GROWING IN GRACE
Change. That’s the theme of New Year’s, really. We mark the end of one year – with all of its success and regrets – and we begin the new year with a clean slate and a promise that this one will be the best one yet.
I don’t know if you’re a New Year’s resolution maker or not, but I am. New Year’s resolutions are all about looking back over the previous year and identifying ways to grow and become better. And what better time to reflect on growth than at the beginning of a new year?
Last week I conducted a scientific poll at the place where all scientific data can be found – Facebook. I asked people to fill in the blank: “This is my year to _____.” The answers were very interesting. Some gave the classics – lose weight, get healthier, love more, be more grateful. Others offered some practical ideas – keep judgmental opinions to myself, read the Bible every day.
After reading the first dozen or so comments, I noticed a trend among all of the answers – they were big, lofty goals with no mention of how exactly they planned to reach them. If I think back over years at all of the resolutions I’ve made at the beginning of the year, I’m pretty sure there’s a direct correlation between the ones that never get off the ground and my lack of planning. In other words, it’s pretty tough to keep a resolution if I don’t make specific plans to help me live into it.
This brings me back to the theme of change. For most of us, it might as well be a four-letter word. Who really wants to change anyway? On the other hand, change is exactly what God has in mind when it comes to discipleship – “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev. 21). To follow Jesus is to embark on a lifetime of undergoing and living into change.
Leadership theorist Margaret Wheatley says we spend our lives avoiding doing what comes most natural to all living systems – to change and grow. And yet it’s a contradiction to the way we live most of our lives avoiding change in order to stay comfortable. We try to stay comfortable at all costs. But change is God’s way.
Would you consider doing this exercise? Fill in the blank: This is my year to _____. What are some specific ways you can live into that change in 2016? How can you grow as a disciple of Jesus this year, the kind who loves and serves God and your neighbor more faithfully?
Or maybe we should ask this question of our churches – How is God calling our churches to change in 2016? Are we satisfied with the status quo in our churches? Are we happy with simply existing for the sake of preserving a legacy of ministry? Or are we willing to listen to the voice of God calling us to see a future, one that is bigger and brighter and more challenging than we could ever imagine – one that starts with specific changes in the ways we do ministry?
Change is hard. I’m helping lead a church merger/new church birth. Lord knows I can soon write a book or two on how hard change is. But the discipleship, oh the faithful discipleship, I’m seeing as people live into such a big change… it’s worth all the hardship plus some!
So what resolutions will you make to help you grow as a disciple this year (and what specific plans will help get you there)?
What’s your change for 2016?
The Rev. Ben Gosden is the senior pastor at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Savannah. He can be reached at email@example.com.