One of the
most intriguing things to me about the ministry of Jesus is that
the only person, who, in all of history, had the ability to do it
all, chose not to. He delegated. Jesus trained the twelve to do a
great deal of the work. However, an interesting thing occurred as
the church in Jerusalem grew. According to Acts
6:1-6, while the disciples were increasing in number,
there began to be so much work needed, that the apostles
couldn’t accomplish it all. They delegated some of the work to
others, dividing the labor up between them. You may remember when
we looked closely at Jerusalem’s success, one of their keys to
triumph was that they knew no one could do everything. A
congregation is no different from any other corporate body. As it
grows, the workload increases. Eventually, the church has to
realize they must divide the labor. If not, they will limit
themselves to a size wherein a handful of people can do
everything. But, at that point, souls are no longer being saved.
Based on this occurrence in Acts
6, we should examine what delegation and division of labor
implies for a congregation.
delegation and division of labor imply for the practical working
of a church?
Christians will have specialized work. In Acts
6, the apostles had a specialized work they were called to
do: devoting themselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.
This does not mean they alone prayed or ministered the word (cf.
2:42; 8:4). It simply means the apostles had a greater
responsibility. The seven deacons were then appointed to oversee
the specialized work of caring for the widows. This one
illustration provides a practical example of Paul’s teaching in I
Corinthians 12:14-21. God Himself has put us together in
this body to perform differing functions (Romans
12:4). Despite this fact, most churches continue to preach
Corinthians 12, but then expect all the members to be
involved in all the work.
In order to
accomplish the specialized work we each have, we must have specialized
training. In Acts
6:1-6, these seven men, having never been widows
themselves, would have had to be taught and trained regarding the
needs of the widows. Don’t forget the apostles had to have
special training in order to fulfill their specialized task. Jesus
spent three years training them to be His witnesses in
“Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the
remotest part of the earth.” The issue of development and
training is highlighted in Ephesians
4:11-12. God gave some specialized offices within the
church for the express purpose of equipping the rest of us to
work. To be perfectly honest, this is one area in which most
churches of Christ fall very short. Very little training is done
for any work. Churches typically just make announcements, trying
to shame everybody into doing all the work or any of the work. But
rarely do churches strive to develop, equip and train their
members to do much of anything.
work should be assigned based on the abilities God has given us (Romans
12:4-8; I Corinthians 12:14-21). He has bestowed His grace
upon us so we can individually perform part of the work necessary
in this church (Romans
12:6). Additionally, He has put this particular group of
differing people together in this body as He desired so the church
could grow effectively (I
Corinthians 12:18). That means God has given you certain
strengths and has purposely placed you here to use those strengths
so this body will build itself up in love (Ephesians
4:16). We must work where we are strong. Eyes don’t try
to do the hearing because they cannot. Ears don’t try to do the
seeing because they do not have any strength in that area. What
kind of havoc would we create in our own bodies if we tried to
make our body parts do jobs other than the ones for which God
designed them? Yet, in churches we often assign people tasks
without any consideration for their personalities, talents,
abilities and strengths. If someone cannot sing, would we assign
him to lead singing? If someone could not communicate, would we
assign him to preach? If someone could not lead, would we appoint
him to be an elder? Why then, when someone is introverted and shy,
do we expect him or her to be a greeter who will get visitor’s
packets to guests? Why then do we often try to push anybody and
everybody into teaching a Bible class? Why then do we constantly
try to get everyone to lead a public prayer even if they are
terrified to stand before a crowd? We need to delegate and divide
the labor to people’s strengths. A good rule of thumb is the
80/20 principle. Each member should spend 80% of his time working
in the top 20% of his greatest strengths and 20% of his time
trying to improve the lower 80%.
tasks will be limited to the number of people necessary to perform
them. In churches we typically have the mindset that
anyone who wants to perform a certain task gets to. However,
remember how the apostles approached the needy widows in Acts
6. They didn’t assign everyone who wanted the task. They
didn’t assign every one who had ability. Surely, there were more
than seven men who met the qualifications listed in Acts
6:3. After all, by Acts
4:4, the church had 5000 men. But the apostles recognized
that only seven men were needed to oversee this work. That means
not everyone who was qualified and not everyone who wanted the job
was appointed to be in charge of ministering to the widows.
delegation and division of labor imply about the attitudes you
must recognize you are a working part of this congregation. You have a strength and a talent that can be used
to serve God within this group. According to I
Peter 4:10, we have all received special gifts from God
(non-miraculous) that we are to use to glorify Him by serving
others. According to I
Corinthians 12:15-17, you may not say, “Because I am not
what __________ is, I am not a part of this body.” Paul’s
point is, if everyone here did what Jimmy Hickman can do, who
would do what you can do? Remember Ephesians
4:16, the body is held together by that which every joint
supplies. The body is only as strong as the combined strengths of
its individual members. For this body to be as strong as it can
be, you must do your part. When you are not, this body is weaker
for it. Allow me to also point out, this is not just about church
growth. This is about your own eternal destiny. Matthew
25:14-30 is a parable of judgment. It describes three
different people with greater or lesser ability. If you say to
yourself, “I am not the five-talent or even the two-talent man.
