I am beginning a study on "Becoming a Trustworhty Leader from the Life of Steven in Acts 6 and Acts 7.
Why use Steven as a launching pad for a study in leadership?
Often, when I encourage people to live a life of holiness or to set their sights high for power and influence in the Kingdom, if i say "we are to love our enemies!! We are to forgive like Jesus!! We are to pray for the sick!! We are called to be shining lights in a dark world!!", people will say, "I am not Jesus Christ. I am just a sinner saved by grace". There is, in many of us, little faith for a life of distinctive power and holiness for the ordinary Christian. So maybe, in such a case, I would turn to the example of Peter or Paul as the example of an exemplary life. "Look at the courage of Peter in the face of opposition. We too should be bold in our workplace". Or "Look at Paul who suffered and rejoiced in his affliction, we too should find joy in our affliction". In response these types of "exhortations" to ministry or faith, I often hear, "But I am no Apostle Paul". Sometimes this "I am no Apostle Paul excuse" is turned on me. Often I will say, "I believe God has called us to pray and become 'wise master builders' like Paul. We are to find the tools to use for our community and our generation". To this people have said to me, "Brad, you ain't no Apostle Paul." Well sure that is true. BUT I can be a Steven.
You see no one ever uses Steven to buttress this excuse of neglecting a high and holy call. People may maintain that wall between clergy and layperson or between biblical calling and us ordinary folk by referring to Jesus Christ or the Apostles, BUT no one ever points to Steven to protect themselves from the responsibility to live a life of stunning courage and beauty.
Why is this true? Because Steven was so obviously given to us to be an example of an "ordinary man" who lived an "extraordinary life". Steven had his moment to shine and he made the most of it. Steven is the working man's hero if there ever was one.
Steven was Chosen from Among the People by the People - A Representative
Here is the passage again.
Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2 So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3 "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4 "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." 5 The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6 And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them. 7 The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
So we can see that Steven was a representative of the people chosen by the people. Steven was the ordinary man of the ordinary folk. Steven is one of us. This series is going to encourage all of us to set our sights high that we might be used by God to be a person like Steven who is an asset in the hand of the Lord. Of course, I believe that Peter too was just an ordinary person and so too the other apostles, but Steven is a special case given to us specifically to help us see that one from among us can become a Trustworthy Leader with all the qualities necessary to be used by God to do something beautiful and noteworthy.