A new year ~ a new beginning
Soon after recommitting my life to Christ at age 20 I asked God to “never let me get satisfied with my Christianity.” I had grown up observing too many casual Christians who were lacking in commitment, short on zeal, and producing very little “good fruit.” I was probably overly critical of others but my request came from a pure heart that wanted to bring joy to my Lord and make great conquests for His Kingdom. God has been faithful in answering my prayer, furnishing me with what one person described as “holy discontentment.” It seems that no matter how much growth or conquests I’ve made in my spiritual walk, I never feel like I’ve arrived. There always seems to be more work to do, or a weakness to overcome, or a new truth to implement. There’s always another mountain to climb, a river to cross, a valley to traverse in my walk with the Lord.
I don’t begrudge this lack of restfulness in my journey. I rather enjoy the sense of God pushing me to climb higher, stretch broader, and grow stronger. This mindset of always having unfinished spiritual growth has the potential to fill one with depression, despair, and feelings of failure. But for me I enjoy never lacking a challenge for greater achievement. Life for me is an exciting adventure with the Lord.
I often fail to achieve the new heights of growth the Lord identifies for me. I often miss the mark and fail to carry through consistently like I intended. Since I often fall short of my goals I really appreciate new beginnings and fresh starts. I like wiping the board clean and starting over with a clean slate. The apostle Paul had some major failures in his efforts to please the Lord, so his words to the Philippian church are an encouragement to me, “...I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 (NLT). In essence Paul says our focus should be on looking forward not backward. He encourages us not to wallow in our failures, receive God’s forgiveness, forgive ourselves (the most difficult for me), and then BEGIN AGAIN.
Appreciating new beginnings and fresh starts means New Years for me is a great holiday. Among the few New Year’s resolutions I make, I almost always begin an intentional Bible reading plan. I’d like to say I’ve been successful every year at achieving my reading goal but I have not. So on January 1 I wipe the board clean, pull out a new plan and begin again. It’s my way of telling God I still want to climb higher, stretch broader, and grow stronger in my walk with Him. I’d like to invite you to join me this year in making a commitment to read His word more diligently. How? Pick a reading plan from the many listed online or contact me for a plan. I’d love to have you run this race with me.
As you run remember Paul’s words: “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize.”
Looking ahead to Advent
Christmas will soon be here! We will attempt to celebrate the most amazing story of promise, hope, and love. But often our attempt to celebrate the birth of our Savior turns into season of stress, traffic jams, and endless shopping lists. And when it’s all over, many of us will simply have presents to return, a larger than normal credit card debt and feeling like we missed something. Is this what we really want out of Christmas?
This year I’m hoping to lead our congregation in a challenge that has the potential of making Christmas a world-changing event again! Advent Conspiracy (AC). Here are a few details of what to expect:
WORSHIP FULLY. Christmas marks the moment where God’s promise was fulfilled and love took form, tiny fingers and all. It is a moment that deserves our full attention and praise. We put Worship Fully as AC’s first tenet because we believe the level of our involvement at Christmas is based entirely on how much we are celebrating Christ’s birth. He deserves celebration; one that is creative, loud and directs every heart His way.
SPEND LESS. Quick question for you: What was the one gift you remember getting for Christmas last year? Next question: What about the fourth gift? Do you remember that one? Truth is many of us don’t because it wasn’t something we necessarily wanted or needed.
Spending Less isn’t a call to stop giving gifts; it’s a call to stop spending money on gifts we won’t remember in less than a year. America spends around $450 billion dollars during the Christmas season, and much of that goes right onto a credit card. By spending wisely on gifts, we free ourselves from the anxiety associated with debt so we can take in the season with a full heart.
GIVE MORE. We know what you’re thinking. “Wait, didn’t they just say I should spend less, and yet here they are telling me to give more? What gives?” The most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself. And nobody modeled this more than Jesus. So what does this look like for you? Tickets to a ball game or the theater? A movie night? The main point is simple: When it comes to spending time with those you love, it’s all about quality, not quantity.
LOVE ALL. It all boils down to love. Love from a Savior. Love to a neighbor in need. By spending just a little less on gifts, we free up our resources to love as Jesus loves by giving to those who really need help. This is the conspiracy three churches began a few years ago, and has since grown to an international movement where thousands of churches have raised millions of dollars to love others in life-changing ways.
There are so many ways to live your own AC story. Throughout the coming month here at Hope, opportunities will be presented for ways you can apply the concepts presented in Advent Conspiracy. Expect your heart to be changed as you focus on Christmas from perhaps a new and different perspective.
Embracing our future
Graduations, layoffs, and retirement often give rise to a questions seldom asked by those of us with fully-packed routine lives. Life for most of us seems to click along with crowed days and evenings diminished by spent minds and tired bodies. Other than those who have been laid off from work, or graduating from school, or anticipating their retirement, seldom do we stop and ask questions like, “What’s next for me?” or “What do I want to accomplish in the next five years?” The demands of the present often eclipse the greater questions of destiny and planning for greater accomplishment in one’s life. The urgent as well as the mundane of our lives often receives more of our creative energy than ruminating on the future.
So I found myself refreshed by a task recently assigned at one of our Search Team meetings. As we prepare to receive applications from candidates inside and outside our church we’ve been crafting a Congregational Information Form utilizing standard questions provided by our denominational leadership office. I was assigned to bring a draft for the last question which pushed me beyond describing who we are and what we’re like to what we might become.
What changes or trends do you envision for the congregation over the next five years?
In a few paragraphs what might I share with a potential Minister of Community Life that would engage their heart and enlist their imagination? It is for the same reason that I share my thoughts with you. God bless us as we embrace the future.
