Press Forward to God’s Goal for You This Year
What to Expect in 2018 – Part 1
I don’t know about you, but 2017 has been a crazy year. It’s also been a difficult year for me personally, as well as in the ministry. If I were to look to just at what I have accomplished and what I have to look forward to this year, I see more challenges than accomplishments, more obstacles than opportunities, more problems than praises. That’s just what I see. Like Paul in this chapter, I have felt all of the emotions he has felt. I have felt beat up, bruised, and worthless. Yet, because I trust Jesus Christ, I have to press on. What does that look like?
So as I look to 2018, I have decided to press forward to God’s goal for me this year. You can see that the only way one can press forward is with Jesus leading the way. Paul makes every effort to take hold of the goal. But Jesus already knows the goal. He has already attained the goal.
“Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12, CSB)
Forget what is behind (Philippians 3:13)
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead,” (Philippians 3:13, CSB)
Forgetting what is behind in this church means a couple of things:
There are some things you and I am going to have to let go.
Some of us, including myself, are angry, upset, and perhaps bitter at the way this church has been treated by some people in the past. Depending upon your generation, that past may look different. You look back at this church and it is easier to feel discouraged than to feel hopeful. There have been many positive changes: new buildings, new people, and new ideas. But at the same time, some of us look with nostalgia to the past and we don’t seem ready to let it go.
There are some people you and I am going to have to say “goodbye” to.
The problem is the people. There are many people who have come and gone. Some have literally come into this world and gone out of this world. There are others who have come here and then moved to another church. There are still others who were traveling through. Depending upon your memory, some of this people helped you, and some of these people hurt you. To the ones who helped you, you thank God for their impact in your life. For those who hurt you, you are just going to have to let them go. As they say today: “Bye Felicia.”
There are some traditions you and I am going to have to let die.
Move forward (Philippians 3:13-14)
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13–14, CSB)
Moving forward as a church is important. We are going to have to work together to move forward. By moving forward, I mean a couple of things:
First, we will start a new prayer emphasis. (We move the food and fellowship to Sunday lunch and start a Concert of Praise and Prayer once a month.) Second, we will move forward in reaching out to the community. We will do this in three tent-pole community outreaches. Third, I will continue to visit 20 people a week for 50 weeks. That’s 1000 people. Fourth, we are going to develop a vision and mission, and a step by step system to make it easier for people to understand why this church exists. Fifth, we are going to take time to remember who we are and celebrate that, with a digital spin on things – the church directory pictures.
FOUR REMINDERS TO THINK ABOUT AS I LOOK FORWARD1
1. I will only grow if I keep looking forward. You can’t say – “I want it like it was before.” Growth means that you change some things. For Christians, it may be some habits. For churches, it may be some methods and traditions.
2. I will only win the race when I look forward to Jesus. You can’t say – “I can do this all by myself.” Winning the race means that you work in a team with Jesus. Jesus is there to coach you. He is your cheerleader. He will help you win the race. But you have to keep looking to Him – not to anyone else, or anything else. Jesus needs to be your Source. This takes prayer. You have to be praying and listening to Jesus to move forward.
3. I have to believe that the future is brighter than the past. You can’t say – “It can’t get any better.” The truth is: Yes – it will get better. You have to take all of your negative thoughts and submit them to Christ. Christians need to think forward because God thinks forward. God doesn’t stay in the past. You shouldn’t either. God doesn’t stay in the past. Your church shouldn’t stay in the past.
4. I have to know that God’s love for me didn’t end when I accepted Jesus. You can’t say – “God doesn’t love me any more.” God still loves you right where you are. He just doesn’t want you to stay right where you are. God’s love for you grows just as you decide to look forward and grow. God wants to help you with your future. Why? Because He wants you to reach the goal – eternal life with Him in heaven. You can’t there by looking back to your past here on earth. Nothing will separate you from the love of God in Jesus Christ, not even your past. There is much more ahead of you in God’s love than behind you.
