The Ministry of the Word

by John Meador

John MeadorOne of the most intriguing and important phrases in the Bible is found in Acts 6: "the ministry of the Word."

 The apostles used the phrase to describe their devotion to the critical component of life transformation. Evidently, their decision to be committed to the ministry of the Word was a good one. In Acts 17:6, they are called, "these who have turned the world upside down."

But what was the ministry of the Word? What did it mean then, and what does it mean today? The answer to those questions might just change the way you prepare, and the way you do ministry.

The background? An amazing era of growth and momentum as thousands of people in Jerusalem and the surrounding area begin to put their faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ. In addition to the various physical needs the apostles were attempting to meet, there was the daily concern that those coming to Christ would hear the word of the Lord.

In the challenge of trying to meet all the needs around them, a decision was made that would mark the church forever. Acts 6:1-7 describes the mindset behind this strategic decision.

A mindset of dependence, even to the point of desperation, upon the Word of God is the foundation for the ministry of the Word. In Acts 6:2, the apostles said,"it is not desirable for us to neglect the Word of God in order to serve tables." Using the strongest possible "not" in the original, coupled with the word "neglect," one gets the sense that the apostles were reacting in a very, very strong way to the possibility of ministry needs pushing out the priority of the Word. The word used for "neglect" described a ship that sailed past its intended destination. "We absolutely cannot abandon God's Word to do other kinds of ministry," they said.

It is obvious to me that they remembered Jesus' words recorded in John 8:31-32, "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." Perhaps they remembered what Jesus said in John 8:51: "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." No wonder there was a desperate decision to stay focused. The Word, and only the Word, was life-transforming.

The ministry of the word is also a matter of devotion. "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word" (v. 4). As good as it is to meet the needs in peoples' lives, the priority for the apostles was to devote themselves to the Word.

Here's the contrast: Instead of waiting tables, they were to wait on the Word, spending quality time studying in order to grow, teach, and instruct others. In fact, there is a revealing play on words: We're not waiting on tables, but we are waiting on the Word.

This devotion would pay rich dividends as the church increased in number and in maturity. Where there is a devotion to the Word by the leaders, there is a maturing church. This is why the apostles were willing to study, mediate and pray-because if there is one thing God will unconditionally honor, it is His Word.

The text also points out a mindset of distribution. The results of the critical decision to devote time to the Word led to the congregation taking on the role of making the good news known all around. The last verse of the passage, verse 7, says: "The word of God kept on spreading" It is pretty clear that the disciples were so challenged by the focus on the Word that they determined to spread the message to everyone around them. Even the priests, those most difficult to convert, were coming to faith.

But don't miss this: There is a clear connection to the decision made by the apostles to be devoted to the Word and the resulting numerical increase. The right kind of devotion and attention to God's Word ought to result in people sharing with others about the amazing grace of God.

For me, Acts 6 poses questions that make a difference.

Have I so ordered my ministry that needs can be met by others while I focus on the Word?

Have I made the mistake of sailing past the priority of the Word, and if so, what am I sailing toward instead?

Am I devoted to the hours of "waiting" on the Word and making sure my message adheres to the Word itself?

Am I a man of the Word in life and message?

Do I challenge my people to take the Word and share it with others?

What was good for them then is good for us now. Devote yourselves to the ministry of the Word!

John Meador is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Euless, Texas.

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
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