By Tim Spivey
One of the best ministry tips I might suggest at this time of year is to watch out for the pitfalls of church “resolutions.” ‘Tis the season to resolve to do things, and there is nothing wrong with that. I have some goals of my own. Our church has some, as well. However, our resolutions can become our nemesis. If a church fails to meet human-generated goals year after year, it will injure the church’s long-term resolve and erode their trust in leadership.
One of the primary reasons we don’t trust politicians is because they promise things they cannot deliver, or deliver the promised result through inappropriate means. This leads to a feeling of betrayal or a sense that we ought not to take what they say too seriously. When Jesus talks about not swearing, but instead letting our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no,” He provides us some good wisdom for both life and ministry.
If you have Vision Sundays or budgets or capital campaigns or foyer conversations with the church, use “yes,” “no,” or “I’m not sure.” Use, “Can you give me some time to think about that?” Even as we set goals we believe honor the Lord, let’s not promise things we can’t deliver. If your church is setting some goals this year (and you should), be wise. Don’t, under the cloak of “faith” set a goal that will require God to part the Red Sea or raise the dead to achieve. That’s not faith, that’s testing God. Remember, God parted the Red Sea (extraordinary) as Moses and the Israelites were simply trying to get away from Pharaoh. They weren’t seeking a miracle; God performed one in the midst of everyday life. In my experience, God delivers huge blessings as we follow cloud and fire faithfully each day.
Don’t promise the 10,000 baptisms this year. Set a goal to reach more people for Jesus, and have some concrete ways you’re going to do it. Don’t resolve your church is going to end all human trafficking over the next year. Instead, set the abolition of human trafficking as a value. Then, develop some clear steps toward that end. Join some other churches that have the same passion. Tell the truth. Avoid hyperbole.
Embrace vision, not hallucination.
Embrace vision, not dreams.
Let’s avoid flinging our churches off the roof of the Temple and telling God He promised not to let our foot dash against a stone. Instead, let’s set goals more consistent with daily discipleship and daily following of cloud and fire. We shouldn’t be surprised if God parts the Sea in front of us.
I’m not saying we should all aim low or not set goals. I’m suggesting we understand the difference between vision and hallucination, and stick with vision. Let’s have ambitious vision and clear steps, not hallucinations. Then, we can stand back at the end of the year and marvel at what God has done, not what we humans failed to achieve.
Tim Spivey is lead planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, CA. Tim is also an adjunct professor of religion at Pepperdine University and purveyor of New Vintage Leadership, a blog offering cutting-edge insights on leadership and theology. He is the author of numerous articles and the book “Jesus, the Powerful Servant.”