Turning Problems Into Opportunities

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In Acts 6:1-7 a problem broke out among the early Christians. It was a dispute over which widows were receiving support and which were not. Often when church leadership receives complaints like these it is easy to see these things as problems. People are upset. Feelings are hurt. Needs are unmet. These things really are problems on the front end. They create tension and a need for change in order to address a particular situation. Most change does arise out of problem issues. We don’t tend to change things that are working, right? So they came up with a solution by appointing men to oversee how the widows’ needs were being met in order to make sure things were done fairly.

Although on the front end this was a problem, the actual processing through of the solution, carrying it out, and coming out on the other side actually became a great opportunity. It is easy to get focused on tensions in a congregation as problems but if things are going to get better we have to shift our thinking to ask what opportunities are actually being presented so that we might further God’s kingdom by the way we address these sensitive issues.

Notice the result of the apostles delegating this responsibility to those seven men, “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). God’s kingdom actually grew because they took a problem and created an opportunity to do kingdom work out of it. Widows got their needs met, the word was preached (6:4), and everything turned out better after this conflict than it had been before this problem came to their attention.

God works like that. He takes problems and creates opportunities for growth. You see that in the lives of so many people in the Bible. We see it in our lives as well. We can all point to mistakes we made that actually turned into opportunities for growth. We can point to the sin in our lives that God has delivered us from. God doesn’t leave us in our problems but creates opportunities for growth in more ways than we can even begin to understand.

So the next time you are faced with a “problem” remember that God may just be priming things up to take things to the next level and bring about renewed growth in the kingdom!

0 Responses

  1. Excellent point Matt! God has often allowed things to go wrong, only to then work through his people and be glorified in the end.

    “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).

    Great article.

  2. By today’s new ‘Church Leadership’ standards Jesus was a clueless leader who obviously wasn’t in tune with the ‘worship experience’ needs of His time and culture. Fact is, when you read the New Testament biographies you don’t read about Jesus discussing the latest leadership philosophies, church branding strategies, church marketing practices or the latest ideas for designing and creating holistic audio visual environments to help create the perfect mood for people to have an engaging worship experience.

    Instead, when you read the New Testament you discover that Jesus often taught outside and Jesus’ teaching events were far from seeker-sensitive. When you compare Jesus’ leadership practices to the new and improved leadership principles of Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Leadership Network and others you’d have to conclude that Jesus was a complete failure as a leader and was in the dark when it came to meeting the felt needs of His target market.

    A prime example of Jesus’ utter cluelessness is found in the Gospel of Mark chapter 8. In the opening verses of that chapter we learn that Jesus held, for lack of a better term, a three day long “outdoor church conference” where He was the featured speaker. Here’s what Mark records about the event.

    “In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” (Mark 8:1–3)
    Yes, you read that correctly! Those who attended Jesus’ three day long ‘outdoor church conference’ were outside, exposed to the sun, the wind and the elements. Oh and there was no food provided until the END of the event. What was Jesus thinking?!

    Can you imagine the comments that Jesus and His disciples received in the customer satisfaction response surveys after the event? I’m sure they got responses like the ones listed below.

    Question: Were you satisfied with the location for this conference?
    Answer: Are you kidding me?! The Judean countryside is no place to hold a three day long church conference. Not only did I get a sunburn and a windburn, but the stench from 5,000 sweaty men being baked alive for three days totally ruined my ‘worship experience’.

    Question: What did you think of Jesus’ teaching?
    Answer: First of all it’s difficult to listen to a man drone on and on and on for THREE DAYS without anything in your stomach. Why didn’t Jesus just keep His teaching down to 30 to 45 minutes? Seriously, how does Jesus expect us to remember all of that stuff? Laptops, the internet and Twitter haven’t even been invented yet and most of us are poor uneducated people and don’t have the resources to even take notes. It would have been way better if Jesus had passed around some handouts with fill in the blank sentences so that we could at least have some way of applying His relevant points to our lives and experience some ‘life change’. This was no way to motivate people to become world changers.

    Question: What did you think of the food?
    Answer: We were baking and starving in the sun for three days before the the first and only meal was served. Jesus waited until we were all ready to pass out from hunger and exposure before He decided to throw us a bone and miraculously divide up some bread and some fishes. Why did Jesus wait until the end of the conference to feed us? Why didn’t Jesus do that neat little miracle two or three times a day during the conference so that we didn’t have to listen to him on an empty stomach?

