Factions formed quickly in the early church. Most of the first Christians were Jewish converts who lived in Israel. There were some new Christians, though, who were Jewish but who had lived in places other than Israel. Their primary language was Greek rather than Hebrew. They were the minority and they claimed to be the neglected minority. Hellenist widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. The disciples responded to the accusation and their response serves as an example to all of us.
The disciples first realized that they needed help to lead the fast growing church. Rather than keep leadership and power “in the family” the disciples decided to share it and invited members of the Hellenist faction to join them in leadership and service. The disciples had listened to Jesus when he had told them that power was not for domination but for service, and their actions showed it.
Usually we are people who subscribe to the saying, “If you want anything done right, then do it yourself.” We are often people who also like to be in control. This is not the way of Jesus, though. We do not have all of the gifts. The Holy Spirit distributes gifts and talents around the community of faith so that we can work together to proclaim the good news and share God’s love and grace. The Spirit also constantly reminds us that we are not in control, but God is. We can let go and let God work through others. After all, we are disciples of Jesus together.
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.