Beginning a New Year – 2018

Refuse to Waste the Opportunity

I was about 17 years old.  It was New Year’s Eve and I was working.  I was working at an all night fast food hamburger place in Dallas until 3:00 AM.  I resented working that evening.  After all, it seemed that everyone else was with friends or had some place to go.  Here I was on New Year’s Eve working!  I was not happy.

We were very, very busy that evening and into the night.  Just before midnight, two guys (who appeared to be in their late twenties) walked up to the outside window to place their order.  They began to argue over who was first in line.  They both had obviously been drinking and in fact were quite drunk.  They began to fight, hitting one another in the face.  Finally, the police separated them and each, with a bloody face, went away.

Later I thought about that moment.  Here we were, minutes from a New Year and these grown men usher in the year fighting over a place in line at a fast food restaurant.  Wow.

Surely, there are better ways to begin the New Year.  Yet, if we are not careful, we can let a great opportunity slip by.

We can make the same old mistakes, carry out the same destructive habits, and use the same poor judgement in our relationships.

Or, we can begin the New Year thanking God for his grace.

  • We can thank God for his forgiveness for our sins of 2017.
  • We can pray for clarity and self-control regarding our hearts, our actions, and our intentions as we begin 2018.
  • We can ask God to give us the power and strength to overcome bad, destructive habits.
  • We can pray that God will help us to use better judgement in terms of our relationships and friendships in the coming year.  Yes, we can make better choices.

2017 is almost over.  I can do nothing about the actions of others during this year or even my own actions.  The year is over.

As you and I enter the New Year, however, we can get serious about our “next action.”  Start small.  Whatever you face, no matter how seemly small and insignificant, by the grace of God, make the next action one that gives God pleasure.

You and I can start now.

Church Leaders are Called to Behave Better

(Avoiding behaviors that diminish the influence of church leaders)

Sometimes ministers go through difficult seasons.  Sometimes elders go through difficult seasons.  At times it seems that entire congregations go through difficult seasons.

Sometimes a difficult season occurs because of someone’s irresponsibility, incompetence, meanness, manipulation, or thoughtlessness.  Some ministers and some elders have been guilty of all five.

Ministers and elders will make mistakes.  Human beings make mistakes regardless of what role they might find themselves in.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be irresponsible?  When church leaders are irresponsible in what they say or in how they act, they are basically wasting the influence and the energy of the church.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be incompetent?  Church leaders do not have identical gifts or identical strengths.  Yet, if we pretend that we always know what to do, after awhile our incompetencies will become obvious to others.  When we are not learning, growing, or developing, we will never move beyond where we are right now.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be mean?  Of course not.  Yet, so often these people are not held accountable for their meanness.  For example, if an elder says something to a minister in an elder’s meeting that is rude and unkind, what do the other elders do?  In far too many churches, they simply remain silent.   (Yes, an elder close to that minister may call him later and grouse about what his fellow elder said.  However, that elder may never be confronted regarding his behavior.)

Does a minister or an elder really have to be manipulative?  No. Of course, a minister may have several friends who are also in the elder group.  However, this minister has crossed a line when he manipulates several elders behind the scenes to basically do his bidding for him in elders’ meetings.  Ministers who refuse to manipulate know how to relate and love without resorting to self-serving manipulation.

Finally, does a minister or an elder really have to be thoughtless?  No.  However, one will have to yield to the Spirit, submitting not to the flesh but to the Spirit’s desire for our lives, our relationships, and our leadership groups.  Otherwise, we will yield to the flesh, saying what is thoughtless and hurtful, and looking for a cheap laugh at someone else’s expense instead of building one another up.