Go for Life!

Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. (Acts 6:3)

In my previous post I wrote about how God reveals His choice of leadership through the witness of divine life.  This principle was reflected in the budding of Aaron’s rod in the sanctuary.  Now I want to turn to the New Testament and further illustrate this principle.

The explosive growth in the Jerusalem church created new problems.  Some of the widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.  The Apostles would have to address this situation or there could be a major schism in the church.  So they gave instructions to the congregation of believers, charging them to identify those who should provide leadership to the important ministry of serving the legitimate needs of the widows.

Note that the short list of prerequisites for these new leaders did not include any reference to business skills or administrative experience!  The credentials necessary included a good reputation and the Holy Spirit’s fullness and wisdom!  Some very important principles regarding recognizing the leading of the Holy Spirit can be gleaned from this.

1. LIfe begs for structure, but structure never begs for life.  By emphasizing the Spirit’s fullness and wisdom over business and administrative experience, we learn that without the presence and power of the Holy Spirit the church ceases to be the church!  The human body without the spirit is dead and so is the church!  But if you have the real presence of divine life in your midst, you can be certain you will have fullness and fruitfulness and that it will beg for structure!  The outpouring at Pentecost brought in 3,000 souls in one day.  Then in the weeks and months following, thousands more were added to the church.  This outpouring of divine life created a need for structure.

Have you ever noticed that after a very heavy rain the water immediately looks for structure?  It very naturally seeks out channels to flow in.  Go out in the desert and you will find evidence of this.  Riverbeds and gullies can be found in many places.  These structures were created when water was flowing.  The sad thing is that the structure is quite content to exist without water!  Most churches have numerous structures, programs and processes.  But are they channeling the vital flow of God’s life presently?  Or are they the powerless relics of past moves of God?  Or worse yet, were they programs that were initiated because leaders thought that the key to God’s blessing and power was in embracing the most popular or contemporary structures?

2. God anoints people, not processes or procedures. This does not mean that processes and procedures are not important.  Nor does it mean that all ministry and administrative structures are equally efficient.  But it does mean that God is not “process limited”.  That is, God is not restrained in what kinds of structures He can operate through.  But God is “people limited”.  This does not mean that God is weak or unable to accomplish His plans without the help of people.  But the Bible clearly shows us that God, as a loving Father, usually waits until His people, His kids, are willing to walk with Him in the accomplishing of His plans.  He has willingly limited Himself to a divine law of “co-operation” with His kids.

This principle explains why God has often been pleased to bless all sorts of structures and processes.  We find that it’s often not the process that God is blessing – it’s the people involved!  That’s why we can see God’s blessings on differing methods and systems.  Whether Bishop-ruled, Elder-ruled, Pastor-ruled, or Congregational-ruled, one can find examples of churches experiencing God’s presence and blessings.  God blesses and anoints people, not processes.  We also find that God is often not as uptight over the jots and tittles of theological minutia as some people are.  (I am not saying theology is not important, just that some of our differences are more important to us than to God.)  This is why God’s blessing might rest on a church of a historical mainline denomination in one setting and on a Charismatic group in another setting and on a group of house churches in another.  Sadly, we often assume God’s blessing is His validation of our methods and procedures.  In reality God is looking on our hearts.

Remember when the prophet Samuel was looking for a new king to anoint, and was sent to the sons of Jessie, he assumed that Eliab, the elder brother, was the heir apparent.  But here is what God told Samuel:

“Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”(1 Samuel 16:7)

We are so outside oriented.  We want to honor the size or structure or program.  But God chose David because he was a person who was pursuing the heart of God!  God can bless and use people who love Him and are sensitive to His Spirit and obedient to His Word.  This is after all the primary qualification for God’s leaders.

In the next post I will show how this principle can help us in our daily decision making. 

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