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Leaders are Made, Not Born
Scripture: Acts 6:1-7
Track 45 of 52 in the Sermons from 2003 series
Running time: 30 minutes, 11 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, November 9, 2003
"Leaders Are Made, Not Born"
(Acts 6:1-7)
Copyright 2003 G. Charles Sackett

Once upon a time Junia and her husband moved to Jerusalem. They moved there from the Corinth area in order to do business in this rather major city. As time passed, her husband died and Junia was left there as a widow in Jerusalem. It so happened she was there when that great, amazing thing happened on the day of Pentecost. She was one of those three-thousand people who responded to the gospel when it was first preached by Peter, the apostle. She was, uh, numbered among the believers, although she and a number of other people were of Greek origin in the midst of a very large and significant group of Jewish believers. She had become friends with a Jewish widow by the name of Priscilla and it so happened that, they, like us, had, well--we call them bridge communities--they called them churches, that met in peoples homes. And like so many of our groups, they tended to eat when they got together. It's a Christian thing to do. It's not in the Bible, but it's there somewhere I'm sure, between lines.

One of the things that was odd was when they would show up at these community meals--whenever it was at Priscilla's house, it seemed like there was plenty of food. But, when it was at Junia's house, it seems like they were a little lacking. Nobody ever complained about it. Nobody really ever called much attention to it until Junia and Priscilla were talking about it one day and the subject came up. Junia mentioned that it seemed like Priscilla always seemed to have enough and they never did. It became apparent in the course of the conversation, that, as a matter of fact, the reason Priscilla had plenty of food to offer to those who came to the house for church was because there was a distribution of food being taken care of by the Jerusalem church, knowing that these folk who were widows had no support whatsoever, in a culture like theirs. Widows were just simply left at the--well, they were totally at the mercy of their family or some community that they were a part of. There was no government agency for welfare.

Suddenly it dawned on Priscilla that something was a bit odd in this arrangement. That she and other Jewish widows were given food fairly regularly. In fact, it didn't seem that any of them had any particular need whatsoever because the church had been so responsive to the community of need. But Junia, like other of her Grecian friends somehow had been overlooked in that discussion. It made sense to them. There was again, no animosity between them but it suddenly dawned on them that probably the reason why Junia and her friends were not taken care of was because the church was, by enlarge, made up of people from Jerusalem who knew each other. And here were these, if you will, outsiders, who were missing the distribution.

Well, as a matter of fact, it simply highlights that there is this one significant truth that seems to surface for us and it sounds something like this. Wherever there are people, there are needs.

Did you notice that in Verse 1 of Acts Chapter 6 when we read it? In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.

Whenever you've got a whole bunch of folk together there are going to be needs. It's just the way life is. And in that culture, the needs primarily fell upon widows and single women who had no source of income or care. But, it's like that everywhere I go. It's like that every place I am and the needs seem to me to grow more and more all the time. And somehow we become, quite frankly, oblivious to the needs around us.

I visited a church in northern Missouri probably ten or fifteen years ago. I was out on a morning run and I ran down this particular road that struck me as a fairly significant passage for most people, since all the school buses were going that way and the main grocery store in town was over there. It struck me that most cars had to go down this road. There was this house, the grass was a bit overgrown, there were children's toys out in the yard, and in the roof of the house, you could play basket ball. There was a hole there just about the size that you could shoot hoops and I thought, ya know, that strikes me as a bit odd, probably not a very good thing.

That particular night I was preaching at the church and meeting with some of the leaders in the church and I asked them the question. Are you aware of whatever the name of that street was? Oh yeah, we drive down that all the time. That's where the post office, the grocery store are. Well, that house on the right hand side there, the one. . . .oh yeah, we know where that.. . . .Have you ever noticed there's a hole in roof? Huh! No.

See, we can drive down roads right past places like that. We can sit in pews right next to one another and never understand that the person next to us may be in the midst of really significant need. Because we're not. See, wherever there are people, there are gonna be needs. In fact, we live in a culture where the needs get worse than ever, because we're such an undisciplined culture about taking care of being responsible.

