Redemption Ink and You
"Can a woman forget her nursing child, fail to pity the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
but I won’t forget you.
Look, on my palms I’ve inscribed you" (Isaiah 49:15,16)
A New Year and a New You! You’ve heard the promise, and you’ve made the resolutions:
“This is the year I’m going to change; this is the year I’m finally going to start over and get it right”.
Then, reality hits. The baggage from the past is still there. Old conflicts carry over into a new year. Habits are hard to break; self-destructive patterns are deeply entrenched. Like a permanent tattoo the visible reminder and the reality of who we are and what we’ve been is hard to fundamentally ignore or change. The story of Redemption Inc. is a word of hope for all of us. Our names are inscribed on God’s palms. We are made in God’s image. No one else defines us; no one else gets to tell us who we are. We belong to God, and God alone makes it possible for us to change.
It’s the beginning of a New Year. Many of you are still serving the same church as last year. Someone, years ago said, “Each year every congregation deserves a new pastor and every pastor deserves a new congregation even if they remain in the same place.”
So, how will God help you change in the coming new year?
1. Let it Go – There are some things you’ve been carrying with you far too long. Some of it has adversely affected the way you lead and the way you live. Chances are, it’s eating you alive and rotting your soul. It’s time to forgive the one who hurt you. It’s time to let go of the anger and resentment of past disappointments and failures. Write it down. Make a list of the things that hurt you deeply or made you feel hopeless or angry. If you need help call me, and I’ll bring a shovel. We’ll dig a hole, and we’ll bury it together, say a prayer, and trust that God will help us do what we’re unable to do on our own. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Psalm 51)
2. Accept Who You Are – You possess a list of genuine gifts and graces for ministry. They’re essential to your call. Celebrate them; use them; they are God’s gift to you and your gift to those you serve. You’re also a flawed human being with glaring weaknesses. None of us can be all things to all people. The skill set of a congregational leader is too broad and too diverse for any one person. Some things we do well, others not so much. Acknowledge what you do well and surround yourself with gifted people who complement what you do and help you build the kingdom and serve the church. In short, build on your strengths, accept your weaknesses, and empower others to help you carry out the work and ministry.
3. Remember- In the grind and busyness of day-to-day ministry, it’s easy to forget. There was a moment in the beginning when your heart was on fire, when you felt God’s call so deeply it would not let you go. You said yes to God and it changed the course of your life. The longer you’re in ministry, the harder it will be to remember what first captured your heart. Remember, fall in love with God again, and recapture the fire that still burns inside of you.
4. Catch the Vision- Congregational leaders see things others don’t; they hear and sense things others can’t. The primary driving force for every pastor and every church is the ability to discern and articulate a compelling vision of where God is leading them into the future. If there is no transformative vision, the daily routine and grinding work of the church becomes lifeless, arduous, and exhausting. Institutional survival is not a vision. If you haven’t done it yet, cast a vision that will capture the hearts and imagination of those who are committed followers of Jesus.
5. Don’t let the Critics Deter You- If you’re in church leadership you’ll face criticism. It comes with the territory. Sometimes, we need to listen to our critics no matter how hard it is. They may be the only ones telling us a truth we need to hear, but you can’t please everyone, and the critics can derail the best plans if you’re not careful. Be honest. Ask tough questions. And don’t be afraid to admit when you’re wrong. But if you feel strongly and believe that God is in it then forge ahead.
6. Recommit and Rededicate Yourself – You can’t give what you don’t have. Running on empty is a recipe for disaster. It’s not only injurious to the congregation it’s also dangerous to your well-being. The goal is not necessarily to work harder but to be more effective and bear more fruit. Feed the soul you’ve neglected. Immerse yourself in the Word, pray daily, empty yourself and open your eyes and heart to the needs around you. Sense where God is already at work, and find ways in which to be a part of what God is already doing.
Thank you for your leadership and the remarkable work you continue to do in hard and difficult places.
With God’s help, here’s to a New Year and a New You!