PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 6:5–7 (NIV)
This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
I want us to notice what happens when seven men step up to the plate of calling in the local church. But first, let’s remember the context of the story at hand. A bonafide problem arose in the matter of the distribution of food for the widows in the church. It was not simple as it involved some complexities around ethnicity.
Let’s remember again how they solved the problem.
- Find people who “are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.”
- Lay hands on them, publicly commissioning them for the work.
- Turn them loose.
Now let’s notice what happened.
- The Word of God spread.
- The number of disciples increased rapidly.
- A large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
No shaming people into service. No begging for volunteers. No committee meetings.
Seven men simply stepped up. Then and now, there is an overabundance of godly women involved in the servant leadership of local churches. Still, we need more. However, in too many local churches, there is a dearth of men meaningfully involved. Why is this? I don’t want to over-read into the text, but there is no evidence the apostles called for men in this instance owing to patriarchal proclivities. It would make better sense for several reasons to have women looking after widows than men doing so. Admittedly, I am speculating here, but I wonder if men were stepping up to the plate in the early church?
At least I do want to appeal to the plain correlation we see in the text between the seven men standing in the gap and the reported flourishing of the church.
The last thing I want to do here is to harangue men to be more involved. It never works and you usually wind up with the same men showing up who would have been there anyway. So how do we get to the hearts of the masses of men in our time? I don’t think it will happen through more urgent appeals for volunteers to serve. The greatest need is not for their hands but for their hearts. I think we have ample examples of local churches who have the hands of men and even the minds of many but we are missing men’s hearts. Men are watching and waiting for the call to nobility and the invitation to noble pursuit.
And I’m almost sure there is a strong connection between this kind of noble heart and being filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. What if this is the starting line? Instead of trying to get men more involved in the church, what if we sought to inspire them to be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom? It’s interesting the exact words of the apostles:
Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.
This was not a call for men who claimed to be full of the Spirit and wisdom but men who were “known to be.” Few men will ever respond to that invitation and those that will are not the drones you are looking for. Deep down, men want to be known deep down. They don’t want to be known for their skills and abilities or for their achievements and accomplishments. They want to be known for their hearts and their character. They want to be known “to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.”
I’m sure there will be a line of men and women looking to take me on for this post today. I suspect, though, that the multitude of men are quietly leaning in as their hearts are being lifted up.
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
So how about it men? Am I close? Women?
Today we will sing “Rise Up, O Men of God!” It is hymn 518 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt