Henry Ford had a problem. His Model-T car was too successful. He had introduced the assembly line in 1913 and production rose so much that he started making lots of money. His workers, however, didn’t last long doing the mind-numbing, physically demanding assembly line work and turnover was alarmingly high. Then, in early 1914 he introduced a radical plan to improve employee retention. He cut the work day from 9 hours to 8 hours. He opened up a third shift which would increase the number of jobs available. Then, in perhaps the most startling move, he doubled the pay of his workers to $5 a day. Turnover declined, productivity shot up, and Ford was able to reduce the price of the Model-T from $800 to $350. His workers also became consumers and could afford to buy the very cars they made.
Decisions like the ones Henry Ford made can have a lasting impact not only on the business involved, but also on society. Most people thought Ford’s idea was going to hurt him financially, but, to use an old advertising line, Ford had a better idea. Any time an organization grows, there will be growing pains. The early church had growing pains. With those growing pains, came ethnic issues. The Jews who had a Greek background noted that their widows weren’t getting the same care that the Hebrew widows were getting. Whether it was a perception issue or an actual problem, the apostles didn’t let the problem fester. They created a new office in the church and the first responsibility of that office was to make sure that food distribution was equitable. It worked. “So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7)
The plan and the solution were radical and could have killed the growth of the church. People would be chosen to take care of the widows, and the result was that all of those chosen had a Greek background. Was it a popular vote? Who knows? Maybe the Grecian Jews outnumbered the Hebrew Jews by that time. Maybe the apostles put out the word to the Hebrew Jews to vote for the Greeks. Whatever the situation, God was in the middle of it and seven Grecian men were chosen to carry out the task. That move could have brought all kinds of disrepute on the growing church. The residents of Israel, who were the immediate targets of evangelistic outreach by the church, could have been disgusted that the church allowed those Greeks to be involved in the work of the church. Worse, these deacons didn’t necessarily stay focused on their work. Stephen caused all kinds of trouble by performing signs and wonders among the people. This could have blown up in the face of the church, but the bold decision by the apostles to involve others in the work of the church caused the word of God to spread and grow. Even priests started becoming obedient to the faith of Jesus.
The apostles recognized the importance of letting God control the church and not exercising an iron fist over the people who came to Jesus. As we continue to show the world the grace of God, we should have all kinds of people coming to Christ. There will be an inner desire to make sure that these new converts do things “just right” (translation – do things the way I did and now do). In other words, we want to make sure that these new converts only commit “acceptable sins,” I guess. Given that there are no acceptable sins, this could be a problem. Ultimately, we need to show people the love of Jesus Christ, welcome sinners into the church, and let them be involved in the work. Their sins? We need to trust God to work in them to change so that we can say, just as Paul said about the Corinthians after reciting a long list of sinful lifestyles, “such were some of you.” Do we trust God to take care of His church? If we do, then let’s not allow any barriers to people coming to Christ.
Oh Lord, so many people are hurting and lost in their sin and need to know Jesus. Help me to proclaim His love and mercy. Draw them into Your love and mold them to be in your image, even as You work on me.