Folks who like to critique the Bible love to point out contradictions. Even those who believe the Bible is God’s Word sometimes struggle with passages they fear contradict. I recently recognized something about one of the more famous questions regarding possible contradiction in the New Testament: Romans 4 vs. James 2. I want to share this to provoke some thought and hopefully some constructive discussion.
“You’re such a Pharisee!” he said with a sneer.
Why don’t we ever hear the same thing said about being a Sadducee? Why aren’t we worried about a Sadducaic influence the same way we are a Pharisaic one? I am increasingly afraid that we are so concerned about the leaven of all the potential Pharisees out there, that we are letting the leaven of all the potential Sadducees slip by unnoticed.
(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the seventh post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
Getting the Workers Needed
Once again it is too easy to get trapped in numbers. As we learn more and more about the Jerusalem church, I’m going to repeatedly come back to the fact that the Jerusalem church had 12 full-time workers, 12 evangelists if you will. Someone might mistakenly think that means to really arrive at being a congregation, the vision is to have 12 evangelists or workers. But that isn’t the point at all. The Jerusalem vision is simply to have the workers that are needed.
As we learned last week, the vision is not to have enough hired hands to do the work, but to have all hands working. And yet, while all hands are working, a congregation will still need fulltime workers, those who have completely devoted their lives to the work of the Lord within the congregation. This goes along with Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 4:11-12. While every hand is to be working, God has established certain roles to equip the saints to accomplish their work. These are fulltime workers. The scripture even shows that they can be supported by the congregation to fulfill their work (I Corinthians 9:9).
Antioch had the same idea about multiple workers. According to Acts 13:1, the Antioch church had 5 fulltime teachers. But again, the issue isn’t about the exact number. This is not saying that Antioch was on its way to accomplishing the Jerusalem vision, but hadn’t quite made it yet because it didn’t have as many workers. They were accomplishing the vision because they had the workers needed.
This vision was exemplified by Barnabas in Acts 11:25. Barnabas saw the need for another worker. He went and got him and brought him back to Antioch. To fulfill the Jerusalem vision, each congregation needs to work on having the workers needed.
Let’s face it. Our society has changed over the past fifty years. The work that can be accomplished by an evangelist, a handful of elders and few volunteers has diminished. More women are working. Men are working more hours. Families are involved in more extra-curriculars. There is simply less volunteer time. Yes, everyone of us must work in the church. But, as the pace of our society has increased, so has our need for fulltime workers to train and equip workers and organize and implement the work.
Of course, few of us really have a problem with trying to claim we ought to have 12 full-time workers. Most of us simply can’t imagine having more than one, at most two. The thing we need to see here is that the work for these men is more than preaching a sermon on Sunday. Paul taught from house to house according to Acts 20:20. Can you imagine if more Christians recognized they needed more teaching time than a few congregational assemblies a week and opened their homes for teaching, inviting others in from the congregation and the community, how much work would there be?
What work is really needed? How many workers will that take? To be like Jerusalem, a congregation better get the workers otherwise it will limit its ability to grow.
(Come back next Thursday to learn about the Jerusalem vision of being a closer knit family.)