Monday Pastor – Encouragement in the Midst of Grumbling
This past Sunday we tried to understand and apply Acts 6:1-7. There was a problem; a legitimate concern voiced in an illegitimate way and the potential for the apostles to be distracted from their calling (vv. 1-2). There was the solution from the leaders and congregation; Men of Godly reputation and character who were full of the Spirit and able to exercise wisdom in solving problems. There was a progress report that demonstrated the problem was addressed; The word of God kept spreading, disciples were increasing and people were becoming obedient to the gospel.
Every Leader Faces Opposition.
Sometimes it is the leaders fault that he or she faces opposition. Sometimes a leader can make a bad decision and sometimes they simply fail to recognize and address every potential concern and problem. Both remind us that we are fallible human beings.
But even great leaders have their critics; those who complain about or against them. In Acts 4:32-37 there is a summary report of the extraordinary work of the Spirit in the life of the Jerusalem Church, which is expressed in sacrificial generosity that is meeting the needs of those who truly have needs. It says in verse 35 that people are selling their possessions and laying the money at the feet of the apostles and the money was then distributed to those who might have need. But as the church is growing, so is the burden of this important ministry that is validated in the Old Testament. By this time the church is well over 5,000 and the disciples keep increasing (6:1). It says in verse one that the Hellenistic Jews are complaining against the Jews who spoke Aramaic because the widows of the Hellenist were not having their needs met.
It appears that the issue is only between these two groups; one complaining against the other. But ultimately the buck stops with the apostles since as the leaders they are the ones who are overseeing the distribution of money to those who have need. These grumblings are ultimately against the apostles and their leadership.
Were the apostles bad leaders? Were they incompetent? At the most we might say that the magnitude or success of the situation produced by the Holy Spirit, overwhelmed their ability to adequately carry out the administration for this rapidly growing church in Jerusalem.
How does this help us as leaders today?
First, no leader is perfect. As always we are driven to rely on and trust in Jesus, the perfect leader. Second, no leader can be perfect. Everybody drops the ball sometimes, if not frequently. Third, even if a leader is incredibly adept at the art of leading, no leader escapes grumbling, mumbling and criticism being directed at them. If anyone deserved some slack it was the leaders of the church of Jerusalem who have seen their ministry explode from 120 to over 5,000 in about six seconds (several months). The apostles did not escape criticism and neither does Matt Chandler, John MacArthur, John Piper, Rick Warren, John Maxwell, John Wooden, or Barack Obama. No one does. Not even Jesus escaped criticism and opposition.
Criticism or having grumbling directed our way might mean we are leading poorly, but it might also mean leadership is hard work and no one is ever going to please everyone all the time.
It’s what we do when people grumble at us that shows what kind of leader we really are. Do we handle the situation with patience, seeking wisdom to solve the problem in a way that brings glory to God, or do we only validate those who criticize, showing ourselves to be sketchy leaders? If we don’t handle grumbling with solid problem-solving as the apostles did, we will only facilitate more problems that lead to greater distractions that keep us from doing what we are called to do.
So we should pray earnestly for wisdom as leaders, just as Solomon did (1 Kings 3:6-9) at the beginning of his kingship. But we should also be careful not to think that we are better than Jesus or the apostles in a fallen world. Criticism cannot be the gauge of our effectiveness in leadership because everyone will have their fair share in this life – at least if they try to lead.