    Question: What were your overall impressions of the conference and what would you like to see done differently at our future conferences?
    Answer: Aside from the fact that I was hot, got sunburned, windburned, had to endure the smell of 5,000 sweaty Judean peasants while listening to a Bible teacher drone on for THREE DAYS without the ability to take notes or follow along on Powerpoint, with no porta potties and no food in an environment that is nearly impossible to have a descent worship experience…I thought the conference was a raging success (that was sarcasm). I’d rather be boiled in oil by the Romans than attend another outdoor teaching conference hosted by Jesus.

    By the way today’s Church Leadership Gurus talk you’d think that the New Testament was just brimming with Leadership wisdom ready to be picked and applied by today’s innovative visionary leaders. Yet, when I read the Gospel accounts, the leadership that Jesus modeled doesn’t even remotely look like the ‘new leadership’ that today’s gurus are selling. The reason for these differences is that Jesus’ Leadership Model NEVER had anything to do with customer satisfaction or positive customer experiences.

    I know that I am running the risk of being branded as a “Leadership Heretic” but I think that there was obviously something FAR MORE IMPORTANT happening at Jesus’ three day long ‘outdoor church conference’ than religious consumers having their felt needs met or customers having a ‘life changing experience’. The key to han religious consumers having their felt needs met or customers having a ‘life changing experience’. The key to understanding the “more important thing” was can be found in Matthew 4:4 which states:

    “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’””

    1. l thought that Gina was “inspired.” I doubt that God creates hunger in pilgrims running out of cash as a direct operation. Two of the “deacons” with Grecian names are called “Evangelists.”

      They knew the “pattern” never needing to be updated;

      “Go into all the world and make disciples by baptism and further teaching of what Jesus commanded to be taught.” His mission is to the end of the world.

      2 Peter 1 defines that as the Prophets inspired by the Spirit of Christ and the prophecies made more certain by Jesus of Nazareth. Peter said that the prophecies cannot be “private interpreted” or “further expounded” because that would repudiate the commanded foundation building of the Prophets and Apostles. In the next chapter he said that was the way to mark a false teacher just as the false prophets were identified.

      These men were full of the Holy Spirit and Paul says that a deacon must hold these truths in a clear conscience.

      If the CENI of teaching what Jesus commanded to be taught in the prophets and apostles and in Romans 15 to use “that which is written for our learning” and the “elders teach that which has been taught” and ekklesia or synagogue does not compose the material for discussion, then we have been supplied with all that applies to life and godliness. No cultural event can possible arise which obsoletes the Word of God commanded to be taught with no deviation.

      Listen to Gina! I believe that she speaks for the multitudes enduring afflictions from the “progressive church of Christ” sect.

  3. I believe this could be posted on so many of you and your friends and all the emergent church growth material.

  4. Ken,

    My only point in the above post is that sometimes we see things that appear in our human eyes to be “problems” but within them God is at working doing something amazing. It is true of Jesus resurrection…looks like a dead “messiah” would be a problem. Three days later he has risen from the grave. It is true when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and the church was praying for them. What do you know…they are free and even bolder than ever. It was true when Paul and Silas were in prison. I could go on and on but the point of the post is absolutely biblical and I don’t see why anyone would want to come along and snipe at it and nit-pick it as has been done here. It really makes no sense to blast points I am not even making!

  5. I just don’t believe that God operates that way: my point is that we have our “standing orders” and are sent out to teach that which has been taught and minister to needs. “Ministers” never set up programs to occupy people’s “free time” and money.

    I still hear you saying that God is at work in all of our affairs. If our child gets run over in the street it is not God’s Will (meaning He caused it) nor does it turn into something good.

    I am just not sure that the Grecian widows who overstayed their pilgrimage was the CAUSE of the “deacons” taking care of them. I believe that it was simply the work of a servant or “minister” to go out and minister. If the ministers had not been the suppliers of the need, I think the widows would have starved to death. Paul commanded Timothy to work so he could sponsor the agape which was not a ritual but feeding the day workers before they went out hoping to be hired.

    I believe that the Word of God is that which primes us and takes us to the next level:

    After defining the Prophecies and Prophecies made more certain as not subject to further expounding Peter said;

    2Peter 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

    Taking heed to the once-delivered Word is the only worship concept in the New Testament. That’s what Paul commanded Timothy. And that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

    1. You call them “needs” but often the people with those needs would call them “problems”. Last Wednesday there was a homeless man who was sleeping by our church building in the pouring rain. He was drunk and didn’t have a clue where he was or how he got there. He would say he had a problem. I drove him to a friend’s house where he was able to get himself together and collect his thoughts. It was an opportunity to talk with him, counsel him, pray for him, and encourage him to turn his life to God. I am not sure what you are talking about here but that is the kind of thing I am talking about. This is real life.

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