I have nothing to offer this congregation.” Then even what you
do have will be taken from you and you will be cast into outer
darkness. On the other hand, if you do what you can, then God will
give you more ability. Eventually you will be the five-talent man.
And, there will be a home reserved in heaven for you.
must recognize everyone else is a working part of this
congregation. They may not be able to do what you can do, but
they provide something you do not. Read again I
Corinthians 12:21. You may not say of anyone else, “They
are not what I am, therefore we don’t need them.” We must
never say or even think to ourselves, “Well old sister _________
never has taught a Bible class, she sure isn’t much help around
here.” “I sure wish brother ____________ would lead a public
prayer. But he won’t and I imagine we could do without him if we
had to.” Everyone in this room is needed and even those who are
not here are needed to bring greater strength to this body. In I
Corinthians 12:22-25, Paul provides a pragmatic way to
help overcome this problem. If there is anyone you believe is not
very seemly, who doesn’t add much to the congregation, take it
upon yourself to catch them doing something right and honor them
for it. It doesn’t have to be a fanfare or an awards ceremony.
It doesn’t have to be announced from the pulpit. Simply say a
word of kindness, praise and encouragement to them about the work
they have done. Start catching people doing things right and watch
the work improve. Remember Romans
12:10, we are to give preference to one another in honor.
When we are all honoring those around us, everyone is honored and
everyone will strive to improve. When we are all improving, guess
what will happen in the congregation … It will grow.
must be willing to specialize and
not be involved in every aspect of the work about which you have
an interest. This doesn’t mean that when you have been given a
specialized assignment that you never do anything else. Stephen
and Philip, two of the seven deacons in Acts
6, also worked as evangelists (cf. Acts
7 and 8). However, it does mean that you may have a
desire to work in several areas, but you simply do not have the
time or ability to work in all of those areas to maximum
effectiveness. You have to specialize.
must recognize nobody will know every detail of every work within this congregation. Not even the elders!
Everything will be accomplished under the elders’ oversight. If
problems arise that the leaders over particular specialized works
cannot resolve, they will no doubt go to the elders for advice and
help. But even the elders will not know everything about the work
that is being done. Did the apostles know all the details about
the ministration to the widows in Acts
6? If they did, that defeated the purpose of not having
time to do the work themselves. If they had to keep up with all
the ins and outs and all the details, they might as well have done
it themselves. This is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of being
able to grow. Because delegating and dividing the labor means we
have to learn to trust one another. Our biggest fear in dividing
the labor is that someone may decide to do something unscriptural.
Wouldn’t it be better if we just let the elders, who we know
want to do it right, do everything to make sure we stay on the
straight and narrow? On the surface, that sounds noble. But it is
not. First, it doesn’t follow the scriptural pattern of Acts
6. Secondly, it neglects the fact that the work is still
done under the elders’ oversight. The leaders of every work are
still answerable to them and accountable to them, even though the
elders are not involved in every detail. Thirdly, it will limit
the number of souls we can save. Anything that limits the souls we
can save is wrong. Fourthly, it forgets that we all have
responsibility to watch for sin in the congregation (Matthew
18:15; Galatians 6:1). That is not just the elders’
responsibility. Fifthly, such a mindset denies the Savior’s
teaching on love through Paul, that love believes and hopes all
Corinthians 13:7). We must learn to love and trust each
What work is
appalled at the common thought among Christians today. How many
times have you heard someone say, “I like to be a member of a
smaller church, there is more work to do.”? This betrays one of
two things: ignorance or sin. Sin, because some people claim this
simply because they want to be seen by men. Therefore, their
concept of work in the church is whatever is done in front of the
audience. I hope however, it is simply ignorance. That is, they
haven’t reached a spiritual maturity yet from which they have
learned that what is done on the stage in the worship assembly is
really a very minor part of the work. Do you remember how this
whole lesson started? In Acts
6:1, because the number of disciples was increasing, a
problem arose leading to the appointment of seven new leaders who
then would have to train numerous workers to serve the hundreds of
widows they must have had. In a small church of fifty members,
with only one or two widows, the preacher could have done that and
everything else. Do you realize, that no matter the size of the
church, there are essentially the same number of assignments in
any given worship service, with the possible exception of more
people waiting at the Lord’s table for a larger congregation.
Typically, no matter the size of the congregation there is only
one preacher per service, one song leader, two prayers, maybe one
scripture reader and then four to eight men waiting on the table.
