I love the prospects of a new year – all the potential and possibilities that lie before me. It’s not that anything has really changed from December 31 to January 1, but mentally and emotionally it just feels different. Reflecting on 2018, I see many good things. My family and I were able to enjoy a five-week sabbatical that included a week at a retreat center for Kerri and me and an incredible two weeks for the entire family in New York City and Washington DC. As a church, Ashworth took some significant steps forward in the areas of evangelism and discipleship.
As great as some of these things are, in some ways in 2018, I felt a little stuck. The events we did, while good, seemed a little more challenging to pull off and less satisfying. Sometimes it felt like I was going through the motions.
As we began planning for the new year, I asked the pastors what word they would like to describe 2019. We kept coming back to the word BREAKTHROUGH. Breakthrough is defined as an act or instance of removing or surpassing an obstruction or restriction or the overcoming of a stalemate. We want to do everything we can do this year to remove the barriers that are preventing us from being everything Jesus wants us to be, both individually and as a church.
I realize in saying this that it would be easy for us to find a marketing plan that helps us grow or we could find a slick curriculum to implement that might give us the appearance of transformation. But we don’t want slick tools or gimmicks to breakthrough. We want to see three things as a part of the breakthrough we experience as a church this year:
- The Presence of God
- The Pursuit of Christ
- The Power of the Holy Spirit
While these three things should be evident in every church, I know that it is all too common for those of us who have been “doing church” a while to get comfortable going through the motions. These three statements came to me during prayer as the new year began. Here is why I believe these three statements are critical for Ashworth in the new year:
The Presence of God
When we gather, it is essential that God is a very real, tangible part of the community. Without the presence of God, we become nothing more than a self-help group or religious country club. The Bible also tells us that when we gather, it is the presence of God that can break through the hearts of those not yet following Jesus. (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)
The Pursuit of Christ
Life change occurs not when we modify our behavior, but when we draw closer to Jesus Christ. Only when we passionately follow Jesus will our attitudes, priorities, and hearts truly change. We need to spur one another on in our pursuit of Jesus. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
The Power of the Holy Spirit
A lot can be manufactured by slick marketing campaigns, cleverly placed Facebook advertisements and guilt. But our goal is not to see how much we can accomplish. We desire to reach our full potential through the power of the Holy Spirit and that in our weakness his strength might be made perfect. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
I am confident if these three are a part of my life and a part of Ashworth, we will see and experience life and ministry in powerful, life-transforming ways and we will be the church Jesus needs and wants us to be to reach our community for the Kingdom of God.