By Desmond Hong, Administrator
The Africa Administrators’ Forum from 1-7 October brought National Director Yap Kim Meng and Desmond Hong, our administrator, to Nairobi, Kenya. A keynote address by The Navigators Africa Regional Director Edward Mupada reminded administrators of the need to communicate within the organisation, ensure smooth operations and affirm often-overlooked administrative staff.
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. 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. 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 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
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. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
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 (Acts 6:1-8).
In Acts 6:1-8, administrative work, such as serving food and ensuring fair distribution to all beneficiaries, is part of God’s work. Administration is a gift from God (see 1 Corinthians 12:28). In the original Greek text, “kubernesis”, which means “steersman” or “helmsman” is used. It refers to people who steer and decide the direction of the ship. Similarly, administrative staff ensure that all functions and operations are in smooth order, to help an organisation reach the intended destination safely in time.
Acts recorded that seven men were appointed to carry out what seemed to be a simple task of daily distribution of food and resources. Yet these seven had to have godly qualities of integrity and wisdom. It appears a little over the top to handle a small matter this way, especially since it might be easily resolved too. Contextually, it is implied that there may have been other deeper issues, like bitterness or dissatisfaction and unmet expectations. Otherwise, why would holiness be a criteria for this leadership role? There were problems not just administratively, but also spiritually.
Underlying all these is the advancement of the gospel. No more complaints surfaced after that. On the contrary, disciples multiplied greatly and many believers became obedient to God. Stephen was also empowered through this platform to reach many more people and bless them. The recipients were ministered to, and to handle such work excellently bore good witness to outsiders as well. This is as God intended. It is no wonder God’s Word spread and the number of believers increased!
While studying the Bible to better understand God’s perception of my career, I was drawn to Exodus 6:9. It speaks of how compliance to professional ethics and organisational guidelines can become a problem when ministry staff are laden with a load they cannot carry. This can be in the form of lack of funds and resources, or being bogged down by administrative challenges. When this happens, doing God’s work in the harvest field can become more of a struggle than a joy. That’s how and why we administrative staff continue to labour to uphold their work and welfare. Obedience to God’s mission should not become a burden for ministering staff.
Administrative roles in Singapore, Africa or the world over are often neglected or overlooked. There is usually a lack of affirmation or acknowledgement of their contributions. These support staff need to be personally motivated in what they do. This can only come about when they realise how their role fits into the bigger scheme of things.
Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
While ants have no leader, they know their roles and are consistently diligent. They work independently through tough or difficult times. And this is our blessing: to have efficient, trustworthy and reliable staff whom we can leave the charge of the place to, and to go on conference trips (like this one) without hesitation. We need not worry because God has blessed that operations will still function like clockwork when we return.
This is in line with Navigators CORE Values:
CORE 8 Families and relational networks in discipling the nations
CORE 9 Interdependent relationships in the body of Christ in advancing the gospel