Some things are obvious when we look across the life of a congregation and other things may not be so obvious. Which of the following 10 things will you commit to be or do this year?
1. Think Outside, No Box Required
The words, “We’ve never done it that way before” cause us to miss the beauty of God’s creation. I love the outdoors. When we see a lunar halo or a bright sunrise we realize God is so much bigger than our boxes. A Community of Faith trusts in God’s ability to do a new work in us!
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. -Psalm 19:1-2
2. Be Optimistic
God can and God will! Do we really believe that statement? We are only limited by our desire to focus on what’s wrong and our preference to gripe, complain and blame. A faithful follower of Jesus Christ sees what God can do, not the depth of our failures.
If God is for us, who is against us? -Romans 8:31
3. Let Go of Control and Let God Act
At some level we all want control. Learning to set that illusion of control aside and let God do God’s will requires quieting our fears and self-centeredness so a better idea can be accomplished. What idea? God has a plan for our lives and community.
When we become overbearing, accusatory and self-righteous it is an attempt to cover our own insecurity and poor self-esteem.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. -Jeremiah 29:11
4. See the Big Picture
Ministry is more than details, budgets and rules. Bottom-line thinking looks at the bottom line of a budget and wonders where the budget might be cut.
Being a good steward of the people’s financial support requires us to live in a belief that God’s gifts are sufficient to the ministries which God calls us. Remember: budgets never determine ministry, mission drives budgets.
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. -Philippians 1:6
5. Welcome Those “Not Like Us”
If it were not for those who are “not like us,” the church would have died out long ago. Those who are not like us (whatever that means!) are the very reason the Church exists.
The community of faith is not a country club choosing who gets to take part, or who is worthy to be a member. If that were true for church membership or involvement, none of us would be welcomed!
Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple said, “The church is the only organization that exists only for its non-members.” Can you give that a try?
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine. -Ephesians 3:20
6. Be a Whole Person Living in Community
Do not blindly follow a herd mentality. Belonging to a community does not take away our individual abilities or responsibilities. Stand up for what is right. If you do not know what you think, then THINK! Listen to what other people think and then decide for you as you seek God’s will in prayer.
“Group Think” is one of the strangest problems in human relationships. Individuals give up their own initiative or responsibility and blame it on the government or them (whoever them may be).
…for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. -Matthew 25:35
7. Choose Risk Over Comfort
Risk is, well, risky! It might mean we get hurt or embarrassed or have our ego bruised. It is much easier, less stressful, and simply cozier if we stick to what we like, what makes us comfortable.
Jesus never promises us an easy, cozy life. Jesus warns us we will have trouble. Ignoring such a wise word is foolish. It is best to welcome risk so we can grow stronger and stand taller.
Methodist Preachers often joke that our job is “To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”.
The community of faith encourages uncomfortable risk-taking, whether it means opening ourselves up to new people, trying new types of ministry, or putting God’s work before our own comfort.
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. -John 13:34-35
8. Respond Rather than React
Reaction is often the result of self-protection, a knee-jerk reflex. Reaction does not take into consideration the results it will bring about, which often worsen the situation and prove to be destructive. It is panic mode. It is short-term thinking.
Responding takes time to see the bigger picture. It takes time to form a proper answer that will bring about the greater healing and growth. It is calm. It is long-term visioning and thinking.
Sometimes, this plays out in committees that panic over a perceived problem (real or not), which then bleeds out to the larger body and causes even more panic, which often results in creating a larger, or even new, problem. The snowball grows larger.
Leadership sets the tone for how the larger body responds. Keeping this in mind avoids much conflict and panic.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ -Matthew 25:23
9. Dare to Dream, Again
Dreams are essential to survival, let alone thriving. Williams came into existence because of a dream, a dream to be in ministry with returning soldiers and their families. Sometimes the church stifles a dream, dreams small dreams, or chooses not to dream at all. Or, worse yet, leaves the dreaming up to the pastors and staff!
The community of faith is the one place on earth that welcomes dreams and dreamers. Dreams keep us fresh; forcing us to think differently; they may even throw us off kilter every once in a while, causing us to move in a new direction.
If we dream, why not dream big? In a community of faith, no dream is “too big” if it moves us to live our mission.
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:19
10. Be a Disciple
Discipleship is for everyone, not just the paid persons. The church members do not pay their pastors and staff to be good on their behalf! But how often do we see this happen? Members come to worship and other discipleship-training events in the church, but when it comes to actually living out the faith, some believe that is the pastors’ job.
The opposite creates a thriving community of faith. Every member has authority by virtue of our Baptism to be the Body of Christ to the world. When we each take responsibility for our attitudes, actions, and ministries then the mission of God’s Kingdom come to earth is realized.
Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good? But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated. I Peter 3:13-14
In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. Acts 2:17