From the Gospel Coalition Blog

Here is Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh preacher and longtime pastor at Westminster Chapel in London, explaining what Acts 6 can teach us about the mission of the church and the pastor:

But, and in many ways the most interesting statement of all, I sometimes think in this connection, is one that is found in the sixth chapter of the book of the Acts of the Apostles where we are told that a great crisis arose in the life of the early Church. I know of nothing that speaks more directly upon the present state and condition of the Church, and what is her primary task, than this sixth chapter of the book of the Acts of the Apostles. The essential message is in the first two verses: ‘And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and serve tables.’

This is surely a most interesting and important statement, a crucial one. What was the Church to do? Here is a problem, here are these widows of the Grecians, and they are not only widows but they are in need and in need of food. It was a social problem, perhaps partly a political problem, but certainly a very acute and urgent social problem. Surely the business of the Christian Church, and the leaders particularly, is to deal with this crying need: Why go on preaching when people are starving and in need and are suffering? That was the great temptation that came to the Church immediately; but the Apostles under the leading and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the teaching they had already received, and the commission they had had from their Master, saw the danger and they said, ‘It is not reason that we should leave the Word of God, and serve tables’. This is wrong. We shall be failing in our commission if we do this. We are here to preach this Word, this is the first thing, ‘We will give ourselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the Word.’

Now there the priorities are laid down once and for ever. This is the primary task of the Church, the primary task of the leaders of the Church, the people who are set in this position of authority; and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this, however good the cause, however great the need. This is surely the direct answer to much of the false thinking and reasoning concerning these matters at the present time. (Preaching and Preachers, 22-23)

It’s important to note that the Apostles didn’t ignore the physical need in the church (it’s also important to note these were needs in the church). So saying proclamation is primary does not mean everything else is rubbish. In fact, Acts 6 shows that attending to the physical needs of the church is positively necessary.

But this does not undermine the good Doctor’s good point: the primary task of the church is to minister the word, and nothing should supplant or turn us from this essential and indispensable mission.