There was a problem in the church. Leadership was stretched to the limit. It was as if the apostles were juggling many balls in the air at the same time. It seems that they were dropping some of them.
The new young church grew beyond people of Judah, to new Christians from multiple racial groups and all strata of society, including poor women and widows of Grecian heritage. Change was happening quickly. Feeding programs were started, but some were left out. It may have been by mistake, but the mistake grew legs. The leaders needed to deal with the issue and prayed. God spoke. “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 the ministry of the word. This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit… (and six others)” (Acts 6:3-5).
Over the following weeks, Stephen, this Spirit-led man of wise counsel, and full of “grace and power” filled a new leadership role. The Gospel spread. He was the right leader, at the right time, in the right place. But opposition arose. Accusations came against these new Christians, especially the leaders. Arguments flew. If the opposition was to take down this new movement of God drastic measures must be taken. Then the worst situation happened, “They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow… (and a pack of lies).”
The young church was in chaos. But God had another plan. This complicated situation led to the powerful sermon of Acts seven, followed by death by stoning. And over the following months, it was a key footstep in the path to Paul’s conversion and then the greater growth of the Church.
What’s the message for us from this Lenten passage of reflection and repentance? God’s Church needs strong leaders and our support of them. There will always be those in need. How will we respond as Stephen did? Opposition and troubles are bound to happen from within and without. As a Jesus follower am I willing to stand up and be counted as Stephen did? When I am blamed, betrayed or opposed what will my face and attitude be?
What do I need to repent of?
Ministry Partner, Tearfund