Labor Changes in the Church
When the disciples returned from Bethany at the Mount of Olives, their joy abounded together in the Lord. One hundred twenty witnessed the first order of business for the post-ascension community of Jesus’ followers. The business proposition came from Peter to fill the vacancy produced by Judas’ treachery and demise (Acts 1:12–26).
Two of them qualified by the standards set for apostleship. Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias had been with the disciples from the days of John’s baptizing ministry in the River Jordan and until the ascension of Jesus to the throne of God in heaven. The end result was the closing of the office of the twelve chosen apostles.
In the broad sense of the word “apostle” Paul, Barnabas, Silvanus, and others later received such a title, as they were sent to the Gentiles from the church at Antioch. We must agree that Paul’s apostleship was unique and directed primarily toward the Gentiles. His apostleship is not questioned, but it must be recognized as different from the twelve.
The twelve are the foundation stones of the new community and will judge the twelve tribes of Israel in the future. As the New Testament church was birthed on Pentecost, Jews, then Gentiles were filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ assembly of called-out ones will grow and expand until it reaches His objective — elect from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9).
If building Christ’s church is the order for this dispensation, then we must learn of God’s provision for apostles, and subsequently, disciples (witnesses, preachers, teachers, evangelists, etc.) to proclaim the Gospel message. In Acts 1:12–26, we learn from Jesus’ chosen apostles that labor decisions for His group of followers are rightfully His domain as the head of the church (Col 1:18).
When labor changes are necessary, the followers of Jesus must pray for the Holy Spirit to show us the will of God in the matter of labor. The offices for the church to fill no longer include the 12 foundation stones; but upon these, Christ positions each believer, as a living stone added to a spiritual temple that is holy to the Lord (Eph 2:20–22).
Servant leaders must help manage labor changes that inevitably come because of the nature of the local church as a dynamic, growing organism. The Bible and tradition both reveal compensated employees in service to the church (Rom 15:17; 1 Cor 9:11; 1 Tim 5:17). Essential to decision-making, regarding them, is the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). It is the Holy Spirit who ultimately appoints them (Acts 20:28).
Praying for the Spirit of Christ to guide decisions, regarding the placement of people in the ministry, is mandatory. The change agent should always be the Lord Jesus Christ and consulting the head of the church is not an option for decision makers. They must be found faithful to do as He commands. Trouble ensues for leaders and assemblies who ignore or misapply the Scriptures and who grieve the Spirit with disobedience. Workmen must show themselves to be approved, in their rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Tim 2:15).
We employ labor for the purpose of making disciples who preach and teach Christ in their love for God and others. Labor can change for numerous reasons. Some, like Judas, will be found wanting. Others will suffer missed opportunities, as did John Mark; but the harvest is ripe in other fields for those who stumble yet persevere. Still others will mature in faith, knowledge, and service; and thus, they are dispatched to utter parts of the earth to show God’s people the Way.
We must share the mind of Christ in these matters and pray together for the Lord’s choosing of laborers for the harvest — in this field and for others (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). May the Lord show us in times of labor change, who He has chosen to dispatch for further work of service for His kingdom.
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 20, 2021