As we start the new year, I want to share with you seven counterintuitive resolutions for 2017. Plus two bonus resolutions. If you are a growing church, pay close attention. Even if you are not growing, but you want to begin to grow, you can participate in this game as well. Don’t worry about doing all of them. Even taking on three or four of them will make a profound difference for you and the life of the church.
Love yourself. It’s true that we love our neighbors as ourselves. Want to be a better neighbor? Start by refusing to judge or berate yourself. Then practice unconditional self-respect, self-love, and self-acceptance. Let that kind of love radiate out to those around you. Tip: Start by smiling at yourself in the mirror.
Pray the next prayer. It’s easy to get stuck with a basic prayer like, “God be with us.” Or “God bless us.” Or “God help us.” The truth is God is always, always, always with us. There is no place we can go where God is not. Likewise, since God is love, God is always blessing us. And God is always there to help us. So trust these basic realities, and begin to pray the next prayer. What do you want to co-create with God? What do you envision for the coming year? Pray that prayer. Tip: Start by thanking God for always being there, always blessing and always helping.
Envision the future. Develop a vision that expands assumptions about what is possible. Then plan something beyond your ability to accomplish. Stretching yourself will allow the Spirit of God to work in new ways among you. With God in the picture, even stale realities can be transformed. Tip: Envision what the Kingdom might look like in your corner of the world. Ask how you can contribute to making that a reality.
Gospel lesson. Read the Gospels out loud together as a group. At least a chapter at a time. Allow the originality of Jesus’ message to speak to you again. Let the big picture emerge. Listen for what is new, empowering, unexpected. Tip: Sit in silence for three minutes and absorb what you’ve heard before anyone speaks.
Start fresh. Clean out a cluttered closet or classroom. Take down old banners or decorations. Paint the bathrooms and the sanctuary. Let go of a ministry or project that no longer bears fruit. Update your website. Delete your old phone message. Create space for new ideas, new people, new projects. Tip: If it’s stained, unused, unclaimed or out of date, it’s time to let it go!
Practice heaven. Make friends with someone you are afraid of or someone who angers you. Don’t try to fix or change them. Instead, find the best in them as they are right now. This will be good practice for heaven. Tip: Start by silently sending them love. Even if you don’t feel it.
Disbelieve. Let go of stubbornly held beliefs that only serve to keep you stuck. For instance: We can’t grow in this neighborhood. Children aren’t attracted to this church. We don’t have enough money to pay our tithes. I’m not good enough. Things are only going to get worse. Bottom line: Don’t live into negative self-fulfilling prophesies. Instead, create positive ones. Either way, they’ll come true. Might as well choose a future you’ll love! Tip: Start by looking at where you are stuck. Find the disempowering belief at the base of it. Write it down and turn it over to God. Then create anew.
Here are two bonus counter-intuitive resolutions to make 2017 a positive year to remember:
Get the backstory. People’s theologies, politics and life choices make a heck of a lot more sense when we know the backstory. Why they think the way they do. Why they feel the way they do. Why they do what they do. Share your stories with each other. Practice listening with your head and your heart. Tip: Lay aside questions and debate. Don’t plan any response. See them as a child of God.
Don't cater to fear. Before, during and after the presidential election, people’s fears crystallized. Anger and attack have become the go-to responses. It creates an us versus them mentality. Don’t cater to fear. Instead, let the gospel of love and courage, faith and self-sacrifice, action and empowerment be your guide. Tip: Ask, if God is for us then who can be against us? Remember, we are all “us.” Resolutions are a way of setting your intentions. Intentions are powerful corollaries to faith and prayer. They allow us to co-create with God. All good things are waiting for us this year, but we must be open vessels to receive them. Set your intentions for the year, and then take actions consistent with these intentions to watch your words come to life!
Not sure what to do first or how to take action? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask me your questions. I’m here to help!