It is so good to be with you guys. This is such a bizarre experience for me to be preaching at University High School. Last time I was here it was ten years ago, probably right after Kelsey and I got married. We flew out to come visit her folks and had a service here. I remember walking into this building and being this bizarre place of deja vu because this high school is the exact same layout as my high school in Jacksonville. So I’ve spent lots of years in this auditorium in Jacksonville, and it’s so good to be here.
It’s crazy to think that after a year of being in Orlando, I finally get to come to the East and University group of the Orlando Church. And I am so encouraged, really, just to be a part of this Church here in Orlando. It has been such an amazing year transitioning here. Well, I want to get into our discussion for today. So as we’ve already introduced to everyone that we are focusing for the rest of the year for most of the rest of the year, out of the last part of Ephesians four there being equipped.
And there’s a lot we’re going to be talking about through these next several months about the roles within the Church, how we can serve, dealing with sin and conflict and relational dynamics with each other. We’re going to cover a lot of different things through that, because Ephesians four is a very meaty chapter, as we’ve already experienced this year. But today I’m excited. Well, you know what? To start off, I want to talk about College football.
Okay. Because if you didn’t know, College football just kicked off yesterday. And that Saturday is a big day for me. Now, I don’t want to alienate any of you who are maybe FSU fans. Please don’t take offense at this. We’re still better than you this year.
But I love you or I don’t want to alienate any of you that don’t really care about College football. That’s fine, too. Okay. Yes.
But if you don’t watch College football every Saturday, there’s a program called College Game Day, and this is actually a huge part of the fall experience in our home. My wife hates football. I’ll just get that out there right now. She tolerates she loves me, and so she tolerates it on Saturdays, but she actually loves having College Game Day on in the mornings on Saturdays, because it represents two different things for us. For me, it represents the day up ahead and the war of football yesterday when I was watching, and I just felt so happy and excited.
Lee Corso is back on the program, and football is starting again. And, you know, there’s all kinds of COVID stuff that’s out there that could have stopped it. But for my wife, College Game Day represents fall. It represents all the Apple spice smells that come with fall. It represents the changing of the leaves, kind of for Florida.
And during College Game Day, they talk about the upcoming games of the day. They talk about the big stories that are going on in College football. And it ends with each person a table picking who they think is gonna win in those big games of the day. Lee Corso puts on a big mascot helmet usually. And then right after this program is over, the first games of the day immediately kick off.
And for a lot of us College football fans, College Game Day sets the stage for what’s coming. This is the beginning of what you’re going to experience for the day. And it’s actually great to be on the East Coast, too, because it normally starts at, like, what, 06:00 in the morning on the West Coast? But anyways, the title for our sermon today is called Set the Table.
Alright. So today we’re going to be in Acts chapter six. So if you got a Bible turn over there, we’re going to stay there the whole time. And as you’re turning there, I’m going to give us some exposition and set the stage for what we’re going to read here. Okay.
Because in Acts chapter one, Jesus ascends into heaven, right. And leaves establishing his Church and his church’s future to the Apostles. Now in verse 15, what we see in chapter one is at that time, it says in those days, Peter stood up among the believers, a group numbering of about 120. So the Church was about 120 people. That’s it.
That’s what they’re starting the Church with. That’s about the size of a region here in Orlando. All right. Now we’re going to pay attention to these numbers here at the beginning because it’s going to lead us into what we’re going to talk about in chapter six. But I’ve got a nice little graphic there for you.
As you see, those two people represent 120 people. Right. And moving on to chapter two, where Peter preaches the most effective sermon in all of history. All right. Great sermon.
No one has ever had the results that Peter has had from a sermon. Verse 41, it tells us after he preaches this sermon, about three thousand were added to their number that day, a number that hasn’t been replicated since as far as I know historically. So roughly, if we’re adding up from 120 in chapter one to now 3000 in chapter two, we are about 3120 people at the beginning of this Church. This is the official start of God’s Church. So then we move on to verse 47 of chapter two.
And the Bible says that the Church is in a stage of rapid growth and the Lord was adding to their number daily, those that were being saved right? Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us how many people this is. This is just a random splash for you, but we can assume it’s a lot. People are becoming Christians, followers of Jesus every single day. Now, I’ve heard it preached before, and you probably have too, that our goal as a Church is to replicate the Church of Acts two. Now, what I would say is maybe an amendment to that is in spirit and attitude, yes, but practically, please God. No. Okay, the Church in Acts chapter two is meant to be a temporary experience, okay?
