Acts 6:1-7 gives the account of an election that was held by the early church. The apostles instructed the church members to choose seven men. These seven had to be much more than “casual Christians.” They had to be of a good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, and full of wisdom. They would be given the assignment of overseeing the daily distribution of food to the church’s widows.
Many consider this to be the first election of deacons. This interpretation is debated, but I, more or less, have always gone along with it. What’s sad is that in the debate over the interpretation, and in the subsequent debate over the qualifications for deaconship, a major point is missed altogether. That point is: The apostles said, “It is not right that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.”
Listen, the Bible is a very complex book and it takes a ton of study to teach it correctly (2 Timothy 2:15). Such study requires time, and lots of it. It also requires much prayer and focus. All of that is hard to achieve when a man is expected fill his day with visiting the sick, evangelizing the lost, counseling the troubled, attending meetings, etc. Is it any wonder, then, that the New Testament so plainly teaches that each and every Christian is to help out with the work of the church?
Passages such as Romans 12:1-13, 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Ephesians 4:11-16, and 1 Corinthians 14:26 show us that God doesn’t expect all the work to be done by a precious few “spiritual elites.” He gifts every Christian with at least one spiritual gift and says, “Go and try to wear it out through use.” A spiritual gift is a skill or talent that the Christian did not have before the moment of salvation. The Holy Spirit imparted the gift to the Christian the moment the Spirit came to indwell the Christian. Many Christians receive more than one spiritual gift, but each Christian receives at least one.
Here again, though, the church has made the mistake of getting all bogged down in how to interpret the spiritual gift passages. Does God still impart all of the different kinds of gifts or were the so-called “sign” gifts only for the days of the early church? I’ve got an opinion on that question of interpretation, as do others. But in all of the debating and arguing we seem to have completely overlooked the idea that every Christian is supposed to do his or her part in the work of the church.
Ephesians 4:11-12 says that Jesus gave some to be apostles, some to be pastors, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers. And why did He give these people? He did it “for the equipping of the saints.” And why do the saints (Christians) need to be equipped. It is “for the work of the ministry.”
I couldn’t even begin to estimate how many times I, as a pastor, have had to abandon my Bible study and sermon preparation to go do something that some other member of the church could have done. You see, that other church member couldn’t prepare a sermon and preach, but he or she could have done the other job. Such situations don’t just hurt me as a preacher who tries to do a good job in the pulpit; they hurt the entire church.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, the apostle Paul compares the functioning of the church to the functioning of the human body. He says that if a foot doesn’t do its job because it wants to be a hand, that hurts the whole body. If an ear doesn’t do its job because it wants to be an eye, that hurts the whole body. If the whole body is one big eye, the work of hearing doesn’t get done. If it is one big ear, the work of smelling doesn’t get done. What a marvelous illustration!
Sir Michael Costa, that noted composer and conductor of another day, was once conducting a rehearsal with a large number of performers and singers. The mighty chorus was singing out in perfect unison, the organ was thundering, the drums were rolling, the horns were blasting, and the cymbals were clashing. In the midst of that din of noise, one piccolo player began to feel very small and insignificant. He thought to himself, “In all this sound it doesn’t really matter whether I play or not. Nobody will notice if I just stop.” And so he stopped. Immediately, however, the great conductor brought the entire undertaking to a screeching halt, threw up his hands, and cried out, “Where is the piccolo?”
That story makes me think of God. I can just picture Him leaning over heaven’s balcony, listening to the volume of noise that rises up as the church goes about its work. But, unlike Michael Costa, God doesn’t just miss the sound of one player who isn’t using his gift to carry out his assignment. No, God misses thousands, even millions, of spiritually-gifted people who simply aren’t doing the jobs they are supposed to be doing.
So tell me, Christian, how is your piccolo playing these days? Are you using your spiritual gift (gifts) in service to Christ? Are you carrying your weight with the work of the church? Or does the Lord only hear silence coming from your chair? Speaking as a hard-working part of the orchestra, let me just say that we need your piccolo. If you won’t play it, somebody like me will have to pick up the slack. And, frankly, I’ve got plenty of my own work to do.