November 13, 2007

What Has Casserole to do with Salvation?

This week, the elders and deacons of PRBC are finalizing our Servant Ministry Roster for 2008. Each year, in an attempt to help every member find its place in the body (1 Corinthians 12), we survey the congregation, seeking to get their input on spiritual own gifting and minsitry desires for the coming year. Then the six of us (3 elders and 3 deacons) sit down together and sort it all out, developing a plan for every-member ministry to present to the congregation. We'd appreciate your prayers in the endeavor.

Now, by way of encouragement for those who aren't a part of PRBC, I'd like to point out that the very first Servant Ministry Roles were assigned in Acts chapter 6. There was a logistical problem in the church at Jerusalem: thousands of church members; and only twelve apostles to meet all the needs! More specifically, the widows in the church were in need of basic daily provisions. In those days, a woman without a husband was very often financially destitute. So the church had undertaken to care for the ladies within its membership who faced this kind of poverty. So should every church.

But again, logistics tripped them up. Remember, there were thousands of people to care for; perhaps hundreds of widows to feed; and only twelve apostles! There was no way the twelve could do it all…especially if they were to give proper attention to study, teaching, and prayer. So the church had to get organized. And, in Acts 6.1-6, they did just that, selecting from among themselves seven men who would bring foodstuffs to the widows (and probably do other various necessary tasks). They were the forerunners of our deacons.

What a heart-warming story! All the widows were fed, and they all lived happily ever after. Yes…but that is not where the story ends. After the church’s first business meeting and the selecting of it first Servant Ministry Roster in verses 1-6, we read this sentence in verse 7: “The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem.”

I don’t think verse 7 is the beginning of a whole new line of thought. I believe it is meant to be read as a continuation of, even a result of, what happened in verses 1-6. What was the upshot of the Servant Ministry Roster and, particularly, the feeding of the widows? The gospel spread even further than it had before! A fact which begs an interesting question: ‘They fed the widows and people got saved? How did that work? What has casserole to do with salvation?’

Think it out. Because the Servant Ministers brought canned goods (OK, maybe it was sacks of grain) to the old ladies:

  1. The church was brought back from the brink of civil war. If people don’t serve, things don’t get done. And when things don’t get done, people start to complain (which they did in Acts 6.1). And when church folks complain, their testimony in the community is quickly snuffed out. But because of those bags of corn—and those Servant Ministers—that didn’t happen.
  2. The apostles (the preachers and teachers) were freed up to give their best attention to the preaching of the gospel.
  3. The church gave off a sweet-smelling aroma to their unbelieving neighbors. ‘Look at the way they care for each other. Maybe we ought to listen to what that preacher is saying. It sure seems to make a difference for them.’
  4. The widows had a great testimony to give to the other old ladies: ‘Let me tell you about Prochorus from my church. What a difference Jesus has made in his life. He’s like a son to me…every day bringing me food and caring for my needs.’

Four good reasons, I think, to thank the members of my congregation for their acceptance of one or more Servant Ministry Roles in 2008. Four good reasons for me to encourage you to be faithful to find your part in the body wherever you may live. Who knows how the word of God may spread, and the number of disciples in your city increase, because you watched the nursery, ran the sound board, shoveled the snow, or baked a casserole!

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