I'm not a big believer in New Year's Resolutions. I understand that may make me a curmudgeon but in reality I've always thought if you want to do something, you will. Priorities matter, and each time I've failed in something it was because I really enjoyed the idea of said thing, but wasn't genuinely "all-in" to the idea.
To set priorities, you've got to not only want something, you've got to be willing to completely recategorize your life so that you can effectively place what is important in the correct order for you to succeed, and that is why it is so hard for us to complete our resolutions:
We aren't resolute about those things at all.
Please understand I am not meaning to destroy the idea of resolutions; I am however wanting us to think differently about how we view them. As a Pastor, I consistently hear people saying how they want to change, want to stop doing the same 'ole thing that brings them such pain, and as a human, I share those sentiments in my own life as well. The things I have actually been able to see changed in my life and in the lives of others have all had two things in common: a willingness to sacrifice other things and the willpower/discipline to make the harder choice during the first few weeks of change.
The only way to truly do that however is to know what you are going to be about, which comes back to priorities. Priorities happen when our want-to's match up with our purpose and passion. With that in mind, I want to take a minute and share what Trailside Church is going to be resolute about this year. If you haven't listened to our podcast, or watched December 30th's worship experience, Ill be covering some of that here, but I would encourage you to go give that a listen before reading much further. (Simply click here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCojjuvJiwUf_HxMR7SzuasQ)
So with that being said, what is Trailside Church going to be resolute about in 2019?
1. Loving Jesus, and loving people exactly where they are in order to accomplish that goal.
In Mark 2, we see Jesus sitting with Levi and his tax collector buddies, eating and drinking. Now, I can't begin to truly share how vile and ill-thought of (and justly so) the tax collectors were in the scope of this blog. They were evil. They were extorters, launderers, horrific people, who would squeeze the last denarii out of a person's hand knowing that there was nothing that they could do about it. When we head to Mark 2 we see 2 things happening: Jesus sitting with the tax collectors and loving them while the religious pharisees cowardly approach his disciples (instead of Jesus himself) with their rebuttal. Jesus, being God and knowing their hearts, responds to them directly that "it is not the healthy who not a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners."
This is one thing we are going to resolve to do. We are dead set on being a church that loves people exactly where they are, with the only qualifier being that they are human beings who live in planet earth. We are going to unapologetically resolve to invite people to come for the sake of their eternity and the call Jesus commands us to, which is make disciples, baptize them, and equip them.
We also want to begin our student and college ministry in a more formal environment. Our goal is that we can begin to love the students of our city well, and that through some of our volunteers and our staff members we would be able to do that well. Hopefully we will have a plan in place very soon for you to hear and see so that we can begin to grow God's church and love and consider each season of someone's life.
Also, we are considering how we can begin to take a marriage and family retreat in the 2019 summer/fall months. We believe that strong marriages lead to strong families, and strong families lead to entire culture shifts within our community. Greenville County has so many broken homes, and families who are in need, marriages that are hurting and children who need their fathers that Trailside Church is resolving to being to be a part of the answer, in whatever capacity seems best for our church and families.
2. Serve Others, and do so with purpose.
In April of last year, we began our second Saturday service days. We started with a simple task, cooking breakfast for folks at Harmony Ridge, serving at the school we meet at, simple tasks. Our goal this year is to make a much bigger dent in the city. We have already begun partnering with the parks department and the city and adopting a park. We want to go into some new neighborhoods and have a monthly block party, while offering job training and resume help for those who need it, while connecting families to each other and our church. We want to have teams that serve along the trail and pass out water while being willing to pray for people who may need it, and more. We want to make a long term commitment to the city and the people of it by helping single moms and families who have car trouble a free and helping hand to get them back on the road again, homes that are in disrepair and in need of some help a free jump start, and much more.
In order to do those things however, we need you! We need people who will commit to leading teams to help. Who will commit to spending a few hours on Saturday to walk with people. People who will commit to generously giving so that we can serve and love the community in such audacious ways. We want to be a church that would be missed by the city if we closed the doors tomorrow. We can't do that alone. Trailside Church is resolving to make it a greater priority to serve our community through our 1-4-1 ministry and our 2nd Saturdays so that we can make Jesus famous and our mission valuable to our city.
3. Give Generously, and be known by our generosity.
Generosity stems from the core of the Gospel. In his own life, Jesus was generous. Generous with the time he spent with people, generous with the needs of the people that he met, and specifically in how he called those who love Him to also be generous.
Jesus spoke about money and stuff a ton. He said things like "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6) and spoke regularly of giving being a heart matter instead of an obligation (Mark 12). He told a rich young man that if he wanted to be perfect to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him.
