I was starting to emo-hulk-out yesterday on the way home from work for some reason, so to combat the rising tide of self-pity, I opened up my Bible and started reading. I opened to Acts, which I've been reading a bit on and off for the past few weeks, and noticed something cool. Thought I'd share.
Okay, pop quiz: who was the first Christian martyr in the New Testament? Anyone? Anyone?
That's right: Stephen. Remember Steve? Gave this impassioned speech about God's faithfulness and fulfillment of prophecy, and once he got to the punchline--"you Pharisees killed your long-awaited Messiah! Jewish Leadership FAIL!"--they freaked out and stoned him to death.
Here's the bonus question: what was Steven's role in the church? Apostle? Prophet? Preacher, teacher?
Check it out. At the beginning of chapter 6 of Acts, the Greek-speaking Jewish believers were upset because their widows weren't getting their fair share of daily provisions, as their full-Jewish counterparts were. The apostles said, get this, "We shouldn't spend our time serving tables instead of preaching, so we'll appoint seven Spirit-filled men to head up this committee." One of the men they picked? Our buddy Steve.
Here's what I took away from this:
First, i don't think the apostles were being jerks here. As a lay-teacher, I know what it's like to be asked to run everything for a group. It's frustrating and tiring, and it takes away some of your energy and passion for your first job, teaching the Gospel. So I can understand the feeling.
Second, what's so interesting to me is that God, in His infinite sense of irony, chose to appoint Stephen the Spirit-filled "waiter" to be the first martyr of the Christian church. It was Stephen who gave the impassioned testimony before the group of Jewish elders. It was Stephen who, as he lay dying, saw the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Father. And it was Stephen's death that was approved of by Saul, who immediately started persecuting the church, until Jesus flipped the script on him on Damascus Road and called him to be the greated Christian missionary of all time.
All starting with the death of a church committee member, who wasn't a teacher or a preacher, but a willing and faithful servant.
So here's what you should take away: God uses all of His children to serve His great purposes. Sometimes those of us who may be seen as the most lowly, or feel like we don't count, are the greatest tools in His mighty hand. If you think to yourself "I'm just a facilities person, I'm just an usher, I only serve food at VBS, I merely hand out the bulletin and greet people on Sunday," you will miss the great and glorious plan that the Father of lights has appointed you to accomplish. Sometimes our sacrifices and services are completely in secret. But we are promised that He who sees what is done in secret will bring all to light and will reward us openly.
So as you go about your business, as you go to church, show respect for the lowly servants around you, those who humbly and willingly do for others. They may be having the greatest impact of us all for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus. And if you are one of these nameless few, faithfully serving week after week, let me say: thank you for your needed and impactful ministry.