Waiting Tables is Underrated – part 15

Some say the apostles have all the gifts, but this is contrary to the central notion that there is one body with many interdependent members that have different functions. I spent a few years in a ministry that should know what the ministry gifts are and how they function.

Of the two men who discipled me in ministry, one was considered an apostle and the other a prophet. One of the things I remember about my discipleship is that there came a time when both of them forbade any leader to speak out about the role they thought they had. The situation was out of control. They were measuring and comparing each other’s roles as if one had more authority than the other. The reason most ministries cannot handle the apostolic and prophetic roles is that they attribute great authority to them. If someone starts to realize that they are an apostle, it goes to their head and they lose control. The only reason this happens is that we have been taught for many centuries that the ministry gifts have greater authority than the saints. It is not taught that they are the servants of all. And also they are not the servants waiting tables, they are being served. We have been taught that the clergy are higher. It is not necessarily true that the saints are immature and apparently too weak to be able to know what they really are without it making them conceited. We have been taught that leadership is above us. We have been taught that an apostle is a larger-than-life personality and that he is the highest authority here on earth. Nothing could be farther than the truth. The apostles of the New Testament were not very impressive (1 Corinthians 2:1-5). No one could believe that these simple uninspiring men were Jesus’s handpicked leaders. They didn’t comprehend it because they couldn’t grasp what Jesus was trying to do.

What I know about an apostle is this. On any given day, you will find him out there preaching and teaching the Gospel to new believers. He has no book with his picture on the back, no television show, and does not condone the mega-church or mass evangelism. He does have a name that you would recognize because he just isn’t found where Christianity is abundant. He doesn’t travel to churches preaching or giving seminars. You would never know he existed. Most likely he is in the house of one of his disciples at 10:30 PM somewhere in dusty, poverty-stricken shantytowns on the foreign mission field extending the kingdom of God. The New Testament confirms this. You can do deep studies about all the roles and try to find your place, or you could just start serving and discover your gift by doing what God leads you to do. Here is a little list of how you can find what it is you are, however, be careful. If you are really concerned about what role you are in, you are close to being disqualified. I will go into greater detail in the last chapter of the book but here are some things you can start with. 1. Read the Gospels a minimum of two hours a day. 2. Start serving in all the areas that others are not. 3. Obey everyone. 4. Submit to everyone. 5. Follow instructions explicitly as they are given. 6. Look to the New Testament as your manual of instructions that you need to follow. 7. Go through open doors. 8. Seek God for the spiritual gifts. You might find that the talents that no one else is using will be given to you (Matthew 25:14-30).

“Now as an elder myself and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as one who shares in the glory to be revealed, I exhort the elders among you to tend the flock of God that is in your charge, exercising the oversight, not under compulsion but willingly, as God would have you do it –not for sordid gain but eagerly. Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd appears, you will win the crown of glory that never fades away. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time”.

(NRSV, 1 Peter 5:1-6)

Do you see the reality and the role in those previous verses? Look again to find them. This is one of the few places that the New Testament speaks of authority given to men. It tells us to accept the authority of the elders. The passage is surrounded by reality. Remember that Jesus says all authority has been given to him (Mathew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 2:10), so if he chooses to pass it through men, it is given as a gift, not earned and is not to be used to Lord over others with. All authority has been established by God (Romans 13:1). There are only a few other instances in the New Testament where authority is mentioned being given to men (Matthew 10:1; Mark 3:15; 6:7; Luke 10:19; 2 Corinthians 10:8).

“This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority–the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down”

(NRSV, 2 Corinthians 13:10)

Authority is given to build up the body in kingdom extension. If you don’t see; people coming to the Lord, baptisms, new believers being discipled, the power of God displayed, persecution, and people spending time in the word of God, you are not be rightly submitted to the head, and you might not have the maturity in Christ to exercise oversight and have the younger ones accept your authority. What is your authority? To point younger people in the faith to Christ (1 Corinthians 2:2). Be careful not to take a hand full of verses and discard all the others we have been discussing. Pointing younger people to Christ is discipleship. These are the things that are needed for kingdom extension and building the body. So if you are not building the body, are you truly members of Christ’s body? Are you truly submitted to him? If you are divided, powerless and stagnant, just repent and get back to Jesus. And just so that it is made perfectly clear, when I use the words “kingdom extension”, I refer to souls being added to the body, not buildings being built, not ministries being named, not nonprofits being legalized, not any kind of social action being demonstrated nor material things being sold. I am referring to souls of new brothers and sisters being added frequently (Acts 2:47) and then being discipled. When more people come into the kingdom, that is kingdom extension. When more people are maturing and overseeing the discipleship of newer younger souls, that is kingdom extension. The soul is the only thing that will be left when this material world is burned and disappears. All the church buildings, pulpits, Christian universities, and monuments to heroes of the faith will no longer exist.

