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New Year, New Focus

I'm not one for New Year's resolutions. Our human tendency to make resolutions and then, promptly break them inside a week or two is fairly well established.  I do believe, however, in the margin between Christmas and the new year, we have a fantastic opportunity to look back on the year, to reflect and to evaluate, and then, as we look forward, to prayerfully ask the Lord for grace to grow in certain areas in the year ahead.

That may sound like it is a resolution, but it's not. It is more of a recognition that something or some things must change, and, then, asking the Lord to make those changes in us.  This goes far beyond good and necessary things such as getting finances in order, eating healthier, exercising and so on (though such things are indeed important), and even goes beyond great and important things such as being a more loving spouse, a more loving parent or a better and more loving friend. The issues I'm referring to are ultimate issues, chiefly, those matters related to our relationship to and with Christ as well as His church.

For the Christian, there is no greater issue than our relationship to and with Christ. As we grow in our relationship to and with Him, He changes other areas of our lives, such as how we relate to others, how we relate to things, our priorities and so on. Many professing believers rather got off track in 2020. As the year wore on, the many strange things and many inconveniences and distractions that came with 2020 negatively impacted many who profess the Name of Christ. Whether it was Covid or the ability to connect virtually or simply being discouraged or frustrated with the year, over time, many professing Christians, all over America, settled into new and spiritually unhealthy life patterns in which Christ was largely ignored or forgotten.

Sadly, many churches across America closed their doors. Churches died. Some churches are barely hanging on. Some churches shifted from being on mission to simply focusing on 'survival.' Other churches shifted from being on mission to spending most of their energy trying to preserve themselves. Some churches who had, for years, relied on 'drawing' and 'attracting' with the biggest and best programming that money can buy, suddenly found themselves wondering: 'how do we draw people to our events if so many are fearful of Covid or, are now, apathetic toward the church?' Other churches were left wondering: 'how do we compete with people who prefer to stay at home on the weekends or get out of town on the weekends, because they are so stressed by the weekdays?'

I am painting in broad strokes, but there are countless articles on the way 2020 and Covid 'harmed' Christianity or the church in America. There are many experts looking for answers and offering suggestions on how churches can 'get back to normal,' or at least 'on track again.' Sadly, many of them are just variations on the old, old theme of trying this or that approach.

I do not believe 2020 or Covid negatively impacted Christianity or the church in America. I believe it simply showed American evangelicals the true state of our Christianity and our churches.  I do not believe that we need 'new programs' and new approaches to 'drawing people,' rather we need to return to our King in humility and return to the ancient paths. The way forward is actually quite old, and it is not a gimmick.

Approaching the new year, we have an opportunity to refocus, to return to our King, to reorient ourselves to Him again, as we must if we belong to Him. He is not an add on to our lives, He is to be our life. This is what Christianity teaches. This is the life Jesus called us to, even if 2021 is stranger than 2020, even if Covid stays around another year. He calls us to discipleship.

As a church, like all churches, in 2021, we have an opportuniy to reorient ourselves corporately to our King. We have opportunity to humble ourselves and seek Him and ask Him for wisdom in these days, to focus on the things He has declared are very important for His people, things like: making disciples, equipping the saints, being in prayer, worshipping, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, hearing the Word preached and taught, serving and building up the body, helping one another grow and being on mission.

Only He knows what 2021 brings. He has blessed our church profoundly in 2020, even in the strange year. He has plans for us as He continues to show us. I do not know what 2021 will bring, but I know He is Sovereign over it and He calls us to take up our cross, follow Him and to be about His business. He calls us to love Him more than we love anything or anyone on earth. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In the grace He provides, let's be praying about that now as we approach a new year. It is my prayer (and please join me in this prayer), that He will glorify Himself in us individually and corporately in ways we cannot begin to imagine. He is exceedingly able to do just that.

Looking forward to what He has for us in 2021!

Grace to You,

Pastor