Equal But Not The Same

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

We were in our last couple nights of evangelism meetings when a water pipe burst, flooding a room behind the sanctuary, near the baptistry entrance. One of the deacons told a local elder to help the other deacons pump the water out. The elder politely replied that he could not do that, because he had to visit with the baptismal candidates to clear them for the baptisms coming up. The deacon then accused the elder of being on an ego trip, thinking he was too good to do manual labor. But that was not the case at all. As an elder he had a job to do in getting people ready for the baptism, and could not do both at the same time.

The early church ran into a similar problem where certain necessary duties were keeping them from preaching and teaching.

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4 NKJV

Hence the office of deacons came into the church. Like the elders, the deacons were to be men full of the Holy Spirit. They are not less than elders, but their duties are not the same. Yes, Steven preached in Acts 7 and Philip baptized in Acts 8. Every office in the church carries the equal responsibility of sharing the gospel. But deacons and deaconesses are also given responsibilities of caring for the physical upkeep and maintenance of the church, and even caring for the physical needs of the members. This frees the elders from “waiting on tables” so they can be spreading the gospel.

That evening that the water pipe burst, the deacon told the elder that a real leader should never ask anyone to do a job he would not be willing to do himself. He then handed him a bucket insinuating that he should get to work and show a little humility and lead by example. There was only one problem. The elder had appointments with several candidates for the baptisms the next couple nights. They were waiting for him right then, and they worked the next day before the baptisms the following nights.

It wasn’t that the elder thought he was important. It wasn’t even necessarily that he thought clearing people for baptism was more important than fixing a water break. Obviously the water break had to be fixed to have the baptisms! Both the deacon’s job and elder’s job were equally important but not the same. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about different gifts and ministries in the church. He talks about how the foot and hand are both needed. However while the foot is equal to the hand, the foot is still not the hand. While being equal they are not the same. Each has their own distinct purpose.

Deacons are to be filled with the Holy Spirit and able to preach. And elders have gladly taken up the offering and locked up the church after a meeting, taken out the trash, so long as they can still accomplish their gospel responsibilities. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us one ministry is not superior to another, while Acts 6 tells us our offices are not the same.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here. 

What Makes my Country and my Church Strong!

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

In my almost 50 years, I have seen leaders of my country come and go. Some were called good, some were called bad. There have been some fierce debates over whether or not a certain leader was good or bad.

Still my country remains strong. You know why I think that is? While some leaders are good and others not so good, I believe it is the common citizen who keeps my country strong.

Leaders may compromise their integrity for greed or political favor but my country stays strong because of teachers like my 2nd grade teacher, Miss Tubbs, who stayed after school to help me finish my math assignment even though she really wanted to go home, and was under no obligation to stay. I did not thank her for her extra effort. It made me resent her. She didn’t care that her extra effort was not endearing her to me. She wasn’t doing it for me to thank her. There was really nothing in it for her. Yet by going the extra mile she made each of her students a stronger link in the fabric of our country.

Then you have fathers like my dad, who while working a full time job and a couple part time jobs, volunteers at the city library to teach adults how to read. One of his pupils needed help moving, so dad, who has already gone the extra mile in just teaching him how to read, goes another mile more, and helps him move. I never heard dad complain about all he was doing and he still made time to take me to the baseball games. (He should have had me help his student move instead!)

This country has mothers like my mom, who kept the home in order, worked at various jobs off and on, and still volunteered to lead the parent-teacher association, and was always there to give rides on our field trips. My mother taught me integrity with time, money and hard work. Growing up, Wednesday was the day we got to eat out, because that was the day the enchilada dinner was $1.00 off at the Monterey House Mexican Restaurant. Mom knew the value of saving a dollar, but she still had no problem waiting for the waitress to redo the ticket, after reminding her of something she forgot to charge us for.

This country is full of pastors like Pastor Kelly of the Highland Park Christian Church in Tulsa, where my family worked in the nursery for years. Since we were Seventh-day Adventists, we were Christians who were available to babysit while everyone else was in church Sunday. During my teen years I sometimes needed a mentor to talk to who was not necessarily in the picture of my routine life at school, home and even my own church. While I was not a member of Pastor Kelly’s flock or even his denomination, and he knew good and well there was no chance I ever would be, still he made time for me and always returned my phone calls if I missed him. Just like my second grade teacher, he went the extra mile even though there was nothing to gain for himself. He cared.

Then you have Eneida, who is now 20 and serving in the military getting ready to go to Afghanistan. She was 13 when I met her and her family. We all started studying the Bible together. I have watched Eneida give up things for herself, which were rightfully hers, so her younger siblings could have them instead. Being Hispanic, when it came time for her Quince, while her other friends were throwing big parties she told her parents not to waste any money on her, and enjoyed a quiet celebration with family instead. I have watched her caring for her younger siblings like a mother hen. Now she is in the military. At 20 years of age, the only life she knows is looking out for her family and country even at the expense of her own welfare. Her life has been full of sacrifices, none of which anyone else has ever asked her to make.

Just like Paul could go on and on in the “Hall of Faith” chapter of Hebrews 11, I could go on and on too, about the rest of my wonderful family and community. I think you get the picture. As long as my country has people like Miss Tubbs, mom and dad, Pastor Kelly and Eneida, I don’t think any political leader can destroy the strength of the common people, who make our country strong. It’s not any one leader who is holding this country together and making it strong. The strength of this country is found in the millions and millions of everyday people, like the ones I have just mentioned.

So in my church, it is not any one leader who keeps it strong even with all its challenges. Elijah was once tempted to think he was holding things together during a time of great spiritual crisis in Israel, when he was reminded about 7,000 everyday people who had never bowed the knee to another any other god besides the true God. See Romans 11:4 NLT So while the King and Queen of Israel worshipped Baal, Israel survived because of 7,000 everyday people who we don’t even know their names!

In Hezekiah’s day God’s people experienced another revival. The priests or leaders were not necessarily prepared for the revival the laity was experiencing.

But there were too few priests to prepare all the burnt offerings. So their relatives the Levites helped them until the work was finished and more priests had been purified, for the Levites had been more conscientious about purifying themselves than the priests had been. 2 Chronicles 29:34 NLT

So it is today, often the revivals are led by the lay members. Sometimes it is the lay members who lead the paid gospel workers back to God. I may be a paid full time Bible Worker, but I can’t tell you how many times I have been educated, mentored, and yes even corrected by the most humble of lay members. During times of spiritual crisis it has been the common lay members who have held our church together. The grandmother praying through the night, the small child who quietly slips the money given to him for his birthday into the offering plate, fearing embarrassment if anyone was watching, the mother and father who were just cursed out after a board meeting, right in front of their children, who never retaliated, but went home and prayed in the family circle for the ones who cursed them; yes these are the people who revive and reform our church in times of crisis. These are the people who make our church strong. When I look to myself and then look at the challenges ahead I want to faint! Then my Savior comes and takes me by the hand. He tells me not to look to myself for revival and reformation but to look to Him. Then He tells me not to worry. Not because He will make me a great leader, but because He is a great leader. The church will survive. It will be revived and reformed, not by any one leader. No. It will be revived and reformed by the 144,000. Literal number or symbolic it’s all the same. God will not save, revive or reform his church through any one person. Like the days of Elijah, God will raise up a multitude of everyday common no-name individuals who will reflect the character of God instead of themselves. And it’s because of My God, and His loyal, selfless, unpaid, unrecognized and un-thanked followers that my church is strong!

You may study this week’s SS lesson on revival here.