Mei Lan Thallman is originally from Taiwan and a graduate of Asbury College and Asbury Theological Seminary (M.A.) in Kentucky. She is the wife of Pastor Kirt, who serves at Grace Covenant Church (Philadelphia). They have two children, Nate (14) and Naomi (12).
Pastor Ryun’s series returns on Monday.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
An Antidote for “Me” Leadership
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people.
“What’s for dinner?” is one of the most repeated questions I hear from my kids. Their response to my answer can either place a smile on my face—or drop an atomic bomb in my spirit. After all the effort I put into making a meal, the last thing I want to hear is “Are you making that again?” or “I don’t like that.” So, at the dinner table, I often need to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to help me to maintain a loving attitude and to zip my mouth from unleashing well-deserved rebuke to my unappreciative, complaining, and expert food critiquing family. Ironically, this situation helps me to understand why the Holy Spirit impressed Luke to emphasize the leadership qualifications to care for the practical needs of a growing church family.
Upon examining Acts 6, a few important spiritual principles stand out. First, there is no distinction in God’s eyes: one ministry is not more important than the other; both spiritual and practical needs of the church family are equally important. Second, God’s criteria for leadership qualities to meet both needs are also the same. It’s very fascinating how the text repeatedly emphasizes the importance of choosing leaders who are known to be “full of the Spirit, wisdom, God’s grace and God’s power” (v.3, 5, 8).
The early church is experiencing growth explosion and increasing responsibilities to care for the diversifying needs of the congregation. The twelve apostles recognized the need to expand their leadership team in order to adequately shepherd the young and fast growing flock. Seven men were appointed with the primary responsibility to wait on tables. The Greek word for “wait on” is the verb from which the noun “deacon” comes from.
Acts 6 used to puzzle me, because I felt like these seven men were overqualified to wait on tables. Anybody can wait on tables. When we are known to be full of the Spirit, wisdom, and God’s grace and power, we often think that we are suitable for more important tasks—like teacher, elder, worship leader, small group leader, etc. But having received from the Lord this awesome privilege of serving Him for past 20+ years, I understand that who we are is much more important than what we do. God always looks for leaders who lead out of who they are and not just what they do (title or position). I praise God for placing the priority on the quality of our heart and character over our natural ability and talents. I’m glad that none of the seven responded that they were too spiritual, too qualified, and too good to wait on tables; instead, they accepted the call with humility, availability, and deep gratitude for what Jesus had done for them.
Prayer: Lord, as we begin 2017 it is our heart’s cry to become men and women who are characterized to be “full of Holy Spirit, godly wisdom, God’s grace and power.” As we face the challenges of our time, we can all agree this world is in desperate need for more leaders with the spirit of Stephen in our homes, churches, schools, work places, country and world. The Holy Spirit who lived in and through Stephen is the same Person who indwells with all believers of Jesus Christ. Lord, empower us to take a bold and firm stand in our generation and to be a faithful steward of the influences you have entrusted to us. In Christ Jesus’ overcoming name. Amen.