But all the other more important work increases as the church
the work that must be divided among the members of the
is the work in the worship service:
Preaching, leading prayer, leading singing, serving at the
Lord’s table, scripture reading and making announcements. In
addition to that, someone must plan the order. Someone must assign
men to fill the roles, spending the majority of his time getting
substitutes when people don’t show up and don’t call ahead of
time. Someone has to make sure the necessary tools are ready for
use in worship.
is work in the Bible class program: As
a church grows so does its need for teachers and assistant.
Someone will have to train teachers. Someone has to plan and
develop the curriculum. Someone must produce the materials.
Someone must prepare the rooms. As a church grows, it will become
even more specialized as certain people will have to focus on
teaching certain age groups. That is, if we continue the tradition
of age segregated classes. In a small church, one teacher teaches
grades 1-8. As the church grows, the classes are larger and people
have to be trained how to meet the teaching needs of different
is record keeping: Someone
has to take roll, keeping attendance records. Someone needs to
chart the trends the records demonstrate. Someone needs to file
is work on the building:
Someone must clean the building. Someone must cut the grass.
Someone must do the everyday maintenance, fixing leaky faucets and
changing light bulbs. Someone must water the lawn. Someone must
run the heating and air conditioning. Someone must know how the
lighting works, inside and out. Someone must know how to run any
timers that are used for any of the equipment in the building.
is work to be done involving guests:
Someone must greet them, welcoming them and enfolding them.
Someone must get them a guest card. Someone must write them or
call them. Someone must follow up on them. Someone must show
hospitality to them. Someone must answer any questions they have.
is work to be done teaching the gospel to the lost:
Someone has to lead Bible studies. Someone has to train people to
teach the lost. Someone has to invite others to worship. Someone
has to be able to give rides. Someone has to answer questions.
Someone has to be able to perform baptisms at all hours of the
is work to be done grounding new converts:
Someone has to develop the plans for grounding new converts.
Someone has to teach classes in groups and one on one. Someone has
to develop the materials to use in teaching new converts. Someone
has to train and equip people to teach new converts. Someone has
to know how to help new converts who have special problems because
of where they were in the world.
is work to be done in edifying the weak:
Someone must keep up with who is here and who is not. Someone must
call and encourage folks. Someone must learn how to admonish and
encourage. Someone must learn how to lead the weak to stronger
maturity. Someone must administer discipline when necessary.
is benevolent work:
Someone must be able to ascertain existing needs. Someone must
determine what is a need and what is a want. Someone must be able
to manage the available funds. Someone must be able to make the
important but confidential decisions.
There is work regarding technology: As we progress further into the technological
age, someone has to know how to use all the gadgets to help us
spread the gospel and serve the Lord. Someone must know how to
service printers, copiers, computers, fax machines. Someone must
know how to use projectors in all facets of the work, not just
There is work in communication: Information has to be passed along and the larger
you get the more unwieldy announcements become even in announcing
those in the hospital. Can you imagine announcing the nearly
hundred people who would be in the hospital out of a church like
Jerusalem? Someone has to print bulletins. Someone has to do
mail-outs. Someone has to maintain update lines. Someone has to
know how to use web sites and e-mails to inform people of news.
Someone has to plan and run informational meetings.
There is work to be done serving others: People need meals cooked. Some need grass cut.
Some have problems around the house that need fixing. Some just
need a shoulder to cry on. Some need financial advice, marital
advice, parenting advice, etc.
And much, much more:
I could list more but I think you get the picture.
In a small
church, the preacher and one or two others can accomplish
everything, but in a larger church, this work has to be done by
somebody and it will only be accomplished when people are
delegated these tasks and the labor is divided among them. All of
this reminds me of a story I once heard about four men named
Anybody, Everybody, Somebody and Nobody. “There
was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it.
Anybody could have done it. Nobody did it. Somebody got angry
about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought
Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody blamed
Somebody. But still, Nobody did it. Consequently, it wound up that
Nobody told Anybody, so Everybody blamed Somebody. But still,
Nobody did it.”
Allow me to conclude by clearing up some misunderstandings
about my views of church growth. I do not believe we have to have
10,000 members in order to be right with God. We may effectively
evangelize our local area and only convert 5,000 or maybe only
500. What I do believe, though, is there are more than 140 people
in our area who will serve God. And if we work in this
congregation in such a way that we cannot reach out to those other
people, bring them in, develop them and send them out to teach,
then we are not right with God. If we work in such a way that we
can never get larger than 140 even though there are more who would
submit, we are not being good stewards of God’s blessings. What
that means is there is work for you to do so we can maintain and
develop those who are already here. There is work for you to do so
we can reach out and bring new people in. Examine yourself, see
where you fit and perform your job based on your God-given
strengths and abilities and grow thereby.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