifying the spiritual nature of even making sure that everyone got a plate at meal times. When everyone serves in some capacity, the church will prosper and grow, and the gospel will go forth in power and effectiveness.
8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. 11 Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. 13 They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” 15 And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.Acts 6:8-15
Stephen, one of the seven men chosen and anointed to be deacons, was a powerful man of faith and anointing. He spoke out for Christ, and performed wonders and signs among the people. This got the attention of those who did not agree with him. They disputed him and were unable to disprove his words, so they framed him, lying about his blaspheming Moses and the Lord. But even in the midst of this false evidence and false accusations, everyone in the council still saw the presence of God within him, describing him as having the face of an angel. A deacon was anointed and the presence of God was evident.
Although the church did experience growing pains, the Holy Spirit directed them through this turbulent time and helped them progress and grow. The Hellenists complained that their dear widow mothers and grandmothers were not getting cared for properly, and the church responded with a system of organization, service, and leadership that is still present in many churches today. The Holy Spirit led them to this solution. The government and the established church system fought them strenuously, even convicting them of trumped-up crimes and killing them, yet the young, new movement of God’s people continued to grow exponentially in the hostile environment. Growing pains will come for a church and for individuals, but do not be discouraged or dismayed when they come. God’s church will grow and prosper through the anointing and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Pray for the power and listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit!