1Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. 7And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. —Acts 6:1-7
Christ-exalting churches come in many shapes and sizes. Worship styles vary. Outreach and evangelism can look very different. But there is one thing that most church members and most church leaders would agree on: we want a growing church that is making new disciples and making better disciples. Just like the church in the book of Acts.
What made the church in Acts and the individuals in Acts different from most of us? Why did the Gospel seem to have such an impact as the Holy Spirit worked? I find the answer in prokartereo, the Greek word which means to be devoted to. Notice how this word shows up in the early part of Acts:
- Acts 1:14 “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer . . .”
- Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship . . .”
- Acts 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
The church in Acts was intentional about its priorities. Many good things compete for our attention on a daily, even moment-by-moment basis; but doing a lot of good things will not necessarily result in substantive, eternal impact. In the same way, our churches will not imitate the church in Acts on accident.
It comes back to that word “devoted.” What you and I devote ourselves to in this life matters. More than that, we are defined by what we devote ourselves to. The same is true of our churches as well.
In the book of Acts, the believers were careful to devote themselves to prayer. That does not mean they had occasional, or even regular prayer meetings. They were devoted to prayer; they were obsessed with prayer. Why? Because they knew that God would do extraordinary things.
We can only be devoted to so many things. Honestly, at the pace of life in the twenty-first century, most of us can only be devoted to a few things. As this year winds down and we begin to think about the upcoming year, we need to think about how we are investing our devotion.
My prayer for us today is that the Spirit of God would soften our hearts and bring clarity to our minds so we can be fully devoted to God’s priorities for our lives and our churches.
- Am I devoted to anything? What is it and how can I tell?
- If I asked people who are closest to me, what would they say I am devoted to?
Prayer – Almighty Father, please soften my heart and clear my mind so I can fully invest my devotion to You and Your priorities. You will need to create that devotion in my heart, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.