The early church faced numerous challenges: distractions from the ministry, limited resources and divisive attitudes. Any one of these dangers could have destroyed this fledgling church. Christian camps face many of the same hazards today. To succeed, a ministry must successfully impact lives, pay its bills, and relate as a Christ-honoring community.
The young church in Jerusalem was comprised of Jews – all Jews; but in some eyes, not all Jews were created equal. Tension developed between the Hebraic Jews and the Hellenistic Jews; one people – two identities; similar needs – different approaches. The Hebraic Jews, those locals who were born and raised in Jerusalem, understood the culture, religion and language and were able to outmaneuver the Hellenistic Jews – those whose backgrounds were in the Greek culture, philosophy and language. The poor and needy Jews in the Hebraic community received the food they desired, but the destitute Hellenistic Jews were bypassed. This unequal distribution of the limited food supply created a division within the early church.
Scarce resources reveal people’s true loyalties. Limited food supplies and a growing number of hungry mouths became the point of contention between these two Jewish groups. The locals got theirs and the newbies were left out. “What’s best for me and mine?” trumped “What’s best for all of us?” Selfish desires came to light when the food supply ran low.
The Apostles understood the danger they faced within the fragile coalition they were developing. They responded by calling a meeting and inviting everyone to participate. And they reviewed their commitment to focus on God’s Word. (Acts 6:2)
Next the Apostles involved the entire group by empowering them to select a task force to respond to the issue. The group selected seven people whose names are common in the Hellenistic world; in all likelihood they were members of the slighted, Hellenistic group. People with a vested interest in the problem were tasked to look for a solution.
The leaders of the early church recognized the danger of division and they confronted the issue head-on and openly. They included everyone in the problem-solving process; and they worked bottom up, not top down.
All ministries, but particularly Christian camps, must work to honor Paul’s directive, make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3) Camp ministry often requires working long hours, living in close proximity, and blurred lines between family and work. These unique circumstances are exacerbated because camps are generally located in remote areas limiting outside relationships. Camp ministries are always in danger of imploding due to the loss of community.
Stay on task and fulfill the ministry, pay the bills, and make sure that Christian community is a priority by striving to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.