If you have frequented my blog for a while, you’d have noticed that the Bible forms the foundation of the principles that I share in leadership, business, education and other life lessons. I do this, not just because I’m a Bible-believing person, but also because the principles enshrined in the Holy Scriptures are timeless and hold sway in all human activities. Tried for centuries, they have proven to stand the test of time and offer tangible and intangible results to their adherents, non-Christians inclusive.
In this article, I’ll share important leadership lessons from what transpired in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles chapter 6.
After the Pentecost and the slew of miracles and salvation of souls that accompanied the apostles’ ministrations, thousands of souls were added to the fold of Christ’s followers. With the growth, however, came challenges that are normal with organising a large group of people. So, even though the people had renewed minds (the mind of Christ) and loved one another, there was still some dissatisfaction here and there.
One such challenge arose from food distribution; the absence of impartiality. The Greek-speaking Jews complained about how unfairly their widows were being treated by the Hebrew-speaking Jews. The Apostles had left table service for volunteers and concentrated on preaching, teaching and healing. But you can’t go out to bring new people whom you’d lose to murmurings and fighting, just as you wouldn’t be glad labouring for coins that get thrown into a leaky pocket.
The initial response of the apostles was to become food sharers themselves. They had to be in charge of collecting all donations to the group and disbursing foodstuffs to the people. That was a solution that quelled the growing anger of the Grecians and restored the Spirit of unity in the fold. But just like many solutions that are rolled out during crises, it wasn’t sustainable in the long run.
As the Apostles tried to manage the situation, they discovered that solely focusing on the disciples’ stomach infrastructure, albeit important, would ultimately derail them from their core purpose. So, they quickly decided to permanently deal with the problem through the appointment of dedicated disciples for that service. That way peace is maintained in the house, and the core missions of preaching, teaching and healing which Jesus asked them to be occupied with, are also advanced.
Remember that in the epistle of John, Christ had told the disciples that it was only through the exhibition of love for one another that the world would come to know that they were his disciples indeed. So, the trouble that was brooding was at the very heart of their belief, at the very root of what it means to be a Christian. So, the earlier the apostles solved this, the better for all.
Also, to be accused by non-Hebrew speakers of discrimination would have hindered the gospel. The people outside Jerusalem on hearing such news of discrimination would have simply regarded Christianity as another sect in Judaism, thereby slowing down the message of the Cross.
Leadership lessons from the complaint of the Grecian widows in Acts Chapter 6
The apostles listened to the complaint of the Grecians without making them feel like sinners for demanding a just portion of food for their widows. The widows represent one of the most vulnerable groups in an organisation or nation and neglecting them seems easy because they hardly have the strength to talk. In fact, the widows weren’t the ones that spoke out.
Some Christian leaders of today would have rebuked them for murmuring about “carnal things,” and asked them to be more spiritually minded. But the apostles of Acts 6 understood that the complaint was not only legitimate but spiritually relevant as it hit at the heart of one of the things that Christ stood for – fairness and justice. These are humans with human needs.
Leaders should learn to tackle the needs of their subjects without making them feel guilty for asking for something that is just, that is their right. A listening attitude is a cardinal quality of leadership.
Peter and the other leaders must have investigated to ascertain that the accusation levelled against the Hebrews were true. As soon as the accusation was proven to be true, they tackled it headlong.
Kindly note that time doesn’t allow certain things to die, instead, the delay makes them fester and putrefy. When the apostles learnt of the discrimination in food distribution, they quickly tackled the strife before it degenerated into something more difficult. In fact, after this, we don’t read of that nature of strife in the early Church.
Some leaders prefer to allow issues to sort themselves out. To them, the theory of natural selection applies to everything at every time. Some organisations have crumbled because a smouldering fire was not timely put out; the flames eventually grew and razed the entire organisation to the ground. A slit in the wall can bring down an entire building if not promptly fixed. Be prompt in your response.
Initially, the twelve leaders decided to take over the food distribution service by themselves. This was to restore the trust the aggrieved disciples had in the group. Everyone knew that the apostles who had been with Jesus couldn’t be partial in dispensing the food. After that initial temporary solution, they had to find a permanent one.
Whenever there is an internal dispute between senior officers and their junior colleagues, for so was the relationship between the Hebrew-speaking food distributors and the Grecian widows, leaders should press for more accountability and not attempt to excuse or shield the senior officers from the consequences of their actions.
Many organisations have been wrecked because the early complaints of maltreatment and sexual or emotional misconduct against senior staffers were disregarded as vacuous. Such misconduct continued and got entrenched in the organisation until it exploded to an uncontrollable proportion.
4. Transparency in the decision-making process:
When the apostles decided to find a lasting solution to the crisis, the decision on who would be delegated with that role and the process of that selection was made transparent. All the disciples were called to one place and the selection method and criteria of the food distributors were announced to everyone’s hearing.
Transparency helps to douse flames, appease minds and restore the confidence of the subjects in both the leadership and organisation. The solution for complaints is not less transparency, but more adequate transparency.
Transparency in the selection process is as important as the choice itself. If the process is shrouded in secrecy, suspicions are bound to arise, confidence in the leadership will diminish, and, no matter how good the choices are, no one would trust them to be impartial in executing their functions. So, the twelve didn’t choose in their closet but made open consultations.
Another important leadership lesson from that passage of the scriptures is that these early Christian leaders understood and accurately defined their core area of focus. If you don’t understand what your core areas as a leader are, you’ll be busy managing every single aspect of the organisation, but will be grossly deficient in your core areas. And since your core areas as a leader are what gives the organisation vision, direction and purpose, the organisation will lag in all these.
When you lack vision as a leader, you either step aside or the organisation would lose thrust and eventually die. Remember, leadership is not an office/position to fill, it is a responsibility to perform.
6. How the choice of the seven men was made:
As a leader, understand that whom you choose, and how you choose him are as important as the function he will perform. If the selection process is sub-standard, you’ll likely end up with the wrong person. If you choose the wrong person you’ll create more problems for yourself and the organisation.
The apostles had learnt from their experience with Jesus that choices are not made randomly nor with sentiments, but well pondered over because of the effects such choices have on the other workers as well as on the mission of the organisation.
To be continued.