Christ’s authority is expressed through us, not imbued in us. It is his. We cannot lord authority over others because it is not ours. This command to not lord it over is urged by those who meet the qualifications of an elder. It comes from those who are mature. Elder signifies adulthood. Elderly is older and is synonymous with maturity. There are a lot of qualifications of the elder. And he must be all those things. Not some of these things, but all of them. He must be blameless, the husband of one wife, his children must be believers and not wild and disobedient. He must not be quick-tempered. Also must not be given to drunkenness nor violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. And the list goes on; hospitable, loving good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. Here is the key quality we are focusing on in this book on leadership; not overbearing. Then, it mentions kingdom extension in that an elder must firmly hold to the trustworthy message as it has been taught to encourage others in sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:6-9). This is a very long list of things that are required for one to be considered able to ask and urge you to follow instructions, exercise oversight, and that the younger accept their authority (authority expressed through them, not imbued). The overseer’s and deacon’s qualifications are very similar. The word overseer is “bishop” in some versions. The meaning is the same.

“The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way– for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money; they must hold fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Women likewise must be serious, not slanderers, but temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (NRSV, 1 Timothy 3:1-13).

These verses tell us why the youth in the Lord cannot be appointed to the role. It goes to their head because of their age in Christ. They do not understand authority. They are not mature enough. They have not learned to serve. They do not have all the requisites. An overseer must also be well thought of by outsiders. They will be able to SERVE as deacons once they are tested. We would see a very different church body today if all our leaders had these qualities. The word overseer is “episkopos” in Greek and means bishop, curator, superintendent, or guardian. If the guardians of the believers had all these qualities, we would see much more kingdom extension. The word deacon is “diakonos” and literally means to wait on someone, servant or waiting, man. Again we see that these overseeing roles are to be servants. If you have ever had to work in the secular workplace as a waiter, you learn many things. In a very fancy restaurant, the waiters will wait near your table at a distance. They are the waiting men. They are waiting to see if you need anything. They are literally waiting nearby. They are waiting on you to ask for something.

It should change our view of leadership to know that the apostles were waiting on tables (Acts 6:2). When the apostles said that they should not neglect the ministry of the word of God to wait on tables, they were by no means saying that waiting on tables is a lower, dirty job that should be done by someone below them. They were not saying that they were way too important and above the job. They felt completely comfortable with it or they would not have been doing it. Jesus made sure that they would be comfortable serving others. Their motive to choose other waiters was for the extension of the kingdom. They needed to be extending, it was their role. It is what Jesus trained them for. Also, they made it clear that waiting tables was just as important as any other job because they chose people full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom as their replacements. I doubt very seriously that they stopped serving others once their role of waiting tables was taken by others.

If you have ever been a waiter or waitress you would know why they chose people who had maturity. A table waiter deals with all kinds of people. Believe me, you need all the qualities of a New Testament overseer to wait on people and do it well. If you cannot take abuse just as a slave would be abused, you will not be getting tips. Your customers won’t leave you one because you don’t know how to deal with them. If you are a good waiter, you learn how to turn conflict into peace. You learn suffering and patience. You learn how to take insults, deal with anger and clean up vomit. More importantly, you learn how to deflect all the negativity and return evil with good. People need to understand that maturity is learned through testing, trials, and pressure while serving all kinds of people. Jesus understood that to prepare his leaders to extend the Gospel they would have to learn these things. The apostles were tested through waiting on tables and then began to prepare the next generation of apostles by appointing them to wait on tables. It was deliberate. This is something that has always ministered to me that the apostles who were with Christ were waiting on tables. If you want to learn to become a true member of the body of Christ, wait on people. Just do what they say and take no offense to the way they talk to you. Just obey and follow instructions. When you make mistakes admit it and then fix them.