Pray for your whole community.
Connect genuinely by sharing your life.
Expect the word of God to change people and change churches.
What part of the above do you find most controversial? I think the last two words are perhaps the most emotive: "change churches". Change is almost always a fraught topic " and change in church is certainly no exception.
Most of us don't really want our church to change too much. I mean, don't get me wrong: I am not saying we are entirely content. We might prefer this music, or the other preacher, but on the whole, we're pretty comfortable. We come along " and have done so for many years " because we fit here. And if it were to change too much, other than at the margins and in the manner of our choosing, then we wouldn't like it.
Conversely, others of us are frustrated with the way our church is, and want to see significant change" but it is just so hard to bring it about. Trying to change the smallest detail feels like wading through quicksand. Be it through staunch opposition or simple inertia, bringing about change in church seems impossible.
And anyway, if we are to change, what do we change? The New Testament gives no precise template, so in the end, most church structures and services are modelled on something that seems to have been successful in some other time or place (or both). So, on what basis is my ideal better than yours?
I told you "change churches" was controversial! And yet, we ought to expect God to be constantly regenerating us " both individually and corporately " through his word, by the power of his Spirit, as we repent of doing wrong and seek to do right. We ought to see change in our own lives, in the lives of our brothers and sisters, and in the life of our church. If we don't, something is going horribly wrong.
Recently, I've had the privilege to witness God dramatically change one person. She was transformed by the gospel of Jesus into a new creation. Of course we know God does that " but how good it is for the soul to be reminded afresh. And he didn't stop there! He went on to use her to save her family, and then to challenge and motivate a whole church. And that church has now begun to connect with a whole suburb like they have never done before. Changed life, changed family, changed church, changed community.
Are you expecting God to be at work through his word in 2009? He may be planning to use you to bring someone to Christ " maybe someone you love, maybe your neighbour, maybe someone you are yet to meet. Are you ready for God to change you " or even your whole church " via a person he is about to bring into your life? He may be preparing your church to impact a whole community. He might have entirely different plans altogether.
Whatever they are, there will be change involved. Changing us is what God does.
Get ready for an exciting year ahead!