Taking Responsibility: An Idea for How to Reach, Serve, and Include
1 But as the believers[a] rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” 5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). 6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them. 7 So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.
In the days of the early Church there was a certain population that was being neglected: the Greek widows weren’t receiving their distribution of food. We don’t know exactly how or why this was happening, but we do know that this is nothing new: humanity has a tendency to neglect/oppress certain populations. And as much as we wish this wasn’t the case, that even happens in the Church. Christ’s Church is made up of recovering neglecters and oppressors and the ways of the flesh still rear their head even amongst the faithful. We see parallels in Acts 6 to the situation of the Church today - people with disabilities are being neglected from hearing the gospel and being included in the Church. One of the things we are doing at Freedom, our local church and host church to The Banquet Network, is setting aside a group of people to take responsibility for correcting this neglect. Just like in Acts 6, the Church chose a few people to take responsibility for an issue.
In the current structure of our church (Freedom Church Baltimore) we have D-Groups, which are weekly small groups of our Church that meet for the purpose of discipleship (D stands for Discipleship). We are establishing a new D-Group whose aim is to reach people with disabilities and oversee their inclusion in our church. We know that discipleship involves more than just Scripture study, it also involves Scripture obedience. So this small group will be discipling each other in the mission of trying to reach and include people with disabilities in the Church.
If you are a pastor and your Church is not currently engaged in the special needs and disabilities communities you may feel overwhelmed about trying to care for another population. But as Acts 6 shows, the leadership of the church doesn’t have to do everything. You can simply set aside a few people to make this their aim and responsibility. Pray for them and send them out to do this mission.
Practically this is how it is working for our D-Group:
2-3 weeks of the month - the group will do an activity of outreach to the disability community. Initially, this will be volunteering with a local disability organization in which the group will share dinner with some of its beneficiaries
1 week a month - the group will meet to pray and discuss how things are going and encourage and exhort each other in their task
The group will also take responsibility for figuring out the needs of current congregants with disabilities and how to they can better be integrated into the Church.
We hope this is a structure that can be repeated in other churches. If you do something similar be sure to let us know about. We want to celebrate and learn with you. Or maybe you come up with your own innovation of how to mobilize a few to reach the forgotten and neglected—we want to hear about that too.
--Hunter Brown, Banquet Network Board Member, Freedom Church Baltimore