Move upward (Philippians 3:15-16)
“Therefore, let all of us who are mature think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this also to you. In any case, we should live up to whatever truth we have attained.” (Philippians 3:15–16, CSB)
When we talk about moving forward, we must also talk about moving upward. Paul says that if we are mature, we are going to forget the past and move forward. Some of us, though, haven’t reached the ability to think this way. We haven’t grown up. We haven’t moved upward.
God is not satisfied that you’ve taken one step, no more than you are satisfied that your children take their first step. All they did was get started. My children still have to go to school. They still have to go through the teenage years. My kids still have to grow up and get married and have a family. The first step is great, but don’t stop with excitement over the first step. All that’s occurred is the introduction to spiritual life. There is an ongoing process of developing in the body of Christ.2
First, we are going to move upward with Upwards Sports. I plan to organize four clinics in 2018 about four different sports: basketball, soccer, flag football, and cheerleading. We will use these four clinics to reach out to new kids and families. The goal is to connect these with the children’s ministry.
Second, we are going to move upwards in community. I mean we will increase the number of Sunday School enrollment, Sunday School classes. The more people we have enrolled in Sunday School, the more people who will attend. The more people who attend Sunday School, the more people who will be committed to this church. If a person attends Sunday School in this church, then that person is more committed.
ORBITS OF CONNECTION TO THE CHURCH
You see, there are four orbits in which we have people who connect with this church. You can compare this to different objects that orbit the Earth. The moon orbits the Earth. GPS satellites orbit the Earth at a lower orbit than the moon. Different planets orbit the sun using different orbits. Pluto is the furthest planet with the longest orbit around the Sun. Mercury has the closest orbit. Different planets have different orbits.
In the same way, people connect with this church in different orbits. The first orbit is the digital orbit. These are the people are who are watching the sermons online, they are liking the events on our Facebook page. They look at our website and they are just watchers. They are involved in that they are attracted to some of what we are doing. But their orbit is very far.
The second orbit is the community orbit. The people in this orbit may be people who have liked our page on Facebook, but now they have decided to come to our event. The fact is people in this orbit are going to other events as well. They go to our New Year’s Eve event, then they go to another church’s Upward Sports tournament. People go to a school event and then to another community event. They are moving out of the digital orbit into the community orbit.
The third orbit is the attendance orbit. The people in this orbit like our Facebook posts, attend some of our events, and they may attend a church service or two. They may make it to our service a couple of times. They may the commitment to join this church even. But they are not completely committed to this church.
The fourth orbit is the orbit of commitment. This is the closest orbit to the church. They show how close an orbit they like to have around this church by committing. They commit to Sunday School. That is the track they follow. They will eventually be involved in helping and leading activities and ministries in this church. They are the ones who commit the most financial resources to this church.
The key to moving upwards in community is for the church to move out and catch more people in orbits around this church. Increase our Facebook presence. Increase our community presence. Involve more people in our activities at the church. Make a better effort at building relationships so as to increase our Sunday School class commitments.
Third, we are going to move upwards in leadership development. I will conduct a set of EQUIP Leadership classes for every church in the Association hosted here at the Activity Center. My goal is to train 100 new leaders, and many of them who come here. The reason I am going to lead these sessions is because the more leaders you can train, the more people you can reach.
Fourth, we will move upwards in financial stability. We will continue to promote giving online through the Paypal Giving Fund. We will start another Financial Peace University Class in order to teach a younger generation about financial responsibility with Biblical values.
Fifth, we are going to move upwards by highlighting during the year what makes this church great. We will do this in a series of actions that will promote this church. This may come later in the year. We will start by taking photos for a new church directory. That is coming this spring. Then we will do other ways to visibly highlight our church.
We will promote people who are committed to this church online and in the paper. As a church, we will develop a new logo that we can put on caps, shirts, and coats. We will make efforts to promote this church. Get our name out there. Get people to see that we care about them and about each other. I am not content to continue to move upward alone. Because this is going to take an enormous amount of work on my part. But I believe that God will honor us if we honor Him. We will:
“Forget what is behind.”
1 Jim Erwin, “Philippians 3:13-14 Learning to Look Forward,” sermon, 4 January 2007, Internet, Patheos, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jimerwin/2007/01/04/philippians-313-14-learning-to-look-forward/, accessed on 5 January 2018.