Articles From Our Bulletins
Delegating Work and Responsibilities
Given the title, those familiar with the New Testament will likely remember Acts 6:1-6 where both the oversight (responsibility) and implementation (work) of caring for Greek-speaking Hebrew widows was delegated by the Twelve (apostles) to seven men whom the congregation selected based upon the qualifications provided. We are not left to our own wondering suppositions about the reason for this allocation since the text provides clear divine commentary from the apostles, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables…. But we will devote ourselves to prayer, and the ministry of the word,” Acts 6:2,4. There were capable and qualified men who could oversee and implement the work of providing food to needy Christians without burdening those tasked with being Jesus’ “witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8) unnecessarily with extra responsibilities. But don’t disconnect this delegation of responsibility and division of labor from the results! Not only were the widows adequately cared for, note also Acts 6:7, “And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” The take-away? Things work well and prosper when each does what they are suited and qualified to do through scriptural delegation!
There are a couple of extrapolations from Acts 6:1-6 that can also be helpful:
The apostles delegated responsibility, not just work. Those seven men were “put in charge” of the task, v.3. Perhaps too often, church leaders delegate work, but not responsibility. The apostles didn’t waste their time or talents micro-managing what had been delegated. They gave the men chosen responsibility- and therefore authority, to get the job done, and then got out of the way! It accomplishes little, if anything, for leaders to delegate a task IF they are unwilling to let those put in charge subsequently handle it. Remember the purpose of the delegation in the first place, cf. vv.2,4!
Think about the specified qualifications for this task: “seven men”- apparently such was deemed a sufficient number for the job; “of good reputation”- anyone, regardless of reputation, can work, but entrusting responsibility requires a proven track record; “full of the Spirit”- thus, additionally enabled with divine wisdom. Does this sound like “over-qualified”? They would indeed be over-qualified if they were ONLY serving tables (no offense intended to more modern food servers), but NOT if they were “put in charge of the task”! I take such to mean that these men were placed over the procurement (collection and expenditure of necessary funds), preparation (and those actually doing the work), and dispersal (some being overlooked was a potential divisive issue in the church, v.1) of the food. Thus, those meeting the requirements were not at all over-qualified, they were exactly-qualified! When delegating a task, qualified people need to be selected and appointed for it, then (again), get out of the way and let them take charge and carry out their appointed duties.
There is a progression of duties and responsibilities that enable each to grow and become more useful to the Master. These seven men, as evidenced by their qualifications, had already learned service. Next, they were appointed to a limited administration task (oversight/authority in a specified area). The successful administration of this task of providing benevolent assistance to needy Christians seems to have prepared and propelled these men to even greater works, since two of the seven’s preaching exploits are further covered in the next two chapters (Stephen in Acts 6:8 – 7:60, and Philip in Acts 8). Each advancement in service was predicated upon the lessons learned and skills developed in the previous level. This concept can also be seen in 1Tim.3:3-4,6,10. So, don’t try to short-cut the process because each step of development is important!
Unfortunately, we sometimes tend to delegate responsibilities to others that can’t actually be delegated:
Just because a congregation has scripturally qualified and appointed leaders does not remove the responsibility we have as individual members to our wayward brethren. The obligations to restore and bear one another’s burdens in Galatians 6:1-2ff are addressed to “you who are spiritual,” v.1. The process of dealing with a sinful brother in Matthew 18:15-18 begins with the brother against whom he has sinned going to him first, v.15. And the charge to “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men” of 1Thessalonians 5:14 is given to “brethren” rather than Elders. We all have edification/correction responsibilities that can’t be delegated, nor are they absolved by the presence of Elders in the congregation.
Just because a congregation has paid preacher does not remove the responsibility we have as individual members toward evangelism. Remember Paul’s instructions to the located preacher (in Ephesus at the time) Timothy, “And the things you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” 2Timothy 2:2. Notice that the Word is to be entrusted (to commit to one’s charge) to faithful men! Furthermore, we all have the responsibility to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven,” Matthew 5:16. By proclamation and example, we all have evangelistic responsibility. And finally,
Just because we contribute of our means weekly into a church treasury does not remove the responsibility to provide for one another in times of need. “But whoever has this world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or tongue, but in deed and truth,” 1John 3:17-18. The presence of a church treasury, or our contributions to it, does not negate our individual responsibilities toward benevolence.
Delegation is a good and necessary tool to accomplish divine objectives when: it is done for the right reason, to right person/people, in the right way. But, when it is done for the wrong reasons, to the wrong person/people, and in the wrong ways, it just promotes the shirking of responsibility and the loss of greater potential for the delegator, and unfairly burdens the delegates. Think on these things, won’t you?