Beginnings

Happy New Year! We have begun another year and another decade of life and ministry here in Springfield. My family and I enjoyed some time off over the Christmas holidays in order to visit my mom, sister and more relatives in Arkansas. We made it back in good shape but at least for myself can say I am having “re-entry issues.”

I had already decided not to make any resolutions this year. It’s not like a regular practice of mine anyway, even though I do think setting goals is a good idea. Several of our church members indicated they were passing on the resolutions idea too, which left me wondering what might be a good approach to starting another year. So, when I came across Jim Evans’ article about having “hopes” rather than resolutions, his words affirmed my own my thinking on the matter.

I won’t go into a long list of hopes, because having a more modest rendering is easier to remember plus if these hopes become reality then 2011 will already be a great year. 

First off, I hope that the Lord gives UH a vision for the future. We have a Vision 2020 Task Force working now that will be bringing recommendations to the church around Eastertime, and our church members have gotten involved in the discussion with a churchwide Sunday School and Town Hall meeting. We will talk with each other, acknowledging where our church is right now spiritually, numerically, etc while doing our best to be open to a fresh movement  of the Holy Spirit.

I hear the word “vision” tossed around a lot among preacher types, and on occasion have heard it brought up in the pastor search process in interviewing prospective pastors: “Do you have a vision for our church?” It hard to imagine a pastor having a vision for a church he or she isn’t even leading yet. I believe a vision for a particular congregation is brought about when the people of God earnestly seek after what the Lord wants. Sometimes this takes time to unpack and unfold, and in my view is something that is “caught and not taught.” I pray that this eureka moment will transpire and that upon recognition our people will know that the Lord has spoken.

My second and other hope is that we will have the courage to act upon that vision once we have received it. I have spoken to several pastors who have gone through similar discernment processes and know about the excitement that it brings. Sometimes the excitement fades and the dream is set aside due to other obligations, and when this occurs the fruit of the labor is “shoved in a drawer” somewhere and forgotten. That is a sad deal and discouraging especially to those who have devoted so much of their time to this endeavor. As pastor, I can appreciate the difficulty and possibility of pushback to moving ahead.

Gary McIntosh, president of the church growth network, talked about leadership and offered this critique: “If you are succeeding without suffering, someone has suffered before you. If you are suffering without succeeding, someone will succeed after you” (Growth Points, January 2011). 

The baptism of Jesus marked the beginning of his earthly ministry. He came out of the water, seeing something and hearing something. The Holy Spirit came down as a dove and the Father broke his silence with words of love and affirmation for his Son. Jesus came out of the water and went into his world to serve, sacrifice, and seek after those who were lost. That’s what I want for myself this year, and for our church too.

We know what God said about Jesus, but the question is “What does God say about us?” I hope we can begin 2011 by sorting that out.

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