Wasn’t He Supposed To Wait Tables?


Stephen and Phillip lived in the first century when the Church had it’s beginning.

Generally Stephen is referred to as the first Christian martyr, and yet when you look at the Biblical account of his life, short though the record is, you discover that his position in the church, like Phillip’s, would have falling under the category of “helps.” I suppose the equivalent in my church would have been the now-defunct position of “deacon.”

Stephen was one of the seven men chosen to take care of a group of widows who were not receiving what they needed. When made aware of the problem, the apostles told the Church that they, tasked with teaching the fledgling believers, ought not “neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”

The plan, then, was for the Church to choose seven men “of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” The apostles would then be free to focus on “prayer and the ministry of the word.”

One of the seven was Philip, and yet somehow he ended up going to Samaria and preaching to crowds. At what must have seemed like the height of that ministry, however, the Spirit of God sent him back to Judea in order to explain Scripture to an Ethiopian traveling back home from Jerusalem.

After he baptized the man, the Spirit of the Lord “snatched” him away and he ended up near the Mediterranean Sea, in Azotus (present day Esdûd), one of the five chief cities of the Philistines, where he picked up his preaching again. On he went from there to Caesarea, proclaiming the gospel in all the cities along the way.

And this was one of those men chosen to serve tables.

Stephen did what Philip was doing, but more so. After Scripture notes that the apostles prayed for the seven chosen to care for the needs of the widows, it next states that Stephen performed “great wonders and signs among the people.”

Hmmm, sounds like more than serving tables.

As if that wasn’t enough, a bunch of Jews, some originally from Greece and some from Asia, began arguing with him. The problem was, they were no match for Stephen’s wisdom, not to mention the Spirit with which he spoke (see Acts 6:10).

In retaliation they persuaded a handful of men to lie and say that Stephen had blasphemed. They also stirred up the people and eventually dragged him before the Sanhedrin.

In front of this group of the most important Jewish leaders of the day, Stephen preached a sermon like few others, to the point that the hearts of those that heard him were pricked. You might say, in today’s parlance, their consciences were seared.

As a result, they attacked him and stoned him to death.

By point of reminder, Stephen was one of the seven chosen to serve tables.

Since when did serving tables become so dangerous?

Well, obviously they didn’t kill Stephen for serving tables. They killed him because he didn’t confine himself to just serving tables.

That’s the issue, I think. In today’s desire for efficiency and clarity and categorizing, we study the spiritual gifts the Bible talks about and we take tests to determine which gift we have. Then we know what our ministry focus should be and we pigeonhole ourselves into a slot.

Not that there isn’t value in discovering our spiritual gifts. But I tend to think today’s Western Christian, myself included, doesn’t think large enough. We think, I’ve got this little greeter job, or this class of seven-year-olds, or this newsletter to create. What if God wants us to preach to crowds even though the job the church has commissioned us for is to work the sound equipment Sunday morning?

Here’s the question: Why should we let our church job define our ministry? Philip didn’t and neither did Stephen, though it cost him his life.

I wonder if today we are too afraid of what preaching boldly would cost. Not our lives, but perhaps our reputation, our job, or peace in our little corner of the world.

Not that we should go out looking for a fight, but I don’t think that’s what Stephen did. Instead, he let the Holy Spirit use him how He wished, whether that meant serving tables or preaching in front of the religious elite, or dying for doing so.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in June 2012.

Wasn’t He Suppose To Wait Tables?


Generally Stephen is referred to as the first Christian martyr and yet when you look at the Biblical account of his life, short though it is, you discover that his position in the church was one of “helps.” I suppose the equivalent in my church would be “deacon.”

Stephen was one of the seven men chosen to take care of a group of widows who were not receiving what they needed. When made aware of the problem, the apostles told the Church that they ought not “neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”

The plan, then, was for the Church to choose seven men “of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.” The apostles would then be free to focus on “prayer and the ministry of the word.”

One of the seven was Philip, and yet somehow he ended up going to Samaria and preaching to crowds. At what must have seemed like the height of that ministry, however, the Spirit of God sent him back to Judea in order to explain Scripture to an Ethiopian traveling back home from Jerusalem.

After he baptized the man, the Spirit of the Lord “snatched” him away and he ended up near the Mediterranean Sea, in Azotus (present day Esdûd), one of the five chief cities of the Philistines, where he picked up his preaching again. On he went from there to Caesarea, proclaiming the gospel in all the cities along the way.

And this was one of those men chosen to serve tables.

Stephen did what Philip was doing, but more so. After Scripture notes that the apostles prayed for the seven chosen to care for the needs of the widows, it next states that Stephen performed “great wonders and signs among the people.”

Hmmm, sounds like more than serving tables.

As if that wasn’t enough, a bunch of Jews, some originally from Greece and some from Asia, began arguing with him. The problem was, they were no match for Stephen’s wisdom, not to mention the Spirit with which he spoke (see Acts 6:10).