We see it here all the time. Our benevolent requests continue to go up, and we desire to meet those needs, to try to respond in every way we know how by simply meeting and helping families meet their immediate pressing needs, whether those needs be to pay a bill or to have food on the table or to put shoes on their children. But they just keep going up. They get to be more all the time. And so we've invested Mike and Kay Sever in a ministry where we're trying, not only to meet immediate needs, but also help people deal with long term patterns, so that they can learn how to get a handle around the need for fiscal management. To learn to take advantage of the resources that are there in the community, because, quite frankly, as in every place, there are multiple resources available if you know how to find them. But the community doesn't do a very good job of helping you find them so we're trying to do that. Because wherever there are people there are needs and it's the value of being a part of the community like this one.

It's why we have worked so hard to initiate the process of forming us into bridge communities - small group meetings. It's why I would suggest to you if you're not part of one of those, you really should be and there are now groups available that you could become a part of. Just make the need known and we'll help you get into one of those smaller communities. Here's the issue that we face. We face it every other Sunday afternoon when the staff and the elders get together to meet. How do you shepherd 850 people? It would mean that every elder, eleven of them, would have to take 80 people apiece and be responsible for them in addition to either being full time employed or having their own families. It's not going to happen. So where does shepherding occur? It occurs in the context of that small group. Sometimes through a choir. Sometimes through an adult discipleship study. Sometimes through one of the women's bible studies. It occurs in the natural context of the community where Priscilla and Junia come together and they begin to talk to one another and they discover that they have needs. It's why it is so important for you to become a part of a smaller community within the larger community of faith.

Once upon a time Priscilla and Junia came out of their small group discussion having recognized that there was a significant problem going on in the church, not intentional of course. And Priscilla, being the godly woman that she was, went and found a godly man by the name of Stephen. Stephen was an up-and-coming leader in the church in Jerusalem, a convert full of the spirit and faith. A man of character that Priscilla knew that she could talk to. And so she went and she said, You know, there are some things happening here that I'm not so sure that anybody is aware of and they really need to be addressed. She said, Do you realize that those widows who are of Greek origin who have no family here in Jerusalem to take care of them, are being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. We have to do something about that. We can't let that continue. And of course Stephen agreed. Something needed to be done. You just can't have people in the church who are not being taken care of. It is not the nature of the church to have anyone in it who is in need without us meeting those needs. That's the nature of who we are.

In fact, when you read the opening six chapters of Acts what you discover is people took that so seriously, they literally went out and sold houses and lands in order to give the money to the church so the church could meet the pressing needs of the hour. Because you see, there is this fundamental principle that comes out of a text like this. Wherever there are needs there should be ministry. It's the nature of the church to meet the needs of people.

Look at Verses 2 through 4.

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. Brothers, 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."

See, wherever there are needs, there needs to be ministry. There should be ministry. The church can never sit idly by. It may be crisis intervention. It may be that the need of the hour is for us to change a tire on your car. We can do that. It may be that the need of the hour is to provide a crib for a baby or food for the table. We can meet those kinds of immediate crises. Sometimes it's a community crisis.

A few years ago there was a little extra water in town and churches rose to the occasion to meet the immediate crisis and to help people out. Sometimes, however, it is far more long term kinds of council and advise.

We used to have a lady come to our church down in St. Louis. Her name was Mrs. Blue. I may have mentioned her to you before. She wanted to come every month, first of the month, ah. . . . toward the end of the month she may have spent whatever she had and so we would send her to the grocery store. Except, you know, that after you've done that three or four times, you realize that nothing is ever changing. It's the same thing every month. And so we said, ya know, we will help you if you will let us. You meet. . . . . and we would send a lady with her to the store to buy certain kinds of food so that it would last the entire month. We volunteered to teach her how to budget her money. We agreed to send people to her home to teach her how to cook meals that could. . . . . . . well I know you don't like this. . . but it actually included "left-overs" for next meal, ya know!--to freeze ahead. Guess who we never saw again? Because she didn't want that kind of long term help. But it's still the church's responsibility to offer long term help to enable people to be able to meet the needs of others when the opportunity happens to come along. There is the thing that happens when we can partner with other people. See, I don't see any reason why the church, as Christian people, would not want to partner with places, well like, hospice care or Habitat for Humanity or Walter Hammond to provide those long term interventions in addition to those crisis interventions. And sometimes churches just get really creative with the way they do things.

