Others have probably noticed this, but as I was working on Acts 6:1-7 last week, this chiasm jumped out at me:
A In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.
B So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.
C Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them
D and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
C1 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
B1 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
A1 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
A Church is growing so rapidly that it experiences growing pains
B Twelve call together all the disciples (church members) to address a pressing need
C Twelve ask the disciples to choose seven Spirit-filled and wise men
D So that the Twelve can give their full attention to prayer and the ministry of the Word
C1 The disciples choose seven Spirit-filled and wise men
B1 The disciples present these seven men to the apostles, who called them together, for their approval and blessing
A1 Church continues to grow and flourish
A chiasm, among other things, helps the reader to discern (consciously or subconsciously) the center of a given passage, in this case the apostolic task of prayer and the ministry of the word (D), and matters relating to or leading back to that center, in this case, the growth of Christ’s church through the agency of Spirit-filled men, the Twelve and the Seven.
Takeaway? Prayer and the ministry of the word lie at the heart of the life and ministry of the apostolic church. Pastors who believe “one holy catholic and apostolic church” (Nicene Creed) have a duty, then, to give considerable amount of time to both of these. In our rushed, busy culture, it may be necessary for us pastors remind ourselves that we have permission to spend a lot of time praying and preparing sermons. Permission, because it is our duty and holy calling.
Have you ever asked your minister whether he makes enough time, both to pray and to prepare sermons? It may lead to serious reflection on his part if he’s not doing so, or some much-needed affirmation if he is doing so, and in every case–as odd as it sounds–permission to do so.