The church through the ages has often referred to today’s passage (Acts 6:1-7) to establish the origin of what we call today “deacons.” Its origin is the Greek word diakonos which is usually translated as “servant.” The verb “to serve” is used at the end of verse 2 so the men selected to serve at tables, or supervise the distribution of food, as some translations have it, became servers or deacons.
Deacon is the title given to elders in some Protestant denominations. This would compare to our use of the term “warden” in the Anglican Church. These normally are the lay leaders who help with administration and policy making. But we Anglicans give the title of Deacon only to someone who is ordained to the ministry for the first time and then about a year later they are ordained again to become “priests.”
What fascinates me about this passage is that Stephen and Philip (that we know of) seemed to have a very effective preaching ministry! While the apostles appointed the seven to take care of the practical matters at the community’s centre, they were supposedly releasing the apostles to get in with the ‘real ministry’ of preaching. What a surprise then when we see Stephen and Philip stepping out to join the preaching band. In the case of Stephen, he gets to testify to the Sanhedrin and all the Jewish officials. Philip first goes to Samaria and then finds himself on the Gaza road, chatting to an Ethiopian eunuch.
This speaks volumes about the ultimate purpose and motive of every one of us who follows Jesus. Whatever our vocation we are to consider ourselves first as heralds of the Gospel message. Even those in the humblest of positions in our community, God wants to use us for His glory. Even children have a role sharing what they know about Jesus (through the ministry of Kingdom Kids and faithful example by godly parents).
William Carey was a shoe repairer and later became a missionary to India for 30+ years. He translated the Bible into several languages. He is known for the saying, “Expect great things FROM God, attempt great things FOR God.” Dwight L. Moody was a shoe salesman who became a renowned evangelist and founder of a Bible College. He is also known as one of the greatest preachers of the late 19th century and is attributed as saying, “Faith makes all things possible…Love makes all things easy.”
From humble beginnings, Stephen becomes the first Christian martyr (and preaches a knockout sermon in Acts 7). Philip becomes the vessel through which the Gospel is given to the first African and is believed to be the founder of Christianity in Ethiopia.
So, where do we see ourselves? Some of us think that we are not much use to God, even as servants. But take heart that we are all important in God’s eyes and it would help us to believe that of ourselves and of others. Let us care for one another in such a way that our love and service for each other causes the Gospel to flow into the streets of Jakarta.