At the beginning of chapter two, it actually tells us that Jews from all over the known world at that time came in for the Feast of Pentecost. Then after this sermon, they become Christians. Verse 45 tells us they sold their possessions. And what it looks like is that most of them stayed.
So now they have a problem. This Church is basically a commune of Christians, of people that are not from Jerusalem. So they all are from all over known parts of the world. They’re selling everything. And then they just stayed.
3000 people. There were some needs that arose from this. People need food, they needed places to live. They don’t have jobs in Jerusalem. So you can imagine as exciting as three thousand people in one day like, amazing that is to like, wait a minute. How do we take care of all these people?
So now fast forward to Acts chapter six, where we’re going to pick up here. In verse one we’re not going to read it just yet. But in verse one, it tells us the number of disciples was increasing. So already people were coming to Christ every day. Now, Acts chapter six, it tells us that the numbers were increasing.
I don’t even know exactly what that means, but the time difference between Acts chapter two and Acts chapter six, from the best research I could find, is roughly three to five years later. Okay, so 3000 people fast forward three to five years later. The numbers are still increasing. So just throw it out there just for fun. There’s no number in the Bible that tells us exactly.
But how big do you guess the Church was at this time? 10,000. I got 1. 30. 20. Man, you guys are much more faithful than I am.
Okay. Alright. Okay. So I’m gonna have a faithfully, conservative number. Okay.
I’m gonna say that the Church doubled. Okay, that’s still that’s not nothing. You’re talking 6200 people. That’s a big Church. All right?
Now I have a question. We’re a Church about the size of Acts one, right? So that means graphically, you can’t really see the yellow, but that’s us right there. Now, when you think about our church just here, just here in University in the east group here, do we have needs in this Church? Do we got some problems? Yeah.
Okay. Now multiply us by 50 and imagine what it would be like to take care of a Church that big. Alright, this is the stage. This is the setting for Acts chapter six. Okay, so we’re gonna go verse by verse, just seven verses of Acts chapter six.
You got your Bibles? Alright, let’s go. Verse one. 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. Alright, let’s stop there.
I said verse by verse. So the Church is growing and that’s awesome growing rapidly. But there’s a problem. It says that there’s a food and needs issue at hand, that there’s food distribution being taken care of, because again, you got people that are from all over the place and these are widows. There were not government programs to take care of single moms.
So the Church had to do it. And what it’s saying is that is that not only is there a problem with the distribution of food, there’s cultural discrimination happening within the Church. That the Hebraic Jews, which those of you think are like the traditional Jews, the Israelites, they’re coming from the family. And then there’s the Hellenistic Jews. The Hellenistic Jews, they’re the ones that lined up more with Rome’s worldview. They maybe didn’t speak Aramaic, they only spoke Greek.
So there might have been a language barrier there, but the Hebraic Jews kind of looked down on Jews that kind of sold out to Rome. Like, who do you think you are, lining yourself up with them, that you can kind of have the best of both worlds. And so the discrimination, the food distribution had probably less to do with how the food is being handled and more to do with even racial or cultural tensions going on. And I want you to take a second and think about the social issues in our world that we’ve had to deal with in our Church in the last year.
There’s been a lot.
Well, what this scripture even identifies for us is that the first century Church was no different.
And there’s a universal truth that I think we have to wrap our minds around as Christians. The more people that gather together, the more sin in humanity will be present. Even when we all have the common goal of living like Jesus. It’s kind of like when you go into marriage, talk about the idea of the luggage you take into your marriage with you, of your past, your history, all that stuff. Well, Church is no different.
You become a Christian, you’re still bringing the luggage of all of your sin and humanity with you. Then you multiply us and stuff happens. Right?
So there’s this issue here. And what happens is the group the Church brings us to the Apostles because nobody is solving it. They just kind of go, look, there’s a problem. You guys see it. You see the problem there? Moving on to verse two.
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. Okay, we have to sit on this for a second. Let these words resonate with you for a moment. Swallow them, digest them, and see how you feel about it. Okay.
The twelve gathered everybody together for a talk. Like, they’re seeing this problem. They pull everybody together. And what they said is, it would not be right for us to neglect the Ministry of the Word of God to wait on tables. I don’t know how this hits you, but a few years ago, I was studying through Acts again, and I came across this passage, and I was like, oh, that’s not okay.
