Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the Gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24
Earlier in this study, we did a unit on core values, and how they guide all activities. They are a metric up against we should hold all decisions. One year at summer camp, I asked the counselors to define themselves with five words. In other words, if someone were to describe them, what five words would they want to project out? My five words were Christ-like, approachable, organized, real and fun. Once I put those words out there, I tried to live up to them during the week of camp. I wanted the campers to see that I love Christ—I made sure that when we were worshipping, I was worshipping and not talking to other counselors, that they saw me praying, that I used appropriate language, and was working diligently to follow the commandments—not gossiping, or being self-aggrandizing, and most important, I wanted to come across as loving. I wanted to come off as approachable, willing to talk to people, and not stand-off-ish. It was important to come across as organized, because this inspires confidence and trust. I used the word “real” because I wanted others to know that I struggle, just like they do. Pretending to have it all together for any of us, is not real. Finally, I wanted to be fun. Christians shouldn’t go around with long faces looking morose all the time. That’s actually one (and my only) complaint about icons—they always seem to look sad. I’m positive that every saint smiled and laughed. That’s part of our emotional composition. We are meant to cry, to laugh, to be sad, to be happy, all of the emotions. I’m sharing these thoughts because at summer camp, I had five personal core values and these guided my decisions and my behavior.
There are five core values that we use in the parish where I currently serve—they are love, worship, community, learning and service. These are values that are supposed to guide all the decisions we make, whether it is hiring a new person, instituting a new program, making a financial decision or even repairing something. These five core values are supposed to guide what we are doing. They guide the image that we are projecting.
Love guides everything. Everything we are to do as Christians, and in the context of a Christian community is supposed to be done in love.
Worship is the most important expression of love in a Christian community. It is where we express our love for God in the context of community. It is where we “love one another so that with one mind we may confess” (from the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom) our faith.
The word “community” speaks to unity and oneness. Community requires hospitality, welcoming, encouraging, and forgiving. It guides how we behave around one another and how we bring new people into the community.
Without knowledge of something, there is no power or even relevance. We can’t build a Christian community without a commitment to learning. Learning increases knowledge with increases commitment.
Finally, the community can’t be content with just maintaining itself. It needs to reach beyond itself and serve the greater community. Of course, within the community, members serve one another, and all serve Christ. But there has to be a purposeful and deliberate reaching outside of the community to serve.
Of course, any church, just like any Christian, is a work in progress. Core values look good on paper. We work hard to hold ourselves to these standards. And sometimes we fail, and have to regroup, go back to the drawing board and start again.
It is important in our lives as apostles that we have core values that define us, that project who we are as Christians. It is important that our core values are present enough that others will describe us as Christians. After all, I could describe myself as loving, self-less, Christ-like, serving, etc. But would others describe me as such?
In the context of a church community, it is important that we have core values that define us. I have shared the five core values that we use. Perhaps there are others that are more appropriate to other communities. The core values should be few—probably no more than five—and they should be known by every member. This will take years for everyone to absorb. They also need to be used to guide the activities of the community.
Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people; from deceitful and unjust men deliver me! For Thou art the God in whom I take refuge; why hast Thou cast me off? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Oh send out Thy light and Thy truth; let them lead me, let them bring me to Thy holy hill and to Thy dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise Thee with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my help and my God. Psalm 43
Core values should guide all activities, in our individual Christian lives and in the life of a church community.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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