A Sure Sign that Something is Wrong in a Church – Failure to Care for Widows and Orphans
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7)
One of the first ministries that went into effect in the newly baptized Christian church after Pentecost was the ministry to widows. Due to apparent partiality, a problem of favoritism arose and had to be dealt with. Men full of faith and the Holy Spirit were selected to oversee the ministry and God continued to bless the church.
This tells us that the Holy Spirit directs His people to care for the oppressed – widows and orphans. The thing is even connected directly with the growth of the church. And it tells us something else: When a local church neglects the protection and care of widows and orphans (like abuse victims), the Holy Spirit is not operative, is not being obeyed, and whatever “growth” is occurring is most probably NOT true growth of the body of Christ produced by the Spirit.
Now consider this conclusion carefully. This means then that IF (as we believe to be the case) most local churches are not effecting justice upon and caring for abuse victims in their midst, then at best they are quenching and disobeying the Holy Spirit, and even more – Christ may well have departed from them long ago. For all the show and glamour of senior pastors, multiple staff members, whazoo worship teams, new people being “won to Christ” and new buildings going up, if such a place is dealing out the scenario of injustice to the oppressed in the all too typical manner we write about on this blog and which so many of you have suffered through, then the Spirit of Christ has left the temple.
Is that an exaggeration? An overstatement of the case? I bet some people will claim that it is. But to them, I say, look at the Word of God. How can it be denied in light of all the Lord has to say about caring for widows and orphans, in both Old and New Testaments, and in light of what we have shown here in Acts 6….how can it be denied that any church not faithfully rendering true justice and aid to victims, including dispensing justice to their abusers is only a hollow shell from which Christ has departed?