Here are my 2012 resolutions for the American Church in no particular order of importance.
This coming year you will treat your youth pastors with respect, love and dignity. You’re no longer going to interact with them like they are second class ministers who must prove their worth by how many paintball, pizza party lock-ins they have. You’re also going to try to pay them more because it is absurd that many youth pastors have given up on the possibility of ever owning a house or even renting a decent apartment.
This coming year you’re going to wash your hands of almost all aspects of our current political system. You’re going to stop wasting your time posting, tweeting, and forwarding angry inflammatory messages about your least favorite candidate. You’ll stop giving to political organizations that mobilize their base through fear and misinformation. You’re going to preach and live a message that is rooted in the Gospel, not the Republican or Democrat platform. Your going to realize that Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, or Newt Gingrich will not save our nation. Neither will President Obama. There is one Savior! He is already on the scene waiting for us to stop wasting our time building and tearing down the kingdoms of man.
In 2012 your going to finally give your relationships the priority they deserve. Your going to realize that almost everything around you will eventually rust, corrode, and fade away. However, your relationships have eternal consequences. As a result, you will give your best energy, time, and resources to healing your relationships. This means you’re going to learn how to apologize to your spouse, love your neighbor, and encourage your kids. It’s absurd that you know more about how to maintain a healthy lawn than a healthy marriage. Let the lawn regress this year! In 2012 you’re giving everything to rescue the relationships that matter.
In the coming year, you and I are going to embrace the gift of repentance. Instead of justifying our hypocrisies we are going to repent. Instead of defending our anger or fear based actions, we are going to get on our knees and repent. We will repent and start removing the planks from our eyes. We are going to remove our judge’s robes and burn them. In 2012, we will extend the good news and favor of the Lord through repenting.
In 2012 we will smile more. A frowning, stern looking church cannot reflect the fullness of the Gospel. This coming year we will allow the joy of the Gospel to permeate all our interactions. That means our grumpy board members will either start resigning or start making room for the ever present joy of the Gospel. People don’t make us perpetually angry and unhappy. A perpetually bitter demeanor is the fruit of a heart that is unwilling to submit to Christ. In 2012 we will submit to Christ and start smiling!
In 2012 the American church will give priority to Spirit-led inclinations. The church is not a system, it’s a relationship. God is more than a carefully crafted theology or clearly articulated doctrinal distinctive. God is more than song styles and transitions. He’s greater than picking the right sermon series with the appropriate accompanying video clip. God is more than tidy start times and well organized sermon points. God is bigger than our systems. God will not be limited by our research! God will not be hemmed in by our expertise on what makes a “healthy church.” God is alive, resurrected, and speaking! In 2012 we will follow the Spirit-led inclinations of God, even if our pursuit seems awkward and unrefined. Better to live for a God-given dream than to waste our lives propping up and maintaining the systems of long departed or soon to depart dead men.
In the coming year we are going to give our first fruits to God. We only have so much energy, time, and money. Consequently, we will give our first and best energy, time, and money to God! Our Kingdom allegiances are revealed in how and where we distribute first fruits. In 2012 we will pray “Thy Kingdom Come” and we will live this prayer by giving our first fruits to God. . . . . If not, then why would we ever say that prayer.
In the coming year we will most likely fail at implementing any of these resolutions. Even so, we will be deeply loved by God. Because this is still the year of the Lord’s favor. God is still reconciling the world through a love, grace, and goodness that is more powerful than we could ever fully imagine. Therefore, we will pursue great aspirations for the coming year because we have a big God who will catch us when we fail.
Happy New Year! Feel free to tear up this list and make your own. But please, live for something greater than yourself in 2012.