Diversity is a bit of a buzzword in today’s society, especially when associated with ‘equality and diversity’ training in the workplace. The truth about diversity is indisputable, however: we are all different and diversity is to be found everywhere.
In Acts 6:1-7, we see how the apostles reacted when faced with the logistical problem of feeding so many widows. We’re not sure how many people were involved, but with the church growing at a fast pace (5,000 believers were mentioned in Acts 4:4 and the number had probably grown by then, as Acts 6:1 indicates), this was not an easy task. As a result, some Greek-speaking Jews complained that their widows were being overlooked in the daily food distribution.
The apostles’ response indicated that there needed to be diversity in ministry: ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ (Acts 6:2-4) There is no indication that the ministry of the word of God is more important than waiting on tables, simply a recognition that we are all called to different ministries (ways of serving God and the church.) Paul taught about this in 1 Cor 12:7-31, reminding us that even though the body is made up of many parts, it’s still one body and all parts are equally needed.
When we recognise the diversity of gifts and ministry in the church, the church can flourish. One person doesn’t have to do it all. We need different people to do different jobs: cleaning the church, making drinks, sorting finances, ordering equipment, teaching the Bible, leading worship, working the words on the projector, welcoming people into meetings, teaching children and so on. The apostles recognised that God had called them to prayer and the ministry of the word and they couldn’t do this if they were overseeing the distribution of food, so other people were appointed to do that.
The criteria for service are not simply skill or willingness, though both of these things are key. Service is spiritual, therefore the apostles wanted the church to choose men ‘known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ (Acts 2:3) In all things, we need to be spiritual people, people born again of the Spirit of God and seeking to live according to His ways and wisdom. There really is no division between our service to God. Whatever our roles, however we serve God, we are required to be people full of the Spirit and wisdom, for there’s no other way to serve God.