Alistair Begg preached the first message this year. His text was Acts 6:1-7:
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.The primary pastoral duty is the prayerful preaching of God's Word. John Owen wrote, "The first and principle duty of the pastor is the feeding of the flock of God by the preaching of the Word."
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.
There is a direct correlation between the ministry of preaching and the growth of disciples.
"And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus." (Acts 5:42)Chapters four and five of Acts recount some of the opposition faced by the apostles as they faithfully preached the Word of God. The enemy used various tactics to sideline them. They were mocked, threatened, and arrested. They also had to deal with the deception of Annanias and Sapphira. But what seems to have truly threatened the ministry of the Word were increasing needs within the church and the subsequent grumbling that followed.
"But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Acts 6:4)
"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 6:7)
Alistair made the point that the enemy, having failed to stop the apostles from preaching by persecution, now seeks to stop them by distraction. History seems to confirm that distraction is a far more effective tool to sideline the preaching the Word than is persecution.