The church council in the Lutheran church acts like a board of directors. They are elected by the congregation to serve as the governing body of the church. There is an executive team that runs meetings and sets the tone of the council.
When you talk with a pastor about their church council you will get one of three responses. The first is someone telling you how wonderful and active their council members are. They will tell the wonderful ministry that the church is doing and how the council has stepped up to take responsibility for the ministry of the church. Usually this pastor is either lying or exaggerating the truth (I am sure their council is really doing well but maybe not THAT well).
The second response is a lukewarm response. This is the pastor that say that there are some good things happening but there are some issues too. This is where I feel most pastors and churches are.
The third is the pastor who has nothing good to say about their council. They are frustrated with the leadership and they either are counting down the days until another one is elected or they are ready to get out-of-town.
In Acts chapter 6 the “first church council” was appointed. One of the men that was chosen to serve was Stephen. Even though Stephen tried to remain faithful to what he felt God was calling him and the rest of the community to do something however the rest of the council was not listening. They did not want to hear what Stephen had to say. So in Acts chapter 7 Stephen tries to give his defense.
The method that he chose was to retell the story of salvation from Abraham to Jesus. Here are some of the highlights of what Stephen says:
- Abraham — God appeared to Abraham and called him to “Leave your country and your people, and go to the land I will show you” and Abraham was obedient. God gave Abraham no inheritance, but promised that his descendants would inherit and possess the land. God foretold the future of the nation which would come from Abraham. God made a covenant of circumcision with Abraham. From Abraham came the patriarch Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
- Joseph — Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt but became a ruler in Egypt. During a famine Joseph brought his family to Egypt where they grew into a great nation in spite of their oppression.
- Moses — Moses was saved from death as an infant and was educated in the Egyptian palace. When he grew up he identified with his own people and wanted to help them, but he killed an Egyptian and fled to Midian for 40 years. After 40 years God called to him from the burning bush to send him back to Egypt and bring the people of Israel out of bondage. Moses led the people out of Egypt to Sinai where they received the word of God and rebelled. After their rebellion they wandered 40 years in the wilderness, but they had among them the Tabernacle of the presence of the Lord.
- Joshua — Joshua brought them into the Land of Israel after the Death of Moses.
- David — David enjoyed God’s favor and desired to build a temple to God, but it was Solomon who actually built the temple. God does not live in houses built by men for Heaven is His throne, and earth is His footstool.
I believe talking about this stuff is great!! However, Stephen takes it one step further. He starts to call the others “Stiff- necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears!” He accuses them of resisting the Holy Spirit, persecuting the prophets, and killing the Righteous one. He concludes: “You have received the law that was put into effect through angels, but have not obeyed it.”
Well I think they heard his message loud and clear and it infuriated them. What threw them over the edge is when Stephen saw a vision of the Son of man Standing at the right hand of God — they were in no mood to hear anymore. They dragged him away and began to stone him.
I think is scene is something that council people might be afraid of if they were to speak out! So many people have great ideas but to put themselves out there like Stephen did is scary. To stand up for what you believe in or to go against the powers that are in place in any congregation is tough. It is easier to let things go, and just to blend into the crowd.
However, I believe that if we as the church are going to move forward we are going to need to be more like Stephen, we need to speak out when we feel like God is telling us something ,even if it is not the most popular idea. We need to risk ourselves, and at times maybe even our lives for the Gospel. When we speak the truth we are remaining faithful to the church and the mission of God.