Friday, June 29, 2012

A Caring Community

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Celebrating Together

We don't have to be all the same - it ok to be different
Hebrews 10:25
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I have known friends who have taken too long to find a church after a move or after leaving a church because of some difference of vision. Suddenly something happens in their life and they have no church that knows them and no place to turn to in their time of crisis.

I have always made a point when having to church shop to only allow a limited number of weeks to visit what seem to be the most likely choices. At the end of the time you have to pray and pick one. Then begins the process of getting involved and becoming part of that community. Getting involved means showing up to things that are happening at that place. It means serving by helping, often with very little things. It means setting a time to meet with the pastor and working together to discover where you might be able to fit in and use your gifts and talents to the glory of God.

I have always been inclined to choose churches that were no bigger than about 300 people in size most often much smaller. In churches that size there are still plenty of things one can find to do to help. Bigger than that it is too easy to hide, and easy to just pass through week after week with out ever sitting by the same people. When you have to be in a quarterly rotation to serve - the place is too big. Being part of a church is about serving and worshiping along side with a group of people that has a common vision and purpose. In all my years of visiting and being part of churches I have yet to find a perfect church. They are all filled with broken people and we all have our failings, flaws and and remains of old carnality. The thing is to commit to work things out. Don't just take your stuff and go home when things are difficult - make an effort to work though them. Sometimes there are visions that are different and a matters that can't be reconciled. Even Paul and Barnabus had to part company at one point because of a disagreement over young Mark.

In my previous church the congregation voted to change some of their bi-laws and I knew very clearly at that point that the congregation had spoken and a decision had been made. I knew that those changes were not going to work for me. To stay would put me in a position of always rocking the boat. I still love and pray for that church and have many friends there. I'm not even saying the decision the congregation made was not a good one. It was right for them. It just was not one that was going to work for me.

We had one church, in mind that we wanted to visit and actually before our commitments were finished we had taken off a Sunday to visit. It was small and struggling and located in the inner city. We had been wanting to some how get involved with working with the homeless. It was also part of a denomination we had previously been a part of and liked in the past. So there was a period of time where we were finishing up commitments and also becoming involved at the new church. I have always made a point to leave with the understanding and blessing of the pastor or leaders. Also to leave in a way that does not cause great damage to the community. I may not agree with the direction they are going, and in some case may have been treated poorly but I should not try to damage something that God loves to make the transition easier for myself.

So anyway this week has been a long and emotionally hard week. I've done some dumb things because I was over stressed that actually added to my stress. I have to say that I am thankful that I have a wise pastor who does pray for me. Who is there when I need council. Who I could text when my aunt was having a heart attack and get immediate prayer support. Who will gently correct me when I have handled something poorly. Who will be honest enough to say "Margot I don't know what the answer is but I will pray that God will help you work it out." Who will not give me all the answers but hand me a book or give me a direction in my bible to begin the process of figuring things out for myself. He has also been humble enough to hear and consider the things that I have heard from God while praying for the church and for he and his family. He is a good friend and a wise pastor and I am grateful to be part of this little community. In the midst of a difficult week I am glad that there are people who have my back. Who continue to love and encourage me when I am struggling.

So yesterday he sat me down and talked to me about why I was having things happen, like leaving my car in drive and hitting a brick wall that shattered the window. He knew I would be wrestling with the whys, and where was God kinds of questions. He wisely reminded me that some of the things I was stressing over were not mine to own, and I needed to let those things go. Over all he said I had too many areas of stress to manage all at one time. That I was over tired and I was forgetting things and not saying no when I should say no. His wise advise was that I needed to find some time for just me. He told me to go spend a day at Mt. Spokane with my journal. I think I will do that very soon.  Anyway it was wise and caring council and I am greatful. It is a tremendous blessing to have those kinds of relationships.

Relationships like I have just described don't happen over night they take time to develop. They develop by getting involved in what is happening at a church, by doing more than just showing up.
I started my journey here simply by being at church early to pray. One day the sound guy decided to quit and just did not show up for service and did not tell anyone. I was there to be able to say I know enough about sound to get us through this service. I have served in the tec side ever since. Its not my strongest area, its not my passion. We are working on getting others trained so I can do other things. Sometimes what the body needs more than my wonderful, amazing talents and gifts is simply my willingness to serve where there is a need.

Serving even if its not your area of strength.
So my encouragement to you is that if you are not part of a caring community of believers to be about finding one. Give yourself a time limit of no more then 3 months and pick one and begin the process of getting involved, and getting to know people and finding where you fit in with your gifts and talents. Faithfulness be there and willing look around and see little ways to help lend a hand go a long way in moving you along in that process. I try to ask the question. What can I do to make things run more smoothly? What can I do that will help the pastor or the leaders? Who do I see that looks lost, or seems to be struggling, how can I encourage and care about others?

Dear Lord,
Help us to remember to be thankful for the church you have planted us in. Help those who don't have a church home to find one. Thank you for the blessing of wise pastors and leaders who are willing to equip, correct, encourage, support and pray for us. Help us to remember to be praying for them as well.

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