Twenty years ago last year Gene Shepherd preached a sermon at Lincoln Christian Church about world hunger. Pat Schneider (Snyder), one of the women in the church said, "you know, we ought to do something about that." Preachers always like it if somebody actually thinks that the sermon should be responded to and they created this thing called the Harvest of Talents. And people did whatever it is that they do. People made furniture. People canned fruit. People, well, they just did everything that you can possibly imagine and they began to have this annual event where they would have, basically, a great big, huge sale and an auction. And it turned into food and services and the next thing you know, this last year they raised just at $70,000.00 to put them at just under $1,000,000.00 to world hunger because somebody said, "Let's do something about the need!" None of that money stays in Lincoln, Illinois. One-hundred percent of it goes outside to meet the needs of world hunger. The International Disaster Emergency Services is the recipient of that particular funding.

I can imagine, Stephen, going to the apostles, probably to Peter, the outspoken one and saying, Hey, listen, we've got a problem going on in the church. I realize that you guys are busy. I know that you're doing the things that you're supposed to do. You are continuing to teach. You're continuing to evangelize. You're continuing to pray for the health of this congregation, these multiple churches that exist in our community, but we have this need. We need to do something about the fact that there are some people within our church whose needs are not being met. It happens to be the Grecian widows and frankly we understand it's an all Jewish church and it's twelve Jewish apostles and we understand that it's not intentional that we're not meeting the needs of these people, it's just that we're not meeting the needs of these people and we really need to do something about that and of course the apostles thought that was a great idea. We do need to do something about this. So let's do something. Let's find seven men of real character and let's put them in charge of this ministry and make sure that it h a p p e n s!

You saw that right? When you were reading the text, you didn't miss that?? Because here's what comes out of this experience when you watch what happens in the local church you discover that wherever there is ministry there are empowering leaders.

Verses 5 and 6 of our text says; This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

These apostles, these leaders of the church, realized something needed to be done and so they did it. They empowered people to do the ministry. They turned them loose. Now they were careful. You don't just let anyone do ministry. It needs to be someone of character. Someone who's got depth. Someone you can trust. Oh, and in this particular situation, did you happen to notice that list of names? They don't sound particularly Jewish. Stephen probably, is the only one that is Jewish. In fact, one, sounds vaguely African and is probably black.

It's intriguing that they chose people who seem to understand the Grecian widow problem and they put them responsible for the problem because that's what empowering leaders do.

There's a wonderful little book out there, ah Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers. You'd have to read the book to catch all of the cynicism that's in it. But in it, William Esam(?) makes this comment. "We either cease worshiping the God of control or we parish. I am grateful to work in a body of people where the leaders are not concerned about control, but they're concerned about ministry."

It is not at all uncommon to walk into an elders meeting and say, here we need to do, and they say, okay. Because that is the nature of leadership, to empower others to serve. That is, in fact, the fundamental teaching of this particular text. That biblical leaders empower other to minister freely. It is why, by the way, that it is not very often that you would ever see a staff member in the middle of one of your crises, not that we are in any way parallel to apostles. Don't misunderstand that connection. But the elders have resolved that we have certain things we need to be doing. It includes the ministry of the WORD and prayer. It includes trying to develop the programming of the church, to try to do that which is broader than one particular, smaller issue and so if you end up in a hospital, nine times out of ten. . . . . . . . . . .shows up to meet you there because they understand the need for ministry, but to allow us to do the various roles that we do, to be able to occupy the place where God called us to be. Because you see the core value of this church, one of the driving factors in this church is that we value leaders that empower others to serve.