We want to be known as a church that is generous with our giving not so that we can have a big building with fancy lights but so that we can see true ministry happen as it did in Jesus' day: meeting needs of people who are in need, feeding the hungry, doing the work of the church, and loving people who are sick in spirit and poor in hope. By modeling generosity, we can breed generosity, and when generosity is a mainstay of the church's DNA, God uses it to do incredible things in people's lives. Trailside Church is resolving that we will fearlessly preach and live generosity first so that we may model the generous heart of God to the city around us, and that begins with our staff and the people who inhabit our congregation.
4. Live in Community, because you weren't created to do life alone.
Too often we spend time hiding our vulnerabilities and shortcomings, all because we are fearful of what people may think of us. The only way around that is true community and relationship. Without it, we are going to continue to be a culture of people who try to out-spiritualize each other, each wanting to sound holier than the last.
How freeing would it be if instead of hiding the fact that we are actually broken and need other people, we thrived in it? Too often I've heard the old statement "that church over there is a bunch of hypocrites" and too seldom I've heard the response of "of course they are! We all are! Come join us and let's get better together!" The Gospel is clear: we are meant to love Jesus and then love and serve each other, which includes confessing sin to one another, spurring each other on toward living like Jesus, to pray for each other and lift each other up, to share in one another's burdens, to seek reconciliation, and to continually pray for restoration of relationship and heart. How can we do that if we aren't in true community?
Trailside Church is resolving to unabashedly seek out community, to live as people of confession, grace, togetherness, encouragement, and exhortation at every turn and season of life.
5. Be consistently excellent in quality, and excessive in grace.
Excellence is one thing that I continuously preach to our staff and leaders. Excellence in everything. If we were to have made plans for friends to come to town and stay with us and our house was a mess, the bedroom was full, and the sheets not laundered, what would that say to the people coming to stay? The church likewise needs to continue to consider that. I'm no fool- we meet in a middle school cafetorium. The rest rooms are very clean, but not ideal. We have wifi problems. Our chairs aren't super comfy, and we don't get to control the temperature; but we can make everything else as excellent as possible until we do. We always want everyone who walks through the door to know we are happy to have them there. From the moment they hit the parking lot until they check their kids in and reach their seat, every step should be consistent and excellent. Children's areas are clean and safe. The hallway swept and smelling nice (keeping a middle school smelling good is ridiculously hard work!) while the coffee is hot and ready to go.
The key for when it is not those things and we miss a spot or its a little colder than we like is grace. Excessive grace. Grace that is as unrelenting as the guilt and shame we chide ourselves with when we are in need of it most. Each opportunity is a learning moment, not a chance at shame. Each mess-up, silly decision, or total man-I-blew-it-I-can't-believe-what-happened-how-did-I-mess-it-up-this-bad should be measured with the same excess of grace, because when we model that to the people of the church, it will become modeled to the city and the people, and when people know the Gospel is accompanied by excessive grace instead of excessive judgement, the Holy Spirit tends to take over and lives are changed.
And we do that because we need to live in that same grace. In our Growth Track, I tell people we are a 70/30 church. 70 percent of what we are, you'll love. 30 percent, you may hate...but your 30 percent is someone else's 70, so let's enjoy this together and not be prideful to think our church's mission is to make sure you are happy. We've believed a lie in today's church culture: that church is about us, and the moment WE don't get what WE want, or the moment that WE have to do something we didn't want to, WE might as well take our ball and head home.
This is not the church that Jesus calls us to be. He calls us to be effectual in the level of forgiveness and grace we show each other. He calls us to be abundant in our habit of love. He calls us to follow Him, forsake ourselves, and do so for the sake of everyone else around us. Anything less than that is a miscue, and every miscue deserves unmerited grace, and in order to do that we must first look at our own lives and hearts and ask God to evaluate the current posture of it instead of using our own humanity to level our expectations and how we cannot believe so-and-so let us down. This cannot be the heart of the church! The generations before us have largely done too much damage and now people are losing trust in the Church at a mind blowing rate, and we are going to do whatever we can to stop the bleeding and begin rebuilding the Bride back up, as Jesus commands us to do.
Simply, the Gospel call, and one that we are going to be hellbent on pursuing at Trailside Church: love Jesus with everything we are, serve others so they may know of God's goodness, Live and Give Generously for the sake of His call, vision, and mission of our church, and seek excellence while living in grace.
I cannot -- and won't -- promise it will be easy. The moment it gets easy is the moment we aren't trying; but I absolutely will promise that it will be worth it. It will be worth it to hitch your wagon and your family's wagon to this vision and this hope. It will be worth it to help us build a home for people who are hurting and tired of the church game wearing them down and disqualifying them. It will be fulfilling being a part of seeing someone you may or may not currently know being pulled from the baptismal waters...and in 2019, Trailside Church is going to give it everything we've got.
I hope you'll join us.