Most of us reading this attend church on a regular basis. I would venture to say that the majority of us are also most likely plugged in, active members of our churches. We find ourselves spending a lot of our time around church family. Our interactions with others makes a difference in the spirit of our church. How many times have you heard a visitor say “this church is so friendly!”? This type of comment is largely said of churches where gracious women are working together to serve the Lord. Remember that a gracious woman is not someone who thinks she is a cut above everyone else at church; a gracious woman is someone who knows we are all on the same plane, and she is busily involved in helping others as we all strive to walk with Jesus.
When everyone is having a good day, I think it is “easy” to be gracious, especially at church. We have that excitement of the Lord’s day on our side, and we feel extra congenial when we are present for worship. It is when our day has started on the wrong foot that we find ourselves struggling to be gracious, even with church family. A gracious woman learns by experience that her church family does not need to have a bad day simply because she is having one. Though we should not pretend like everything is fine, we also should not feel a need to make everyone feel the same way we do. We certainly should not be offended when they are joyful but we are not. Instead, we can be honest with God (and maybe a trusted spiritual kinswoman) and say, “I’m really struggling today.” A gracious woman learns to maintain the joy of the Lord while still bearing real burdens.
Just like in a regular family, church family is not without its awkward moments and unfortunate circumstances. You are going to find yourself in conversations that are perhaps shocking, uncomfortable, or maybe even wrong. A gracious woman grows in her discernment of knowing what to do in these situations. Sometimes, someone really just needs a listening ear, and you can provide that. There are other times that you will need to find a break in the conversation to gently, graciously encourage that person to bring their concern to the person they are talking about. You could even suggest that you and she go talk to that person she’s referring to right now! If perhaps someone is asking prayer for something and bursts into tears as they share, praying with them on the spot is a gracious way to recognize our mutual need of being vulnerable before the throne of God.
A gracious woman tends to see visitors and seek them out. She makes a point to greet them and make them feel welcomed in the house of God. She may help them find a Sunday school class, get a cup of coffee, or just sit and chat with them for a minute in between her church duties. I think we would all agree that a gracious woman puts other at ease, not the other way around. None of us want to be around someone that puts us on edge. Don’t be that person!
A very important aspect of being a gracious church member is to maintain a right spirit about the leadership in your church. God designed church leadership for His glory and our good. I am not here to talk about those situations where leadership goes against the Bible, sins, or leads people astray; we all know that is not what God wants. However, I would like to discuss the times that perhaps your pastor makes a decision in the church that you don’t completely agree with. Or maybe it is something more simple, like your pastor’s personality or tastes not being like yours. Our modern era has fed us this notion that everything must be always “sugarplums and rainbows”, even in the church house; that we will always love everything going on and if not, the problem is with the other person, not with us! This notion is not of God. There are going to be times where something is said or a decision is made that you find yourself wondering about. There is nothing wrong with pondering a situation, and we should certainly judge everything by the Word of God. What we should not do, however, is go and judge it in disdainful conversation with another church member. A gracious woman knows that she should allow the Spirit to show her if her resistance to this matter is just reactive or with reason. She recognizes the important part she plays in the influence of others, and her view of her pastor makes a difference in the way others view him, as well. As long as the matter is not something that needs Biblical attention, a gracious woman doesn’t let the matter consume her or her conversations. She instead sees such circumstances as an opportunity to grow in the grace of getting along with others.
This blogpost could go on and on. We could get specific and start listing scenarios where graciousness is essential in church, where it would diffuse situations, where it would change the flavor of a ministry. I think the spirit of it is summed up well in 1 Corinthians 12:25 – “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.” Being gracious is a mark of spiritual maturity. We certainly need more of that among us in our churches today. We cannot go about trying to make other people gracious (that’s not gracious), but we can go about looking for opportunities to practice graciousness ourselves. If you aren’t sure which side of graciousness you’re living on, ask God to illumine your heart so that you will recognize what it means to be gracious.