And we want to do that. We want to empower you to serve. In fact what we want to do is to plead with you to begin to work at developing the character of one who can serve. See, it's a men of godly character, by the way. In that culture it could have only been men. That wouldn't be true today. It could men and women serving in any capacity in our church except that of eldership. People of character, full of the spirit, the kind of people a widow would trust when he showed up at the door with food.

I don't know why. You knew I grew up as a pagan, so I didn't know anything about the church, but I remember as vividly as if it happened today, a day when I said to myself, I'm going to live my life in such a way that when I grow up I will have the character necessary to be an elder in the church.

And I began to wrestle with 1Timothy, Chapter 3 and Titus, Chapter 1 and that whole thing about being blameless and raising children in the Lord and protecting your family and having a one woman attitude and developing a kind of nature that was generous rather than harsh and I remember making some very conscious decisions as a twenty year old, as a thirty year old that said. . . .If I do this, I cancel the opportunity to ever be an elder in a church. Some day when I grow up and my character is what it should be, I hope to serve in that kind of capacity.

And I'm imploring men and women in this group to make the decision today to begin to develop the character, to make the decisions that protect you so that God can use you in ways that he will not be able to use you, if you don't make those kinds of choices.

See, wherever there are people there are needs and wherever there are needs there should be ministry and wherever there is ministry there are empowering leaders who know how to move the church forward. See, I can imagine, can't you? Junia and Stephen getting together and Stephen saying to Junia, I'm sorry it took so long. We did not realize what was happening. It was not intentional that we overlooked you in the distribution of food. Forgive us for not being more sensitive but here it is and now things are in place and we're going to move ahead.

And Junia, like a godly woman saying, Naw, it's not a problem. We're just grateful that we're being taken care of. We're so grateful, just to be a part of the community of faith in the first place. This is just added blessing.

And a few weeks later, Priscilla and Junia talking again and saying, You know, have you noticed the response of the community as word has gotten out about how the church has responded to our needs? Have you noticed how many more people are becoming Christian?. In fact, did you notice there were a whole bunch of priests who responded to the faith? I wonder what could have ever possessed them to do that? And Priscilla, who happened to grow up in the company of Jesus, said, Junia,, let me tell you a story I remember hearing Jesus tell one day. It was about a man going down a road who got beat up and left for dead and the priests and the Levites passed by on the other side. But the Samaritan stopped to help.

See, Jesus understood that when people meet other people's needs, when it is so contrary to their social structure, it gets people's attention. Now I'm guessing as those Jewish leaders watch us Jewish Christians helping Gentiles, it has stirred their interest. See, wherever there is ministry, the church grows. Whenever the church responds that's Verse 7 of our text.

So the word of God spread. That's the mark in the Book of Acts. Every time in Acts there is a problem, the very next verse says, and the church grew because it met the issue. It faced the problem. It dealt with it in a responsible fashion.

I have a dream. I don't know if it could ever be a reality, but my dream is that one day you'll go out to the website and you'll see the phrase up there, the tab that you click on that says, ministers or ministry or something like that and you'll click on it, or you'll see a tab that says core values of the church and instead of getting a list, you'll see pictures (people down at

Walter Hammond, people going door-to-door distributing food, maybe a pantry, maybe a clothing store). Maybe what we would see are not words but images of real people doing real things to meet real needs.

My father used to write these little tiny cryptic notes to me (blue notepad). He must have gotten a special on blue notepads. Never full letters. I don't have a single letter that my dad ever wrote. Little, not even 3 x 5 size blue notes. I remember one of them because it was so horrid. Our neighbor was dying of cancer. She was a godly Christian woman. My mother was taking care of her every two hours. My father's note said something to this effect. Agnos is ill. She's a good one. The church never shows up. And I will remember this line as long as I live. I guess if you need help, ask a sinner. I am begging you to never let that be the indictment of this church.

Let's raise up a body of leaders who will empower a body of people who will meet the needs of the world around us in a way that causes the whole world to stand up and say, That's what the church is supposed to be like.

Let's sing this song. You can remain seated right where you are.