By Kelly Cilano
It is an interesting journey, returning to your roots, especially when you aren’t expecting it.
I thought I’d take a visitor to a small sister church, because it was so close to their house, which I figured would eliminate the argument of such a long drive to my church. Little did I know what God was up to.
I walked in and instantly I felt as if I had been transported back in time.
When I first came to Tucson, our family walked into a small church called Crossroads on the northwest side of Tucson. It was 1987. That church became our home; it was our extended family.
We laughed, we cried, we fought, we ate, we celebrated holidays at the church, because no one else was around. Our church was our family.
New Year’s we stayed until 2:00 in the morning playing games, singing, praying, eating, our children sleeping under chairs, making memories that we probably will never forget. How does that happen?
Little churches do amazing things. They provide community, friends, and family. Who do you call when you need someone? When I needed prayer I would call one friend, who called another friend, who called another, who called another.
When I needed an answer to a Bible question, who did I call? My pastor, of course; how else could I settle the argument? He was always the final go-to. We bothered him for prayer, for answers, for settling arguments, and for wisdom on children for whom there was no guidebook or instructions.
Biblical Principles? What was that, and how did it apply to life today? This sure doesn’t feel like love!
That may sound a bit silly, but those were honest, often heated questions that were coming from our rag- tag group to our overworked, underpaid, and rarely appreciated pastor.
New converts are a very demanding group, and we were all that and more.
After two of our pastors went to Africa, we had a saying: “Stick around long enough and we’ll send you to Africa!” Sometimes I wonder if we drove them there. We had a total of five pastors over a period of twenty years.
Yet we were carefully pruned, fertilized, and even picked to be examples of God’s gifts in His bigger picture. We had no idea what we were doing, much less what He was doing, yet through it all, God knew all the time what He was up to, and held us steady in His hand.
So if you are fortunate enough to be the pastor of a small congregation, take heart. You have no idea how much you are loved, even if you are chewed on. You are so appreciated, and if they call you names, (I had a pastor I called GI Joe), just see it as a term of endearment, because believe me, it really is.
Today, when I think of the special attributes each pastor had and imparted to us, personally and as a congregation, I realize these were actually lessons from God Himself. No one could have given me what I gained from those years of small beginnings.
Pastor, you must realize you are handpicked by God Himself, to teach and to learn from the congregation God has given you, because you do make a difference in our lives.
That small sister church I walked into that night reminded me of our zeal, our excitement for God, our new beginnings, and our big dreams. I didn’t think I was going to that small church Sunday evening. My guest didn’t come with me, but I stopped in anyway, since I said I would go, and God really blessed me. I was so glad I came. In one night, one hour, He reminded me of all the blessings I had gathered from those years of small beginnings. I walked away rejoicing and praising God.
We didn’t attain everything we thought we would, and we aren’t all together still, but we didn’t lose what was put in our hearts. We still have that thread, that memory, the years that we shared and will never forget.
We still have our God, and we have you, the pastors of the small beginnings, to thank for that.