It sounds like the Apostles almost said, no, we’re too good to wait on tables. We’re all gonna be over here preaching and praying, like, imagine for a minute we had a Church potluck, okay? We’re all together. People are throwing their hands in serving and helping. And then Marcus, me, Eddie, all this Ministry staff, we go and go, no, no, no, it would not be right for us to neglect the Ministry of the Word to wait on tables. Does that bug you? It should. Okay, let’s just agree on that. This statement should bug you a little bit, okay?
But hopefully there’s something you’ve learned as you study your Bible. If a passage bothers you, you have to start asking questions. Why does this bug me? Is there something that it’s maybe addressing to me personally, or is there something in the passage that we maybe need to understand? So I think we got to ask the question, what could the Apostles be meaning by this?
Do you think they’re really putting down serving tables? No, they did this. If you remember the story, they fed 5000 and 4000 people, so it’s not that they didn’t serve. So there’s something else going on here. And so I’ve got three things I think the Apostles are saying.
These are not, like, official points for those of you that take notes, but three things I think they’re saying with this. Okay, number one, we can’t meet all the needs in this Church. You know, this reminding this takes me back to Exodus chapter 18, where Moses is leading the Israelites into the Promised land. And Jethro, his fatherinlaw shows up and he sees him serving, and he’s like, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.
What in the world are you doing? You got millions. You can’t do all this. This is way too much for one person to bear. You’ve got other people that are capable of taking care of this, right?
At this stage in the church’s history, as far as we know, we’ve got the twelve Apostles, and that’s all the leadership we know of. So if we’re doing the math again, assuming that there’s 6000 people, there are not 10, 20 that you guys said, because you guys, again, are more faithful than me, divide it equally. That means each Apostle has 500 people to take care of. Does that work mathematically? No.
You can’t take care of 500 people by yourself. You know, our Church actually has a history. Lots of history. But we have a history of putting everything on the evangelist. Whether it be set up and tear down worship, graphic designer, presentation expertise, hopefully, you like my presentation. I’m insecure about it. Counseling, marriages, counseling, parenting, counseling, careers, counseling, life choices, mental health counseling, and. Oh, yeah, we’re supposed to preach and pray, too. There’s an article I read last year about pastoral burnout and COVID. I was talking about the unique world that COVID created in Ministry in particular.
We’re having to Minister from a distance and stuff. And how do you take care of people that you’re not with anymore? But then also, all the new things that are now thrust upon Church leaders to have to figure out they’ve never had to figure out before. So on top of the other things that we talked about, we added sound technician, lighting technician, having a good camera knowhow and good camera quality, Zoom proficiency, YouTube and social media expertise. And then my personal favorite governmental policy interpreter.
That’s very real.
Now, outside of maybe the expectations that we as people want to put on a leader, there’s also another side of this story, too. Evangelists have a tendency to have Messiah complexes. And what that means is there’s a part of us that feels the need to save everybody, do everything. As part of why I believe God even called us into the Ministry is that there’s a part of our heart that wants to take care of people, to love people, to be compassionate. But it goes to a place that’s not healthy.
And actually, if I’m being honest, if I look at myself and think about my heart and the things that I wrestle with, a lot of even that comes from pride and insecurity. It comes from thinking I am capable of doing more than I can. It comes from an insecurity place of this is all on me. If I don’t do it, then who will? How will God bless this? Growth in the Church depends on how hard I can work.
But no matter what side of what the issue is or the combination of issues, are what happens when this is our approach to Church. Well, I can tell you as a whole, we lose focus. The Church ends up just kind of treading water. And then, like I mentioned, pastoral burnout takes place. Like, is anything that I’m doing working?
Why do I continue to do this? It’s easy to be in a place, I’m just going to give a little insight into what it’s like to be a Minister. It’s easy to be in a place where you’re so busy with Ministry work that you neglect the word of God and the health of your own relationship with God. That my Bible time becomes more about preaching to you than it is about me being with Lord.
And I’m just gonna say this, too. You all are exhausting. I’m tired of just looking at you. You know, I’m not even a region leader. You know, Marcus and the Frances, they’re doing such a great job.
I’m just working with your kids. They’re exhausting.
All right, I need a nap and a Starbucks gift card.
So that’s just the first thing I think the Apostles are saying by we can’t, we’re not going to wait on tables. The second thing here is this is not where we best serve the body of Christ. What was their role as Apostles? Alright, this early on, the role of an apostle kind of shifted as time went on in the Book of Acts. But this early on, at the beginning of the Church, they were largely supposed to be teaching people about Jesus and their new life as a follower.
