As a kid who grew up in the church–and not just any church, but the Adventist church–I felt a little…set apart…from the rest of the world. As an adult, I still have this struggle and constantly have to put myself out of my comfort zone in order to take part in the community around me, and around my church.
It isn’t always easy.
The problem is that many Adventists feel the need to create their own program rather than joining an existing one. I’ve seen this time and again. Instead of contributing to a thriving program that provides Thanksgiving dinner to the community, we’d rather host our own even if that means reaching fewer people and doing more work. Instead of volunteering at an existing community service organization, we want to open our own ACS center, even if it’s a lot of red tape and we’re the only people in our local church that wants to contribute. These are just a few examples. There are others. Gathering together with two other moms for a support group each month instead of joining together with an existing MOPS group that meets at a nearby church. Planning a mother-daughter tea in which only your congregation attends instead of participating in a community one that supports other community projects.
Get Out of Your Own Way
When it comes to finding your place in the community, you have to step out of your comfort zone and out of your own way.
If you’re a true believer, part of God’s Church, you’ll feel a longing in your soul to work for Him. This longing may drive you completely nuts until you figure out what you should do. It may lead you down many failed pathways until you’re so disheartened you question your own beliefs. Don’t worry. God has a plan, and you’re part of it.
- Take a moment to discover your own passions and spiritual gifts.
You can take a spiritual gifts quiz that is very extensive and offers great insight into your own personality and interests. Additionally, you can discover your passions by remembering what you love.
-What did you love as a child?
-Who are your mentors and why?
-What type of entertainment/stories appeal to you most?
-If money was no object, what would you do for others or your community?
-What needs are most obvious to you?
-Ask your family and friends for their opinion.
- Look around you to find similar interests.
You can often find human interest stories in the local paper or on Facebook. Look for existing organizations that might focus on your interests, passions, or a need you see around you. If there is no existing organization, there may be a person or two who is doing the type of work you’d like to do. Reach out to them and seek a partnership!
- Get involved in the community!
There may not be existing organizations or active people in your interested areas…yet. The best way to drum up interest is to meet the community that might help. Join organizations in your community. Maybe your church is in the downtown district and there’s a downtown revitalization group that meets monthly to discuss issues and missions. This group may be directed toward commerce and tourism, but who knows what might come of it! Many communities also have a ministerial alliance which invites local ministers to meet and discuss community needs. Other organizations that are often present in every community include library organizations, homeless shelters, food banks, and more. Are you a thespian? Join a community theater. It’s free and you may meet the exact group God wants to put in your path. Are you a writer? Join a writing group and you might learn things you never knew you needed to know about digital ministry. Are you a homeschooler? Join a co-op and you might meet a struggling family that needs guidance or support from another Christian.
No matter what you’d love to do, God knows exactly what will fulfill you. God knows what will empower us, who can use us, and exactly where we must go to meet the right people to get the job done.
When you’re unsure about moving out of your comfort zone, pray. When you don’t know exactly what to do next or where to go, seek God in His Word. If you’re afraid to support another project because you don’t want to further the “mission” of another church in the community, remember this: the thing that draws you to their mission is the same as your own. Prayerfully move away from your own comfortable pew and into the heart of God’s mission, the mission field, where Christians from all types of churches and faiths gather for God’s work.