Waiting Tables for the Lord
Emily C. Heath
A clergy person once asked me if they needed a publicist.
“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.’… They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.” – Acts 6:2-6
A clergy person once asked me if they needed a publicist. This is not someone who is trying to market a published book or anything where an argument for that could possible made, so I was baffled. When I asked why they thought they might need one they said they wanted to, “increase their public profile.”
“No,” I told them, “You do not need a publicist.” What I didn’t say, but wanted to, was, “In fact, please don’t get one, because the last thing the church needs is more clergy who just want to be famous.”
In a time of celebrity clergy, I’m reminded of this passage. The early church was trying to make sure all the day-to-day tasks were being taken care of, such as the distribution of food. They decided to appoint seven people to the task of waiting on tables so that the rest could focus on prayer and study. They chose these seven, laid hands on them in prayer, and commissioned them to this particular ministry of being servers.
In one respect, this is a humble calling. The seven guys waiting tables were never going to get a publicist this way. In another, though, it shows just how important the small, thankless tasks truly can be for the church. The apostles knew it was so crucial for their life together that they actually laid their hands on the waiters, essentially ordaining them to their work. How often in our church life together do we recognize anyone other than our clergy like this?
And yet, those waiters were worthy, and their influence would go far beyond the table. One of the seven, Stephen, a man “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” would be mentioned again in Acts. It was Stephen who would later be the first martyr for the faith. It is Stephen that we think about when we remember what it means to be ready to pay the “cost of discipleship.” It is Stephen, the waiter, who known now as a saint.
And he didn’t even need a publicist.
God, thank you for the humble servants who make the greatest impact. Amen.