As we wind up towards the end of any year, there is always lots to be done to finish well. It’s a time of busyness as school and work wind up (I was going to say church, but God’s people are still the church even when they holiday . . . right?). Churches might be planning special programs for Christmas, and everyone wants to get together and celebrate the year so there are lunches and brunches and dinners and events galore.
It’s also a time for strategy and reflection. I’m sure many of you experience the same thing. The calendar ticking over from December 31 to January 1 doesn’t change much in the real world, but for many of us, it is a distinct mile marker on the road of life.
One important question that comes up during times of reflection and strategy is “How do we make the main thing, the main thing?” A question I’ve been wrestling with in a number of areas.
Every one of us has a calling on our lives to be discipled by Jesus, and those with mature faith to disciple others into a relationship with Jesus. This is not some mystical or abstract process—it’s eating, working, doing activities, alongside others and investing in their lives.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” Jesus instructed (Matthew 28:19) and it is an imperative. The only negotiation comes around how we do it. But Jesus gave us some guidelines there too. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill” (Luke 5:31) and “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34).
In some ways the pandemic has disconnected us. We’re going through the forms of attendance or commitment but not actually establishing new relationships. Deep, loving, missional relationships. Perhaps as you’re planning what next year looks like for you and your family (and your church), you can include some missional goals and strategies. It doesn’t have to be a wholesale change to your regular routines and patterns (unless there are areas that have been neglected), but could just be an adjustment that changes your focus.
Are you using your time, your talents, your connections to disciple anyone? If you don’t have a strong community find one, or with some like-minded others start one. Are you intentionally showing Jesus to anyone or telling them about what God has done in your life? Your children? Friends?
On a recent Signs Radio podcast with Rosie Kendall, the CEO of Christians Against Poverty, she talked about where we spend money showing where our values lie and recommended us all to work out where our values lie. It’s the same with our time and with our identities. If our money, time and talents are not being used for Jesus’ kingdom then are we really valuing our Adventism, our Christianity? And without taking too much away from our local church, are our communities focused more on in-reach or outreach?
In recent Insight columns, our church leaders have talked about refocusing on mission and some modern-day missionary opportunities and collaborations. Other ministries are becoming community hubs. These corporate initiatives are good and important. Our ministries must be effective and grapple with strategies to reach the ever-changing and dynamic world we live in.
These initiatives are fantastic. However, even if we can’t do something like that, as individuals we can be intentional and missional right where we are placed. I recently heard of a man who was given a Signs magazine by his mechanic and is now in his small Bible study group.
It’s a challenging time of year as we all try to finish well. But as you’re reflecting and planning, maybe I can challenge you to dream big. This could be that sign you’ve been asking for to start that missional project, try that new ministry, invite that neighbour for a meal or share a Signs subscription with someone you feel impressed might value it. Don’t wait for the new year. Start now. Plan to make 2023 the year you try something new. You might just change the world (for someone).