Sunday, December 30, 2007

A New Year

Tomorrow is New Year's Eve! This is the time of year when most people (Dilbert notwithstanding--see comic below) reflect on the year that's past--what went right, what went wrong, what was unavoidable, and what could have been done better--and look forward to the year that's still unblemished. Many people use this time to make plans about what will be different in the new year, and they set goals, or "resolutions."

Half of all Americans will resolve this new year to lose weight, but only 2% of Christians have set any spiritual goals for themselves. I'm all for losing weight (in fact, I'm going to try to drop about 20 pounds myself), but if we're going to experience all that God has for us, we need to make our relationship with him a central focus for our lives.

Next week, we're kicking off a new series called "God's Gym," and we're looking at what we can do to become spiritually fit. This is a three-part series that focuses on the three core components of the Christian life--our relationship with God, our relationship with the church, and our relationship with the world. This is the same as Pathway's Key Three--Real Spirituality, Real Community, and Real Story.

Here are some of the goals that I have for this coming year in leading the church:

  • Reducing my number of regular church meetings. In particular, the elders will be meeting every other week (instead of weekly), and the Worship Design Team will meet monthly (instead of bi-weekly).
  • Establishing an interdenominational LEAD Team in Jackson County. Reducing meetings will free me up to meet with area pastors to put together a LEAD Team of churches that will work together to plant churches in Jackson County and reach the 100,000 people with no church family. If the team is established in 2008, we should be able to plant our first church in 2010.
  • Composing and offering the Journey 401 Class. This class will be focused on how to build relationships with unbelievers, how to steer conversations to spiritual topics, and how to share your faith. With the completion of this class, we'll have our first group of people who have completed "The Journey," the four core classes of Pathway Community Church, and we will recognize them as "360-degree disciples."

Here are some goals that I have for my personal life as a follower of Christ:

  • Become more consistent in my personal prayer and Bible study. Aha! I bet you thought you were the only one who struggled in this area! This is an area I've grown in steadily over the past several years, and it has become an anchor for my life. Nevertheless, I find that there are still those days when "something comes up" to take me away from it. I occasionally even find a stretch of days when I get out of the habit. I'm still looking forward to the year that I have a quiet time with God every single day.
  • Become a more effective leader in my family, in my church, and at Olive Garden. A leader is a person that others follow, a person with influence. I want to lead more effectively so that the people around me are drawn closer to Christ.
  • Lead two people from Olive Garden to faith in Christ. I have spent the last six months establishing and building relationships. I now have several people that I can talk to on a serious level about life, God, money, family, goals, and priorities. I will be praying that God would open doors for at least two of my coworkers to respond to an invitation to make God the boss of their lives, and that I would be wise enough to discern when those doors are opened.

What do you want to do this year for God? You might consider one or more of the following ideas:

  • Attend a worship service every single Sunday unless you're sick (or you have to care for a sick child). That includes vacations (they even have churches in Orlando!) and when you're "really busy."
  • Join a small group. If you're not part of a small group, you're getting only half of the benefits of our church. A small group that you meet with regularly is where you really get to build relationships, get to know other people, and see up-close what faith looks like where the rubber meets the road. One of our small groups is starting a study this week--Just Walk Across The Room. Email Pastor Scott, or call the office (78-5388) for more details.
  • Take the next Journey Class. If you've taken 101, take 201. If you've taken 201, take 301. If you've taken 301, take 401. If you haven't taken any, take 101 and consider joining the church. These classes are chalk-full of practical help on how to live the Christian life.
  • Find a ministry. If you don't serve anywhere in the church, you're missing out on an important way to grow spiritually. The Bible says that all of us are intended to do our part, and that God wants to teach us something through our service, in addition to helping others.
  • Start tithing, or regular financial giving. The Bible says that we ought to give God at least a tithe, or 10% of our income. There are lots of benefits that come to us as a result (we cover these in the Journey 201 class), but the biggest is that we let God take first place in our lives instead of money. Without tithing, we will always find ourselves chasing after money instead of God.
  • Bring a friend, neighbor, or family member to church. Reach out of your comfort zone, and tell someone about what you've gained as a result of your relationship with God, or why you like our church, and invite them to join you. Be sensitive! Realize that they may be scared or unsure about what they'll find here. Keep on talking, and keep on inviting; share about things they might find funny, interesting, or comforting. And above all, PRAY!

In any event, don't let this new year go by without making it an opportunity to grow closer to God. Find a way to get more of him into your life, and discover the joy and peace he brings to us as we keep advancing in our spiritual journeys! Happy walking!

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