New Year’s Commitments

I’m not much into New Year’s resolutions. Even though the concept is rooted in the word “resolve,” it seems that resolutions are made to be broken.

If you don’t believe me, just ask some gym managers to tell you what months their treadmill and weight room usage peaks, and how quickly that usage declines. Resolutions are mostly about us saying, “I’ll give it a shot and see what happens.”

Christian living is about year-round commitment, the kind of wholehearted, “I’m in” attitude that raises our level of joy dramatically. Christian commitment drives Christian ministry, changing the world for the better. And because Christian commitment has a huge spiritual component, it also is sustained by the Holy Spirit, helping us avoid burnout.

All of us in church, myself included, need to take time occasionally to measure our commitment. The first of the year is as good a time as any.

As a starting point, here’s a basic question: How are we responding to the salvation freely given to us by Jesus Christ? Because all Christians are called to spread the good news, I would suggest that our commitment should in some way sustain the church’s primary mission: to offer Christ to those who don’t understand that salvation is available.

When you commit to pray, you are changing the world. Pray for the lost, pray for the hurting, pray for the church to be effective. I’ll admit that how prayer works is often a mystery. Pray anyway. We pray in faith, knowing we’re pushing creation toward full reunion with God.

When you commit to be present in the life of the church, you empower your local congregation to better do God’s work in the local community. You help your church worship well; you help your church serve the world. For example, at Cassidy UMC, you might find yourself feeding the hungry, something this congregation particularly likes to do. Or maybe you’ll help us grow our children and youth into the Christian adults the world so desperately needs. There are lots of opportunities to serve.

When you commit your gifts of money, you make ministry happen. Yes, the church needs your money; every institution in our culture needs money to operate, and in a church run by good stewards, the money is used in holy ways. I feel I’ve been at Cassidy long enough to affirm that buildings and staff are in place so that people may know Christ. Also, Cassidy’s budgets are designed so that others may know Christ through our ministries.

An unfunded church is like a car without gas—it’s going nowhere. Can you commit a percentage of your income in 2012? A church filled with tithers, people who commit 10 percent of their income toward ministry, can do great ministry quickly. Few American churches are full of tithers, nor even committed givers. Too few Christians are carrying the load for others.

When you commit to be a witness, you promise to know the story of Jesus Christ well enough to tell it. Therefore, you also are making a commitment to study. You then find people who need to hear the story, building friendships along the way so you earn the right to tell it.

When Jesus died for our sins, he didn’t do it halfheartedly. The cross took commitment. And in committing to the cross despite his anxiety, best revealed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46), Jesus became all his Father intended him to be.

For us, too, commitment is not about rules. It is about becoming what God would have us be, in the process helping the world become what God says it will be.

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