By: Maydee Cooper | Niagara Falls AG
My husband and I are currently pastoring Niagara Falls Assembly of God.
Prior to that we were the founding pastors of Destiny Christian Center in Syracuse, NY. During our 14 years of ministry there, we fell in love with all the people, who allowed us to become part of their family and they became part of ours. We truly believed that we would be there forever but the Lord had different plans and called us to Niagara Falls. The moment we accepted the pastorate at Niagara Falls we gained a whole new family, who is just as loving and kind as the family we had in Syracuse.
Like all families, it is made up of all kinds of people. Some are pure gems. Others are challenging. Some are hard to love and yes there are those who seem to like to give you a hard time. But family is family and your congregation is the family that God has entrusted to your care.
The Bible tells us that there is great value in being part of a church family. Acts 2:42 says “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals, and to prayer (NLT).”
It is in this family that:
We study God’s Word together — A church family provides consistent Bible teaching. This often comes through small groups, Bible studies, teaching from the pastor, Sunday school lessons, and so on. The church family is called to grow spiritually together, spurring one another on. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspirited by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right (NLT).”
We find accountability — The church provides a practical framework for accountability. Once relationships grow and friendships form, there is someone to encourage you, rebuke you when necessary, and rejoice with you. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron; so, man sharpens his friend’s countenance.” Accountability is crucially important in the battle to overcome sin, and the church family is a great place to find someone to pray with, talk to, and confide in.
We find support during our trials — When trials come, a support system is crucial. When in need, you will want your brothers and sisters in Christ to uphold you in prayer and assist with practical needs like meals, cleaning, and childcare. Galatians 6:2 encourages us to “carry each other’s burdens.”
That brings me to this point. Let your congregation minister and pray for you. They need to see that you are a real person, with real needs. This speaks so much to your congregation in that they can relate to you and see that you are not a superhuman!
We gain opportunities for service — Encourage people to serve one another. This is not only within the church, but also within your community as well as ministries outside of the church. Working together on a service project can bring unity while serving God. Ephesians 6:7 says, “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”
My parents moved to Niagara Falls with us and both have become ill at the same time. My focus is their needs and I am a very busy woman running around with them to doctor appointments or errands/grocery shopping, etc. The few times my husband and I have gone on vacation, the church offers to take care of my parents’ needs. This has blessed my husband and me because we can go, knowing that if something happens, the church is there to take care of them in our absence.
We make disciples —The church family also gives us the opportunity to serve and disciple others. “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching”(Hebrews 10:25).
If you are finding it challenging to love your congregation, ask God to give a new heart and to revive your love for them. Every one, even those who are challenging, those who are hard to love, and those who seem to like to give us a hard time have the potential to become a mighty man / woman of God, who can do something great for God. May God help us to look beyond the outside and see the diamond that is inside them.
This is your family, concentrate on the “wins” of ministry and keep your eyes focused on what God has called you to do and why He has called you to do it, for His Glory!