When there is conflict in the church, the church can grow! We have heard many times this or that church has had a fight. The result of the conflict is the church loses members and has quite a time of recovering. I don’t believe a conflict is a sign of the end of a congregation. When a conflict is handled with the design of the church in mind and mature faith, a congregation can actually prosper.
When the followers of the Way had conflict, they handled it well. It is actually a great model for us today. Right here in Acts 6 we see this model lived. This model worked for them and I am sure it can work for us. Actually, I believe it is a model that will work in every congregation in the world! Let’s see what the model is and how we can use it.
A. There is a way for the church to get through complaints (6:1-7)
1. The followers of the Way made sure no one had any need, at least at first
2. Hellenists versus Hebrews
a. Hellenists – spoke Greek
b. Hebrews – spoke Aramaic
c. Speaking different languages could hamper food being handed out
3. The Twelve – the leaders of the fellowship of followers of the Way
a. The Apostles
b. Led the fellowship in following the teachings of Jesus
c. Led the fellowship by demonstrating God’s deeds of power by healing
d. Led the fellowship by distributing the daily food rations
e. Things were getting too big for the Twelve do on their own
4. “Whole community of disciples”
a. Disciples – people who were learning to follow Jesus by listening to the apostles
b. All 3-5,000 members of the fellowship? No
c. Most likely those disciples who were mature in following the Holy Spirit
5. The proposal – we need more leaders
a. The apostles need to continue to pray and serve the word of God
b. Someone needs to wait on tables
c. Select 7 men – 1.) Good standing, 2.) Full of the Spirit, 3.) full of wisdom
6. The decision – based on the whole community of disciples being pleased with the idea
a. Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, & Nicolaus
b. Some Greek names here – they chose Hellenists!
c. The apostles gave the seven authority to do the work & prayed for them
7. What were the results of the decision?
a. The word of God kept on spreading
b. The number of disciples grew and grew
c. Jewish priests started following Jesus!
8. Wow! I still think this model can work anywhere. For us to be a living church, I think it is important that we follow this model. We’ve probably tried other ways to get through conflict and they didn’t work. Getting all the people involved together, being mature about our faith, and making sure the word of God continues to spread sounds like a good combination to solve a conflict. Even during sessions of Annual Conference we hear speakers say a church is upset with the pastor for not visiting. It might be that the leaders of the church sit down and figure out how to get more people visited and the pastor can serve the word of God. It could result in a secretary being hired for the church to do all the needed paperwork, people in the church being authorized to visit the sick, lonely, and dying, and for the pastor to get out of the office and into the community. For when the apostles got into the community with the word of God, people joined the fellowship of disciples! But, what if there are personal attacks against the pastor or members of the fellowship?
B. What do we do when we are falsely accused? (6:8-15)
1. Stephen – a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit
a. He was supposed to be waiting on tables!
b. He was full of grace & power (God was working in and through him!)
c. He prayed for people and they were healed, he spoke about God and people started following Jesus
2. The synagogue of the Freedmen (former slaves from around the Roman Empire)
3. The Freedmen could not handle the wisdom and the Spirit that came from Stephen – like Jesus said would happen (Luke 21:14-15)
4. The Freedmen reverted to dirty tricks – like calling everyone up and stirring up trouble by lying about the pastor
5. And to beat it all, Stephen’s face shone, like an angel, or maybe even like Moses’ face shone after he spent time with God!
6. Yes, personal attacks from people within and outside the church/fellowship will happen. Stephen kept right on trusting God and following Jesus. Even at this point, we sense the fellowship of believers was growing. People were coming to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior because of the signs and wonders that were being done. It is through the Holy Spirit giving us words to say when people argue with us that we can stand. No matter what sort of allegations that people have against us, we keep on speaking what the Holy Spirit tells us to speak. Who knows, our faces may even shine like the face of an angel!
When there is conflict in the church, the church can grow. When we handle a conflict in the model presented in Acts 6, then we can grow. Why can we grow when there is conflict? We grow in number because we are serving the word of God. We grow in number because we engage our leaders to find a mature, spirit-filled decision. We grow as a living church because we keep following Jesus.
Yes, there will be those who make personal attacks on church leaders. It is God’s Holy Spirit who will give us the wisdom to speak what is necessary to speak. For when we as a church keep serving the word of God, we will be a living church.
How about us, is time for us to become mature in following the Holy Spirit? Then we better get to Sunday morning worship, Sunday School, Bible Study, and keep on praying. For every church needs men and women who are in good standing, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of wisdom. Why do we need people who are in good standing, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of wisdom? For it is when we have upstanding, wise, spirit-filled people that we can serve the word of God. For it is when we have upstanding, wise, spirit-filled people that we can increase in size. For it is when we have upstanding, wise, spirit-filled people that we can be the living church that our community needs.