Recently Hope Community Church began retooling for the next decade developing:
• a new leadership structure
• a new mission statement: ~ Receiving Hope through Christ ~ Growing Hope in Community ~ Sharing Hope with Others ~
• a new motto: ~ Growing Hope One Life at a Time ~
• a new emphasis on the five purposes of God: ~ Worship ~ Discipleship ~ Fellowship ~ Ministry ~ Outreach ~
• a renewed understanding that community must become central to our existence and mission.
These tools have brought fresh energy and a renewed commitment to deeper community and more intentional outreach and ministry. God is helping us to develop greater involvement in our communities with greater connection to our immediate geographical community. In recent years we’ve welcomed numerous new families and individuals from within a few miles of the church.
Since its beginning HCC has been a collection of young families. As the congregation has aged many of these children have continued to worship with us as young adults. In the next five years we envision these young adults as well as young families assuming greater involvement and leadership at HCC. With many young couples and families attending the church we’re experiencing growth in the number of children now attending HCC; a trend we anticipate will increase. This past fall we completely reorganized our children’s programs increasing excitement and participation.
The church just completed a spiritual growth campaign called 40 Days of Community. Prior to the campaign we had 4 functioning small groups. During the campaign groups increased to 14 with 85% of the congregation participating. We’ve discovered that most people desire greater connection to God and others. We anticipate that involvement in small groups will continue to increase as we give additional staff time and increased emphasis on participation.
A number of years ago Hope Community Church joined with tens of thousands of other churches to participate in a 40
Days of Purpose Campaign. These were churches of all sizes, shapes and denominations, both here in America and in
52 countries worldwide. Many churches experienced remarkable effects. The average church attendance increased by
22 percent. Participation in small groups went up an amazing 102 percent. Many churches reported that 40 Days of
Purpose was the single most transforming event in their congregation’s history. The goal of 40 Days of Purpose was
to deepen God’s Five Purposes in the lives of those participating. It was a personal campaign answering the question,
“What on earth am I here for?”
The campaign was so successful that a follow up campaign was created called 40 Days of Community which focuses
on the question, “What on earth are we here for?” The emphasis moves people from focusing on God’s purpose in
their personal lives to focusing on God’s purpose in their church and community. This emphasis matches what God
has been placing in the lives and hearts of numerous persons in our church. The primary purpose of 40 Days of
Community is focused on fulfilling God’s five purposes together in our community.
God has impressed upon my heart to have our congregation participate in this 40 Day Churchwide Spiritual Growth
Campaign which will begin the last weekend in January and run through February and March. The focus for the 40
days will be on fulfilling God’s purposes together. We’ll accomplish this by following the model set out for us in
second chapter of Acts where the church met in large gatherings (in the temple courts) and also in small gatherings
(meeting from house to house).
There will be three components to our 40 day adventure:
● Our Sunday morning WORSHIP SERVICES will be focused on God’s five purposes.
● Each person will receive a DEVOTIONAL BOOK entitled, What on Earth Are We
Here For? to use over the 40 days.
● A WEEKLY SMALL GROUP STUDY based upon the Devotional Book and the
Sunday morning sermons. Over the next few weeks many new small groups will
be forming to include those who are not presently attending a small group. Those
already in small groups will simply take a 7 week break from their normal routine
and focus their teaching and discussion on the materials provided.
This whole church spiritual growth campaign has the potential to change our personal lives, our church, our
community and ultimately our world. Many people long for a group or a church where members genuinely care for
each other and genuinely love each other. They’re looking for authentic community. And they’re looking to belong.
That’s what 40 Days of Community is all about. I hope you’ll all fully participate.
Pastor Gary Blosser
Renewal in February
Miriam Webster’s definition of renewal is “the quality or state of being renewed.” This February we have the opportunity of being
renewed in specific ways during two of our worship services. The first will happen on February 6 as we complete our exploration
of what it means to be a participant in Real Community. As part of the service we will be encouraged to renew our commitment to
Christ and to each other through signing our Membership Covenant. This process of renewing our covenant gives us opportunity
each year to evaluate the previous year and make adjustments for the coming year. This act of renewal can be similar to urban
renewal when neighborhoods that have fallen into disrepair or neglect are improved and rehabilitated. Likewise our commitment
to Jesus and His church requires some evaluation and then improving our effort. Real Community requires loving involvement with
others. How have you been doing? Is any improvement or renewal needed?
The November 29, 2010 Time Magazine cover story was entitled, Who Needs Marriage? The article reported a woeful statistic
from a recent Pew survey which revealed that nearly 40% of Americans think marriage is obsolete. With the institution of marriage
under cultural fire we want to lift up this special relationship as God’s standard for family life. This brings us to the second
opportunity for renewal taking place on February 13, the day before Valentine’s Day. According to Wikipedia.org,“Valentine’s Day
is an annual commemoration...celebrating love and affection between intimate companions.”
During the morning worship service we will focus on those among us whose love for each other led them into the commitment of
marriage. All married couples will be encouraged to renew their relationship with their spouse.
Again this each year we are offering the opportunity for married couples celebrating an anniversary divisible by 5 to publically
renew their wedding vows during the worship service. This is a time to celebrate your marriage and reaffirm your commitment to
your mate. Looking again at urban renewal, we observe that the renewal process can include demolishing old or run-down
buildings and constructing new up-to-date structures. It is important in our marriage to occasionally take a look at what we have
built into our relationship. We must evaluate if there are any structures needing to be demolished and rebuilt. To help us evaluate,
we will consider ten ingredients for making our marriages successful.
So I hope you’ll celebrate renewal with us this February by participating and supporting those who participate in these acts of
renewal. May February bring improved, renewed, abundant life.
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