“Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:3–4, AV)
On electrical systems, there are devices called circuit breakers that trip and open the electrical circuits to protect the wiring from excessive current draw due to overloads. For instance, if you plug a hotplate, microwave, and coffee maker into the same outlet and run them at the same time, the circuit breaker will likely trip. This removes all electrical current from the circuit. The tripped breaker results in the loss of current from all devices on the outlet meaning that none of the devices on that outlet will work. The early church ran into a similar danger of overload, not circuit overload, but rather pastoral overload.
The situation was this. The movement of Christianity in the early church was clearly miraculous. The church on its inception grew to 3000 and then the Lord added daily to those who were being saved. The church rapidly became 5000 and did not cease in its numerical growth. The Apostles must have been nearly supermen in the ministry to manage such a church. The problem with numerical growth is that growth creates additional work. However, even supermen have their limit.
Well, it happened. The Hellenist believers got into a dispute with the Hebrew believers over the distribution of goods to their widows (v1). In our modern-day mindset, we would immediately blame the Apostles since they were in charge. Yet, the issue was much deeper. There is a limit to how much these men could do. They had hit the point of pastoral overload and burnout. There were two possibilities. They would either disconnect from the circuit or experience circuit meltdown. In either case, the church would not continue to function as designed.
What was the solution? The solution was to share the load. Load sharing is a method in electrical systems to distribute the load on various power sources so that no one source becomes overloaded. In doing this, the entire system continues to function. The Apostles decide to get more people involved in ministry. They decided to share the load. They decided to do so in a way that permitted them to conduct their primary responsibilities. They found other men, filled with the Spirit, to handle a vital responsibility in the church. This sufficiently took the load off them so they could continue with their primary responsibilities as Apostles. They result was a healthy church that continued to increase in number (v7).
This is a lesson for the church today. We find the same dynamic and struggle in the church. A few good men get overloaded. The result is struggle and conflict. Every believer is to have a part in supporting the work of ministry, reducing the load undertaken by the few. The requirement for those who will join in the work of load sharing is simple. They need to be Spirit filled people who continuously seek to surrender their lives to the purposes and ways of God, under the guidance of the Spirit. This requires a serious commitment to the body of Christ, the church, and a willingness to participate in works of service. In doing so believers become load sharers in the local church, lighten the load on the church leaders, and contribute to the health of the church. The result of load sharing is a healthy church that will produce healthy church growth.