Challenges for the New Year

Greetings, Friends!

 Did you know 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions?  That’s great news!  Forty percent of Americans want somehow to be better people in 2019 than they were in 2018.  Here’s the bad news: Only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.  Only 8% take their self-improvement seriously.

 Setting New Year’s resolutions has become an exercise in futility for most people.  The truth is, any day of the year can become a starting point for self-improvement.  January 1 is just easy to remember.

 While avoiding terms like goals and resolutions, I want to pastorally challenge you in two areas for 2019.  #1: Read through the Bible this year.  Baptists have long been almost rabidly insistent that we are “people of the Book.”  But, statistically, very few Christians read the Bible on a regular basis, despite evidence that Bible study is necessary for spiritual growth.  Ed Stetzer says,

Statistically, you can see a recurring pattern: Bible engagement is directly related to spiritual growth.

God's Word is truth, so it should come as no surprise that reading and studying the Bible are still the activities that have the most statistical influence on growth in this attribute of spiritual maturity. As basic as that is, there are still numerous churchgoers who are not reading the Bible regularly. You simply won't grow if you don't know God and spend time in God's Word. Bible reading won't make you a Christian and you can't grow without the power of the Spirit, but engaging the word deeply matters.

 We’ve attached a chronological Bible reading plan for you to use.  With this plan, you’ll read through the Bible in the order the events happened.  This helps us see the Bible as one unfolding story, leading to Jesus Christ, instead of separate books that sometimes seem disconnected.

 #2: Visit another church.  (I can hear the deacons and trustees wailing, “No!”)  I know you’ll come back.  Visit a church you’ve never visited before, where you know no one, and that is different in style to FBC (either highly casual or liturgical).  I want you to experience what it’s like to be an outsider in church, to not recognize anyone, to not know where to sit, when to stand, or how to act.  This experience makes us more aware of what it’s like for a stranger to walk into our midst, and more likely to respond in truly welcoming ways.

 2019 holds ups and downs for all of us.  I pray for God’s blessings on you in the New Year; even more, I pray God uses you as a blessing in the New Year.

 Pastor Rich