In a few hours the calendar will flip over to 2019 (I wonder how many times I'll still write 2018) and a whole new year will start. Most of us will have New Year's resolutions, and we'll try to start fresh in a new year. In writing out the message for the first Sunday in January, I put down seven things that I'm praying and longing for in 2019.
1. That we would have an outward focus - Most churches and pastors say they want to reach out to their community, but they don't have a true outward focus. Looking outward is more than inviting people, it's developing a culture and climate where guests are not only valued, loved, appreciated, but expected. And when we have an outward focus, we stop saying things like "that's my seat."
2. That we would live with radical generosity - Generosity is more than our finances, but it's never less. Forbes magazine speculates that charitable giving in 2019 could be up to $13B less with the changes to the tax system from the 2017 Tax Cut legislation. The fear is that fewer people will give because it won't give them the usual tax break. Instead, I pray that we would be more generous with our resources, more generous with our time, more generous with our hospitality, more generous with our serving.
3. That we would worship in unity - The church gathers each week for corporate worship, for singing together, for fellowship, for hearing the Word preached. And behind each of those is a community emphasis. We don't worship in a bubble. We worship with others. We cannot worship divided. Jesus, not Abe Lincoln, was the one who said a house divided cannot stand. When we worship in unity, we're putting our preferences for style/lyrics/etc. aside for the sake of the Body.
4. That we would raise men to lead - We need men and women both to step into roles and responsibilities within the church. But despite our best efforts of wild game dinners, Promise Keeper rallies, and Tim Tebow speaking opportunities, many churches fail to see men engaged in worship, leadership, and responsibility.
5. That our hearts would break for lostness - I think some, not most, church folk would be perfectly happy with lost people who simply "act right." But when we drive through our communities, when we sit in the bleachers at Little League, or we're around a family meal, it begs the question: are we truly broken for lostness? Until we are truly distraught over people's lostness, we'll never truly be driven to share the Good News.
6. That we would make mission a lifestyle, not a program - Spurgeon is credited with saying that "every Christian is a missionary or an impostor." Mission isn't something people do in a hut or a village, it's what we do at work, the gym, the backyard, and wherever God has placed us. When we recognize the community we live in, the job we have, and the friends we've made as the mission field God has given, we'll live in such a way that we share Christ.
7. That we wouldn't be content to exist - If you've ever heard the "Don't Waste Your Life" message from Passion in Memphis, you'll remember the line Piper gave where he told the crowd that most of them didn't care if their lives counted. For far too many of us, we're in the same boat. We're content to exist. We're content to muddle through our routine, show up on Sunday and sing and listen and repeat the next week, and not really ever care that our lives didn't count. I pray we'd never settle for simply existing.
Pastors, what are you longing/praying for in 2019?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.