On New Year’s morning many people in the world will wake up and try to shake off the effects of a night of celebration. For some, all that will be left is the ringing in their ears and the buzz in their heads. But what about the church? We have just finished one of the most intensive celebratory seasons of the year. Messages of joy, praise, and incarnation abound.
Last evening I passed a Roman Catholic church and in the church yard was a sign: “Welcome Back Catholics.” Many people, who do not regularly attend church return to church as a part of the festivities. The music is joyous, the memories flow and they feel better about themselves. Often people who use the name of Jesus in vain sing the carols with gusto. Music and pageantry fill the sacred arenas with both participation and spectatorship. Those who are behind the scenes end up exhausted. They feel they need rest. The leadership needs a break from the business of framing the story of Jesus for the masses that are following the tradition of connecting to celebrating the birth of Jesus one more time.
That is the overview, but how shall we approach our responsibilities in the New Year? A lot of people that we greeted at the church door or at the Christmas cookie social have no intention of attending church regularly. Most of the year they are using Sunday to do important things like laundry, golf, or catching up on sleep. Many only attend church once or twice a year except for funerals and weddings. Where do we find the strength to follow up on capturing the moment with initiatives that will engage those who come and draw them into the church in a more active way? That is the question. That’s what the faithful wake up to on New Year’s morning. I want to tell you that help is on the way. It starts with you.
At the core of all the swirl and roar of the moment, the fact remains that this is the most lonely and isolated time of year for many people. Depressed by the ebb and flow of life, many have failed to be able to see their circumstances for what they are…a corridor of opportunity to do something new in the New Year. Plant a seed of hope where no hope exists. If it’s rocky ground, pile up the rocks and build a monument of memory that you can look back on and remember the spot as a starting point for building a better tomorrow. Live life with expectation. Live life with anticipation. Live life with a good attitude and action. Then you will end up with an accomplishment that you can look back on and find the true joy that transcends happiness.
People respond in a number of ways when they find that help is on the way. Some are intimidated. Some are threatened. Some are delighted. Some vote for complacency. Still others ask the question, “How can I find help and where is the help going to come from?” Many of us have heard the formula developed by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto that 20% of the people do 80% of the work and give 80 % of the money. I believe that if you look at the latest statistics you will find that the odds are even higher. The church needs to have more of its committed communicants find their place as a part of the Body of Christ. We need to challenge people to answer the call of God for service.
If you truly are a part of the church, you enter the ministry of service at a different level. You are no longer a volunteer. You are a part of the Body of Christ. You are called friends, brothers, and joint heirs with Christ to a future kingdom. He is presently away preparing a place for all of us who have accepted His provision of redemption. Our task is to be faithful to God’s call and the position He has created for us as a part of his family. We are charged with the responsibility to tell the whole world that they have the same opportunity to be a part of God’s plan of redemption. Be encouraged! A growing congregation is one that is more than involved–it is engaged in ministry because it is a living organism created in Christ Jesus. All humankind was created physically in the beginning and in Christ we are reunited with God through his Son.
My book “More Than Volunteers” lays out a step by step plan to engage people in the process of growing in Christ. It serves as a handbook to engage people and a template for developing an effective constituency care and maintenance initiative. I would encourage every person to read it through and then organize for action. Engage your congregation and keep them from dropping out because we have not prepared to preserve the results of successful Christmas programming. Involvement in the church often translates into volunteer work for Jesus. When you have given your life to Christ you are more than a volunteer. You are a part of the family of God!
You will find helpful ideas whether you are a person seeking God’s will for your life or a pastor asking what do we do next to keep the fire burning past this great Christmas celebration? The seven steps of building a discipleship ministry and developing leadership are provided for you as you read this book. Begin this new year by creating new vitality for the people of your church.
God’s people should never stop caring about those who are brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. New Christians are challenged to reconsider the direction of their lives, they need to experience your love and your exemplar pattern so they can be introduced to the expectations for a life of holiness. You play a critical role in creating a climate for the Holy Spirit’s work in the hearts and lives of others. Go forth in the new year to the higher ground of service to bring glory to the Father through our relationship to His Son Jesus Christ.