One of the many things I appreciate about the people I church with here in Homedale is how well connected they are in our community. Driving through town the other day I caught myself thinking about how many of the organizations or institutions the people I church with are involved in. This thought brought a smile to my face, a warming in my heart, and a prayer of thanks to my lips.
The people who make up our church are involved in the schools as paid staff and as volunteers, and a large number of our people are involved in Homedale Youth Sports Inc. as coaches or because of their children’s participation. We have people involved in the Chamber of Commerce, Masons, Lions Club, Owyhee County Fair and Rodeo, Txoko Ono Basque Club, and the summer softball tournament which is one of the largest co-ed softball tournaments in the Northwest. A group from our church solicits the help of the community every spring to raise money for a child and family in need of money to help cover medical expenses through Angel Walk (http://homedaleangelwalk.blogspot.com). (I may have unintentionally left out some of the ways we are involved with people in Homedale, but I hope this gives a quick snapshot of how well connected we are in our community.)
As a church we are involved in our community for several good reasons, and some of those reasons may even be biblical. We are involved in Homedale in these ways because we care about the community in which we live and its continued ability to be a good place to live and raise a family. We have an understanding that relationships are very important, and through those relationships life can be and is shared in meaningful and significant ways. And, as life is shared, there are often great unobtrusive opportunities to talk about spiritual things. We are involved in our community in so many ways because we know we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. In order to do that we need to be in contact with our neighbors. As a church we are becoming more aware that being like Jesus means we need to be involved in reaching out to those around us. By being involved in community organizations we are able to help others and develop relationships with people at the same time.
There are some important things we are learning about being involved in and developing relationships in the community. We are learning that relationships take time to develop and that often God is simply calling us to be present in people’s lives. We are learning that through our community involvement we also have opportunities to connect with the people we church with away from the church building. We are learning to be intentional about connecting with people without having any expectations about where God should take those relationships. We are learning to be intentional in our teaching about and modeling of connecting with people, without placing unnecessary expectations on how the members of our church involve themselves. We are comfortable with them being involved as the Holy Spirit leads and directs them.
We are learning to be okay when folks miss Meeting for Worship because they are involved in something in the community. Instead of wishing they were with us, we recognize their opportunity to minister and build relationships where they are and we pray for them. We are learning that we need to continually pray for the community in which we live and for how God wants us to be involved in it. We are learning to use our passions, hobbies, and interests to connect with people.
The Bible instructs us to “go and make disciples” and as a church we feel like this command is more easily accomplished through our established relationships—relationships in which we are simply trying to love others the way Jesus encourages us to do. We don’t have it all figured out, but I can tell you that we enjoy and do cherish the opportunity to assist God in the work of the Kingdom by being involved in people’s lives.