The following are 10 suggestions for the upcoming new year. While I am writing these with church leaders in mind, some of these may be applicable to most anyone. (These are not listed in order of importance.)
1. Pay attention to the basics. Walking with Jesus takes place during the ordinariness of life. Loving God and loving others are huge. Read Scripture. Pray daily. Be a godly person.
2. Love the congregation. If you don’t, it really won’t matter what else you do.
3. Stop waiting to be appreciated. Probably some people in your church really appreciate you but rarely, if ever, express it. On the other hand, other people in your church may have little appreciation for you. Yet, they too may rarely, if ever, express it. Don’t let your sense of well-being come from others.
4. If you feel isolated and alone, recognize that such feelings over a long period of time can make you vulnerable to temptations that seem to provide an escape. There are tragic stories of people who have sought refuge through pornography, gambling, drugs/alcohol, and adultery.
5. Be real. Realness is not using a public platform to express every doubt, feeling, or anxiety. Rather, it is endeavoring to be an authentic person both publicly and privately.
6. Guard your heart. Remember that life’s train wrecks don’t begin with someone doing something stupid. They usually begin long before that. They begin with what is happening in that person’s heart.
7. Pay attention to what you are feeling. Many people pay no attention to their feelings. (I didn’t for many years.) Are you feeling angry? Sad? Depressed? Discouraged? Betrayed? When these persistent feelings are not acknowledged and dealt with, they can surface and express themselves in ways that are negative and even destructive.
8. Check your attitude. Listen, attitude is everything! You can be gifted, intelligent, and skillful. However, your attitude can sink you! Years ago, I had a conversation with a minister regarding his frustration with his life and ministry. He was frustrated because other congregations who were looking for a minister seemed to have no interest in talking with him. Later on, after reflecting on the conversation, I am convinced that what probably hurt him the most with these possibilities was his negative attitude. Perhaps his regular use of biting sarcasm was getting in the way.
9. Evaluate the gap between what you are privately and what you are publicly. This is huge. Far too many people (including church leaders) worry more about their image than their character. That is, they are more concerned about how they are perceived by others than what they are when no one is looking. Address the gap and refuse to rationalize.
10. Claim God’s forgiving and sustaining grace. 2013 can be a fresh beginning. Thank God for his gracious forgiveness. Believe that his grace is sufficient for you as you begin a new year.