In retaliation they persuaded a handful of men to lie and say that Stephen had blasphemed. They also stirred up the people and eventually dragged him before the Sanhedrin.

In front of this group of the most important Jewish leaders of the day, Stephen preached a sermon like few others, to the point that the hearts of those that heard him were pricked. You might say, in today’s parlance, their consciences were seared.

As a result, they attacked him and stoned him to death.

By point of reminder, Stephen was one of the seven chosen to serve tables.

Since when did serving tables become so dangerous?

Well, obviously they didn’t kill Stephen for serving tables. They killed him because he didn’t confine himself to just serving tables.

That’s the issue, I think. In today’s desire for efficiency and clarity and categorizing, we study the spiritual gifts the Bible talks about and we take tests to determine which gift we have. Then we know what our ministry focus should be and we pigeonhole ourselves into a slot.

Not that there isn’t value in discovering our spiritual gifts. But I tend to think today’s Western Christian, myself included, doesn’t think large enough. We think, I’ve got this little greeter job, or this class of seven-year-olds, or this newsletter to create. What if God wants us to preach to crowds even though the job the church has commissioned us for is to work the sound equipment Sunday morning?

Here’s the question: Why should we let our church job define our ministry? Philip didn’t and neither did Stephen, though it cost him his life.

I wonder if today we are too afraid of what preaching boldly would cost. Not our lives, but perhaps our reputation, our job, or peace in our little corner of the world.

Not that we should go out looking for a fight, but I don’t think that’s what Stephen did. Instead, he let the Holy Spirit use him how He wished, whether that meant serving tables or preaching in front of the religious elite, or dying for doing so.

Published in: on June 21, 2012 at 5:56 pm  Comments (2)  
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Platforms And Purpose


I’ve been thinking a bit about God’s work in and through His people. Of course I apply this to writing, but the illustrations I’m going to share demonstrate my conclusions are not limited to that profession at all. I explain this because “platform” seems like a writing-specific term. No teacher is asked what her platform is. I doubt if plumbers face that question either. Would-be politicians might.

A platform refers to the number of people whose attention an individual commands. The American Idol contestants, for instance, have a small platform until they reach the finals of the contest. Suddenly they have millions of people watching them perform (and remembering their name and voting to keep them around). That’s why the judges so often console someone who is leaving the show — they know the platform that contestant gained, the attention and following, will reap benefits even for the “losers.”

So I’m thinking of two twenty-somethings who each have a book about their life. Who in the world would think someone so young would have a big enough platform to sell books, let alone have something worthwhile to say when they have lived life as an adult for such a short time? And there are two of them?

One of these individuals is Tim Tebow and the other is Katie Davis. Oh, you might think, of course, Tim Tebow (Through My Eyes, Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker, Harper). He’s a big-name athlete. Make that BIG Name Athlete. I saw it again on the news last night after the Denver Broncos scintillating victory in overtime — a news anchor saying that Tim Tebow was The Most Talked About Athlete of the year (the implication was, last year). Not the Cy Young Award winners, not the Heisman Trophy winner, not the NBA MVP. Tim Tebow.

But what about Katie Davis (Kisses From Katie, Katie J. Davis and Beth Clark, Howard Books)? In fact who is Katie Davis? I’ve mentioned her here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction before. She is the young single girl who went to Uganda for a short term mission. She returned to the US and attended college for a semester because she’d promised her parents that’s what she’d do, but then, not yet twenty, she left for Africa again to work with children — the most vulnerable and needy. After starting out teaching, she focused her work on orphans. In fact she has become the foster/adoptive Mom of thirteen girls. She’s also started a ministry (Amazima Ministries) that provides support for poor children so they can attend school and can receive nourishing meals. In addition there’s a program for moms who struggle alone to care for their children.

Katie does not have hundreds of thousands of people watching the way she changes diapers or nurses the latest scrapes or tucks her daughters into bed. Her platform isn’t Tebow-sized. But one look at the pictures of her children, and there’s no doubt that she’s serving a purpose that is eternal.

Tim’s platform, interestingly, allows him to participate in eternal purposes, too. This missionary kid has a heart for missions still and has also started his own ministry — The Tim Tebow Foundation “to bring physical and spiritual healing to the world’s poorest children.”

What do I learn from these two young committed Christians? So much. They are both inspiring in their own ways. But beyond that, I see God doing marvelous things, with Katie’s thousands and Tim’s ten thousands. The size of the platform does not dictate the value of the ministry or reduce the importance of the purpose God has given to each of them.

I feel as if Tim is oblivious to the numbers of people following him, talking about him, and Katie, when she mentions the growth of the attention she’s receiving, it’s with fear and trepidation. Instead of focusing on the size of their platform, it seems both of them are riveted on their purpose — to please Jesus — and they then let Him decide just how big their platform should be.

Published in: on January 9, 2012 at 6:47 pm  Comments (8)  
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