All these Jews who had lived their life under the new Covenant now had a brand new outlook on the way that they worship God. And so the Apostles were hugely important in teaching them how to do that. Now they absolutely met needs. You know, there’s nothing specifically in the Bible, but there’s a lot to suggest, not just from the way Jesus taught them and train them, then feeding the 5000. But you gotta believe they absolutely met needs. They’re followers of Jesus.
But there’s something important and unique about the role of preaching the gospel, too. There’s a brother years ago that was in his Masters program, and he was telling me that they’re reading a few books and they were doing an analysis of Jesus’ Ministry. What did Jesus spend his time doing? And after looking through the Gospels, you could kind of evenly split it up that it was about 50, 50 teaching and healing, or teaching and Ministering maybe a way to say it.
I think we normally think about Jesus and his Ministry of healing and the way he invested in people that we can maybe even forget how much he was preaching. There’s all these people that are, like wanting his attention, that feel like they’ve got a need. They’ve got something that only Jesus can meet. It’s like, hey, guys, Jesus, everybody’s looking for you. In verse three says, 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 and will give our attention to prayer and Ministry of the Word. So in this discussion, the Apostles pull them together and they say, okay, I want you to choose seven men that are full of the spirit and wisdom. Okay, now, that’s actually a pretty high praise statement. Think about that. If we were to gather together as a Church and say, I want you to choose seven people full of the spirit and wisdom, that’s not just kind of who’s available.
Right? This is kind of up there with me. When you look at Daniel one, the descriptions of Shadrac, Meshak, Abednego, and Daniel, the men that are very capable, like that’s kind of what I think about with this. Now, why would they want men like this for this kind of task?
This is serving tables. Why do these men need to be full of the spirit and wisdom to serve tables? Well, first of all, it’s not a small deal to feed thousands of people. Anybody that’s ever attempted that before. It’s work.
But there’s also more to this. It was addressing not just a practical problem, but a very spiritual issue, because what they were dealing with was not just feeding, feeding people. It was dealing with the fact that there was a part of the Church that was discriminating against another part of the Church. This was sensitive. But I think there’s also something for us to digest as Christians here, that even mundane tasks done by Godly people can have a big impact.
And I want to take a second. I want to lift up our Ministry leaders and family group leaders here in the room and those that are online. Let’s give them a round of applause.
Those that serve here in the worship Ministry, in the AV Ministry behind and in front of stage. Those that serve in family as family group leaders. Man, we are so grateful for you. So grateful for you. Those that are online we are grateful for you.
This is not a small role. These tasks. Again, I already talked about how exhausting you guys are. The family group leaders. This is a volunteer role to try to love this Church.
That’s not a small role. But again, the disciples are saying here that when Godly people step up to give, it can have an influence. Let’s keep reading in verse five. So does this proposal please the whole group? They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, also, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas from Antioch, a convert to Jerusalem. Okay, so what I love about this is they as a Church, not the Apostles. The Church chose these seven men. And if you notice here, these seven men have very Greek names, not Hebrew names. Which, I love this. I love the wisdom behind this, because in one sense, you can take because the problem is that the hebraic Jews were being discriminatory against the Greek Jews.
The Greek influenced Jews, they say, okay, we’re gonna choose Greek men to handle this right? Now, this could look as kind of like a hahaha gotcha. What do you do now? You can’t get your food. I think there’s just a lot of wisdom to this.
I think it’s demonstrating that our Church is bigger than these things. Our Church is supposed to be bigger than our cultural issues. We’re a part of something bigger that we share together. Amen.
This is supposed to create unity, not dissension. But there’s also something to be said about putting the right people in the right places. There’s gonna be more lessons on that later on. Moving on to verse six. They presented these men to the Apostles who prayed and laid their hands on them.
I love this Apostles just said, all right, no objections here. Boom.
Go. And I’m going to say something here. It might be controversial. You have permission to serve and live as disciples of Jesus?
Yeah, I said it. I said it. Out of the authority as an evangelist of Jesus Christ, you have permission to serve. You have permission to live as disciples of Jesus and to engage in his Church. Obviously, this is tongue in cheek.
But what I hope this is getting at you is if God is stirring in your heart the desire to meet needs in his Church, do it. Do it. There are too many people to love and care for in this Church for just the paid staff to do it.
