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
THE ENCOURAGEMENT PROJECT
For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12: 4-8
Good morning Prayer Team!
Saint Paul describes the Church (and by extension all of society) as one body, with many parts. Comparing the Church to a human body, there are many parts and when all work in unity, the body is successful in its work. The hand doesn’t function independent of the brain. The heart must beat constantly. Without our eyes, we would miss 90% of our sensory input. Take away the ability to speak and it would be hard to express ourselves. We need our legs for moving around, ears to hear, all of our fingers and toes, our elbows and knees, our noses, eyelids, teeth and tongue. Each part has a purpose. Each part is necessary for the whole body to function at its best.
The Church community is the same—we need a choir, a parish council, altar boys, community outreach, Sunday school teachers, and all kinds of other volunteers. These are ministries where people are called to serve, to provide labor for the work of the church. There are other ministries like youth groups and Bible studies where people go to learn, for fellowship and to be ministered to. Ideally, everyone should belong to two groups—a group where one can do the work of ministry, and a group where one can be ministered to. There are other groups that we don’t have as yet in our church that maybe we need to begin—support groups for people who are grieving, or who are divorced, or who are coping with illness.
The obvious benefit of belonging to a group is to have a place to use your talent for one of the church’s ministries—The choir is a place for those who sing, Sunday school for those who teach, etc. Belonging to a group gives you a place to be ministered to—Bible study is a place to learn. The other important, and overlooked/under utilized benefit of belonging to a group is that when you are “falling down” in your life, the group is there to pick you up. And when you are doing well in life, you come to the group so that you can pick up someone else who is falling down.
If the community is divided into smaller groups, then these small subsets serve as smaller communities within the larger community and they help encourage people in a personal way. When 300+ people gather for a Divine Liturgy on Sundays, it is sometimes hard to feel a connection to others. Indeed we feel a connection to Christ and we may even feel that connection “with” others because others are present. But a small group will connect us “to” others, who can help support and encourage.
I encourage you to join a “small group” in the Church. Be it the choir, or Bible study, or a committee, there are many small groups to choose from. If there is a group that you think the church needs, ask how you can help to implement such a group. And inside of our established groups, we need to seek to change the paradigm from a group of people that we not only work with, but a group of people that we lean on for support, who can lean on us for support as well.
Lord, thank You for my unique and special gifts (bring those to your prayer and thank God specifically for them). Help me to realize how I can use these gifts in my church community, to grow my faith and to encourage the faith of others. Inspire me to be someone that others can lean on. Help me to find others that I can lean on as well. Amen.
Contact someone you think could benefit from joining your small group and invite them to join.
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