How did the apostles deal with the first major problem within the church?
By Acts 6:1 the church could have reached over 20,000 men and women. At that time “there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists.” Hebrews were the native Jewish population of Palestine; Hellenists were Jews from the Diaspora. The Hellenists’ absorption of aspects of Greek culture made them suspect to the Palestinian Jews. The Hellenists believed their widows were not receiving an adequate share of the food the church provided for their care (1 Tim. 5:3–16).
The apostles considered the problem and said they could not “leave the word of God and serve tables” (Acts 6:2). The word translated “tables” can refer to tables used in monetary matters (Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:15), as well as those used for serving meals. To be involved either in financial matters or in serving meals would take the 12 away from their first priority. Prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2) define the highest priorities of church leaders (Acts 6:4).
Rather, they told the church to pick out “seven men” to take care of it (acts 6:3). These were not deacons in terms of the later church office (1 Tim. 3:8–13), although they performed some of the same duties. Stephen and Philip (the only ones of the 7 mentioned elsewhere in Scripture) clearly were evangelists, not deacons. Acts later mentions elders (14:23; 20:17), but not deacons.
The 7 men chosen by the church all had Greek names, implying they were all Hellenists. The church, in a display of love and unity, may have chosen them to rectify the apparent imbalance involving the Hellenistic widows. The apostles “prayed…laid hands on them” (acts 6:6). This expression was used of Jesus when He healed and sometimes indicated being taken prisoner. In the Old Testament, offerers of sacrifices laid their hands on the animal as an expression of identification (Lev. 8:14,18,22; Heb. 6:2). But in the symbolic sense, it signified the affirmation, support, and identification with someone and his ministry (see 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim. 1:6; Num. 27:23
How to Choose Church Leadership
If the selection of church leadership is undertaken in a more informed, strict way, as Paul lays out that it should be, it should be possible to successfully choose an upright and morally irreproachable leader. Testing character and having high expectations at the outset would save some ministers from being corrupted, thereby ensuring that church members are not affected and having their faith rocked a bit. Here are some guidelines that Paul gives on how church leadership should be picked. View pictures in App save up to 80% data.
1. Pick a church leader that has a spotless reputation. As Paul says: "Now the overseer is to be above reproach." (1 Timothy 3:1). One question this might raise is whether the person has done immoral things in the past or has committed sins that show the potential for weakness as a leader. For example, could someone who used to be an alcoholic or a drug addict become a pastor or a deacon, etc.? In deciding whether the person has learned sufficiently from the experience and overcome it, look at the person's recent conduct, work habits and family life:
Has that life been clean, sober and consistent for the last five or 10 years? A modern day interpretation of what it means to be above reproach would be, have they not had any illegal substances in the last five years, or gambled, or gone to a strip club, or drank alcohol in excess? And so forth. Is their language clean? Do others respect and speak of this person as an upright, law-abiding citizen, chivalrous, kind but determined, etc?
Remember to keep a place for forgiveness and given someone a second chance. Where it is clear that the person has overcome the problems, learned and reformed, such a leader can be a beacon for those who wish to change their lives around for the better. Such a person will have incredible compassion, something much needed in a good leader.
2. Find a leader who has a good family life. "He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?" (1 Timothy 3:4--5). Paul says that a person worthy of leadership must have their house and family in order. While there is occasionally a joke told about the pastor's kids being some of the worst kids, this should not be the case.
The potential leader's children and spouse must respect them, because if their family doesn't respect them, why would a church body respect them? Paul says that a church leader must be "faithful to his wife." (1 Timothy 3:2) This would include any current pastor or church leader who is found with a stash of pornography or looking at it. Such one should step down when approached by a reputable group of church members.
3. Discern by evidence whether a potential leader has good character. Paul says that a leader must be "temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money." (1 Timothy 3:2--3). This is a long list for sure:
To be temperate means that the leader must have very good self-restraint and self-discipline.
The person must be respected for their character. They must be hospitable, not rude to outsiders.
The person must be able to teach, so they must be educated.
They should not have a habit of getting drunk.
They should not be violent, and not prone to angry outbursts or yelling. They must not be quarrelsome, meaning they do not pick arguments everywhere they go. This person must be a peacemaker.
Lastly, and this is very important since churches take tithes and offerings, this person must not love money. The Bible says "the love of money is the root of all evil," and Jesus said it would be impossible to love both God and money. So this person must be overall, a more noble person than one might expect.
4. Seek out a leader that is not a new Christian. Paul says, "He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil." Satan was once a head angel in Heaven, but he became overly prideful, which resulted in God casting him out of Heaven down to earth. Satan thought that he could become the God himself. He wanted to rule in God's place. He literally tried to overthrow God, of all beings, and God expelled him and one third of the angels. So, Paul is saying that if someone has converted only a few months or years before seeking leadership, allowing this person to become a leader or an elder, risks making them overly prideful, much like Satan was.
5. See that the prospect has earned the right to become a leader, and part of earning that right is walking faithfully with God over a long period of time. They have to prove themselves by having a long standing devotion to living the life that God intends for us to live. Also, how can they teach anyone the Bible until they have been taught the truths of the Bible themselves first?
6. See whether someone who wants to be a leader is thought to have good character by the standards of the outside world. Paul says, "He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap." If several people who are not saved know some dirt on the prospective leader, their reputation could be quickly ruined, and the leader, and the church, would be disgraced.Also, Paul mentions that the leader of bad character might "fall into the devil's trap." This means that if the person does have a bad reputation with outsiders, due to having a past of drugs or drinking, etc., it might be easy for them to fall back into the same behavior. This somewhat answers the question posed earlier of whether an ex-drug addict can become a pastor, however the context matters and care should be taken to assume that every person will fail in such a way. Paul would say that this generally would not be a good idea, but there are cases where it happens and works out okay. It depends on how strong the person's resolve is to stay clean. Also, if they are in a new city where no one knows them, there will be less temptation for them to fall back into their habits. So it's hard to say for sure, but generally church leaders, in any position of leadership, should have a clean past as well as a clean present.
Don't be too quick to accept church leaders. Be selective in picking leadership, for any position in the church. Consider trialing a potential leader in a leadership role without giving the role to the person permanently, to observe how they handle various challenges.
Don't worry about being overly careful in who you pick. The success of your church depends on it, and the reputation of Christianity as a whole.
Make sure that a thorough background check is done on anyone wanting to be in leadership, especially if they want to be a Youth or Children's Pastor, director of their choir, music or such. A police check is essential.