Whether you've finalized your 2020 resolutions, don't have plans to make any, or are somewhere in between, the best place to start thinking about change in the New Year is with the Word of God. Before you start figuring out how to get out of debt or shed those holiday pounds (and those are wonderful goals!), start with the Bible, and with prayer, ask God to guide your priorities. Even within the 66 books of the Bible, you may wonder where to begin, so here are some suggestions.
If you do not plan ahead, you could unintentionally allow this year's Black Friday to give your church a black eye. You love your church, and you believe in the work that the church is doing. You sincerely want to see it thrive, and you believe God is blessing. Even if you are someone who is not easily lured into impulsive bargain snatching, despite your best intentions, if you do not set aside funds now for your year-end donations, those donations will likely be weaker if they happen at all.
A little less than a third of all tax filers itemize deductions, but we give to God's work for reasons beyond the Internal Revenue Code. For Southern Baptists, December is the month we emphasize international missions through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. There are many opportunities for charitable giving, and I love what one speaker from the NC Baptist Foundation set forth awhile back. Christians should give to Christian causes; who else is going to do so?
Pray about an amount God would like for you to give, and go ahead and give those funds or set them aside if you can discipline yourself not to spend them later. By taking care of what is most important first, you avoid the possibility of accidentally omitting your church from the cash outflows of the season. Remember, whatever you do, don't give out of compulsion or obligation. Give out of a cheerful heart, because you want to - not because you felt guilty after reading this blog post.
Picture a home builder that needs to support about 100,000 pounds of house. If he has just one support beam under that load, that one beam has to support it all - all 100,000 pounds. Say he configures the plan to call for ten support beams - each one only has to support 10,000 pounds. But increase the number of beams to 20, and now these beams can enjoy a 5,000 pound walk in the park. I know you can do this simple math, and so what was the point of this elementary math lesson?
If we were to quantify the ministry that is to be done in the local church in terms of man hours, or the funds that it will take to help God’s work in the local church flourish, and place all of that responsibility on the shoulders of one person - wow! The person is going to crumble. Even if someone could sustain the load for 3 seconds, they are toast afterward.
You may be happy to learn that I have the same church attendance trends in my church that you have in yours. I have a handful of people who attend every week (and two of us are paid to be there). I have Chreaster Christians - those who attend Christmas and Easter. I have everyone in between. On average, it is safe to say that my people attend a couple of times a month. When I mentioned this to my Assistant Pastor, who joined our team a few months ago, he helped me learn that this is a nationwide trend. It didn't use to be the case, when I was a child. To be sure, there are cultural trends that have driven much of this, but it feels like there is more. To show my cards a little bit up front, I sense that we need a fresh look at our theology of corporate worship. So as I go through answering this question which headlines this blog, I hope to do so in a way that gets us thinking about the bigger picture.