Now, they did bring their idea. They brought their seven guys to the Apostles like, you know, good ones. So I think there is something there is wisdom to, you know, if you’ve got something on your heart that you want to do to serve, talk to the overstreets, talk to the Francises, ask them for wisdom, you know, but I would probably bet you that they’re gonna say, do it. Go. Go with God.
Verse seven, we’re going to wrap up here says the Word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and large numbers of priests became obedient to the faith. So it says the Word of God spread. Now, as we read in those other passages, it was already growing at this time. So I don’t know what it means that it was growing and then it grew rapidly. But it seemed to just kind of explode right about now. It even says a large number of priests became Christians. That’s not something to overlook.
This didn’t, apparently, the priests were influenced until now. Maybe they saw the Church rallying together like this. But this was not a practice of the priest. The priest had a very sacred role. It was just theirs.
They didn’t outsource to other people. And here they see they see other people, a layman of the Church stepping up to give and serving caught their attention somehow. Now we’re thinking about Ephesians four. After looking at this story, there’s some things we should consider.
How does God want to bless his Church when his people decide that they’re going to engage and serve?
This moment was the difference between the Church growing and rapid growth. No priests, priests. Something about God’s people serving God’s people God blessed. It’s not a one to one formula.
But there’s something about this that gets God’s attention. As we wrap up here. And we think about each part doing its work in our Church and in our circumstances right now, there’s really only three places we can be with this, right? It’s a football analogy. I’m sorry for those of you that don’t like football, but it just works for this. Okay, so stay with me.
So when it comes to serving, there’s only three places we can be.
That’s a slow transition. In the game, on the bench or watching at home. Now, I want to make a statement here for those of you that are online. Some of you need to be home. You need to be home for wisdom, for safety. I totally get that.
I’m not talking to you. I want to clarify that. But some of you are home for a different reason. You’re home because of convenience, your home because of some other issue that you got to work out with God.
Now, there’s some of you here that are in person, and we love having you here. Love hearing your voice and the singing behind your muffled mask, but you’re still sitting on the sidelines.
You’re consuming, but not contributing. You know, kind of overlooking the things that could be done and things that you could do to serve, because not right now. Now, whether you are at home or in person, there are always ways to be in the game okay. We’ve got ministries that need your help.
We got the worship Ministry. We got the AV Ministry. We got Ushering, we got teen and youth Ministry. Man, if you’ve got it on your heart to serve the youth, please come find me. All right.
We got Hope Worldwide. We’ve got family group leaders in assisting there. If you’re from home and you’re not sure what to do and ask if there’s needs your prayers matter. Your phone calls matter. Your stage, your you the way you can give to encourage people matters.
But also, you know, it could look different depending on your stage of life.
The way you serve as a teen is different than parents with young kids. It’s different than an if you’re single, it’s different than if you’re young marrieds, or if you’re in the campus Ministry or you’re an empty Nester. Every stage of life serving can look different. That’s okay.
And as I look around, our Church as a whole, not just here. We have a lot of incredible servants, and this is not meant to brow beat you if you are serving. Or if there’s something else going on. I’m not here trying to run you into the ground with this. The whole point of this is to stir something in our hearts, a desire to be the Church that God wants us to be, that if there are needs going on, we’re not looking around for someone else to solve it.
We will step up and set the table ourselves.
When we have a Church of people that are willing to set the table, it opens the door for God to meet needs that weren’t being met, to move hearts, to reveal his glory in a greater way. Again, this is not a formula like, okay, everybody serve and then God is going to bless us, and we’re going to multiply. That’s not what this is, but also kind of yeah
Now as we close out here. We’re going to take communing in just a moment. In Acts chapter one, this is Jesus before he ascends, he tells the disciples, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth. Before Jesus left, he sent his disciples out with the Holy Spirit with the goal of loving and preaching the Word.
What this communicates to us and you can look at Jesus discourse with disciples in John, Jesus died so that we could have the Holy Spirit, right. That according to even the passages we see about the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit is supposed to empower us, empower us to live, empower us to serve. In John 16, Jesus actually said, hey, it’s good that I’m going away. It’s good that I’m dying because what you’re going to get is even greater. But if the Holy Spirit is in you for power to do something, then we can’t just sit on it. As we take Communion I want to ask you to pray, to pray that the Holy Spirit will awaken in you maybe a latent desire or desire that you haven’t experienced before to serve. Amen, we’re going to say a word of prayer and take Communion together.