The new year is a time when many of us make resolutions – promises to do better in how we live and in what we do. Most of those resolutions are personal, but they can also be corporate. With that in mind, Iâ€™d like to share my resolution â€œwish listâ€ for churches, remembering that the church is not a building, but those who live and work together for Christ in and beyond the building.
We should resolve to do the work of the church instead of church work, which involves seeing that things are ready for Sunday, doing business and going to meetings of the church and its auxiliaries. The work of the church is what Jesus commissioned us to do in Matthew 28:19-20…â€œGo to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you.â€
The work of the church is sharing the Good News and making disciples as Jesus did. Jesus walked among and brought hope, both to the needy and to the prosperous who were spiritually barren, and led them to new life not by force, but through assertive love. When we do the work of the church, then discipleship will be our daily priority and all church activities – from meetings to choir rehearsals – will be done with an eye toward making disciples. Those who once thought that evangelism meant that the pastor should find new church members will work together to see that the church makes new disciples. If each committed and faithful member of a church resolved to lead just one person to Christ in 2011, then that church would double in size.
We should resolve to be faithful stewards of our blessings. That means tithing and offering our time, talent and treasure to the Lord in the spirit articulated by the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 9:7… â€œEach of you must make up your own mind about how much to give, but don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give.â€
We should give not to pay church bills, but to praise the Lord for blessing us with the ability to give. Our doing so complements our resolution to do the work of the church, for when we give by faith, God will give the increase and the church will have the resources to carry the Good News of Jesus in relevant and meaningful ways. Our resolution should also be made with an awareness that stewardship is more than a matter of dollars and cents. True tithing means understanding that if God blesses us with 24 hours in each day, then we should give 2.4 hours of each day back to God by using our talents, gifts and graces to work for the kingdom and strengthen the church.
We should resolve to see that the church is prophetic and not pragmatic. A pragmatic church applies the strategies of the world to the church to attain success as defined in worldly terms, focuses on worldly appearance and is often driven by the egos of the leaders of the church. A prophetic church lives out Godâ€™s will for Godâ€™s people as delivered by the prophet in Amos 5:24…â€œI want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.â€
The church should not be a â€œhallelujah stationâ€ thatâ€™s all style and no substance or all â€œshoutâ€ and no service. Jesus made disciples through assertive love, but he aggressively challenged those who maintained the status quo and who ignored and demeaned the oppressed and downtrodden. We should resolve to speak truth to power, to stand up and speak up for those unwilling or unable to do so for themselves, and to be the spiritual conscience of a nation often driven by the politics of fear and division. When we resolve to influence public policy as authentic people of faith, then those whose lives are made better in the process will find new respect for the church and for themselves and become disciples of Christ.
The new year brings new opportunities for church renewal. When we resolve to do the work of the church, to be faithful stewards of our blessings, and to boldly speak out for what is right rather than quietly accommodating to evil, then we can grow and the church can grow because God will lead us and use us.
Have a great 2011!