How Acts 6 Informs Recruitment & Hiring
Recruiting the right people to lead a project, solve a problem, or join an organization is critically important. We’ve surely all experienced the rewards when this is done well, and we’ve also suffered the damage when it’s not. A short story from Acts 6 offers timeless guidance.
The early, blossoming church was facing two problems: poverty and discrimination. Widows were especially vulnerable. It’s why they share so much space in the Bible with the fatherless and the foreigner.
So the church launched a food ministry to care for widows. However, a complaint arose that the Greek-speaking widows were being neglected. These women were considered outsiders by some due to differences in language and culture.
This was no small issue. Widows were facing starvation because of discrimination. It’s the kind of mistreatment that, if not handled correctly, can wreck a church, harm the marginalized, and fuel more discrimination. Thankfully, the church responded with valor.
So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”Acts 6:2-4
The Twelve gathered – all twelve Apostles. This issue went right to the top of leadership. They did not ignore or minimize the complaint. In choosing a leadership team, two key elements of the process come into view:
The qualifications were clear: “Being filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” Handling this dicy, cultural issue in a way that would meet the needs of the vulnerable and restore the unity of the church required spiritual, mature leadership. These qualifications were non-negotiable. This wasn’t the time to see if someone’s faith and discernment were up to the task.
These qualifications were primary, but something else was considered.
Acts 6 lists the names of the seven appointees. All seven had names with Greek origins. Luke sometimes shares specific details in the book of Acts. When he does, we ought to pay close attention. There’s a lot we don’t know, but at the very least the Apostles realized the importance of representing the Greek-speaking widows. It was an admission that they might have some blind spots. It was a statement that all people matter and will be heard. Cultural considerations were made.
How many times have organizations formed a committee without fair representation of an offended party? They may have people of high character, but they still lack the cultural knowledge needed to lead well. Would you want a committee teenagers deciding if the complaints from the senior citizens should be trusted? Or would you trust a committee without teachers to determine if once-a-week fire drills are a bit too much?
Institutions that don’t make cultural considerations break the command to be quick to listen by assuming they know what’s best, fostering more discrimination, and ignoring significant needs.
Diversity initiatives are sometimes poorly executed and counter-productive. That’s a major problem! However, dismissing any cultural considerations is a mistake the early church refused to make. As a result, the leaders solved the problem, lifted the marginalized, unified the church, set important precedents, and “The Word of God spread” (vs. 7).
Biblical leadership never elevates cultural considerations above character qualifications, but it sees the wisdom in considering cultural factors.