Often a new year brings with it renewed hopes and dreams and optimism for the year ahead. Refreshed and energized, we are excited about what lies ahead. Now that 2018 is here, I am PUMPED!
For some months now I have sensed that the Spirit is up to something at Downtown Church. There are indicators all around us – spirit-filled worship, thriving ministry to our neighbors and growing table groups. Specifically in the Children’s Ministry, there’s excitement about learning about God. Kids are eagerly pursuing opportunities to participate in worship (both Children’s Church and our corporate worship service). Friendships are nurtured, even with our youngest ones, due to the time they spend together learning about God and also doing life together during the week.
On the last Sunday of December I had the opportunity to bring the message. I spoke about our God, The Promise Keeper. Often when I have the chance to preach, what I share is simply a debrief of what I have wrestled with personally with God. I deliver from a place of personal experience and share what I’ve learned as a result of that wrestling.
God has made several promises to me personally. Some have come to pass. Others are undeniably in process. Others, I know he spoke them. But it is hard to see how or when they will materialize. With those, I simply hope and trust as I am awaiting the fulfillment. For our ministry to children at Downtown Church, I know he has made a promise and am excited about us being able to join together with him in the work of accomplishing it. The promise is for a revamped ministry that seeks to strengthen the entire family through discipleship and, for our kids, a new approach to Sunday mornings.
A few days ago, I was prompted (by the Spirit) to turn to Isaiah 43:18-19 because I heard the words “I’m doing a new thing”. A familiar passage, I approached reading it with expectancy, to get a specific word regarding our ministry to children. After reading the KJV I transposed it into a direct word for me. Here’s what I received:
“Do not commemorate or consider the former things nor discern the things of the past.” Pause.
There were some great ministry and mission opportunities at Downtown over the past few years that strengthened and equipped families. There were great programs and curriculums that helped kids learn and bury the word in their hearts. In the past 12-18 months there have been some creative experiences that have drawn our kids hearts closer to Jesus. Yet, the things of the past aren’t going to sustain us moving forward. Surely they can inform our future ministry but they can’t be the benchmarks of success for the future.
“Look! I will do a fresh thing, now it shall sprout up and grow; shall you not recognize it?”
It’s coming! So we need to get ready for this fresh, new thing that will grow. In a few weeks the congregation will consider 3 goals for this year. One of which is a focus on strengthening the family. This is new in that our ministry to children, at least since I’ve been here, has not intentionally sought to disciple and equip families. With this new focus, let’s prepare our hearts to receive it and then mobilize to determine how to realize it. This requires open minds, a willingness to dream and attentiveness to his voice. In order to nurture the “sprouting up” and growth, we’ll need to work cooperatively for his kingdom and his glory.
This passage is a great promise. But for me, the next part is when it gets good! Now, if you know me, you may be surprised to know I’m a shouter. In certain worship experiences, my nephew sometimes looks at me and wonders if he needs to let me past so I can run in the aisles. That’s just how joyful I can get when I think about the goodness of the Lord, his love and his blessings. (But mind you, I typically stay in my little area and just shout there, lol.) Anyways, this is where I’d insert a shout because of the continuation of his promise:
“I will even make a path in the wasteland and a stream in the wasteland.”
What a promise! Not only will he do a fresh thing in and through us he has promised a path and a stream. The path is the route we will travel together into a thriving, holistic ministry to the family. In order to travel this route, I believe it will require us to maintain a learner mindset while remaining true to the core goal of strengthening our families. This route will allow freedom to think creatively, try new things and collaboratively travel forward together. I picture us as a group knit together, bound by a common goal, but also genuinely relating in the process to strengthen one another and grow together in love.
Coupled with this path in the wasteland is a stream, or river. Rivers are sources of life. For they support seeds growing into sustainable vegetation. Rivers support growth of communities allowing their inhabitants to prosper. Think about early civilizations that were situated by rivers. Commerce and trade succeeded. There was life and innovation. I believe our rivers can do the same, providing richness to our church and community through ministry that builds up individual family members, as well as the whole family. As families grow and are strengthened, the entire community benefits.
The Bible talks about “rivers of living water”, referencing the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. This fresh, new thing, is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that each of us individually are being filled to overflowing with his Spirit. I also pray that collectively we are guided by this same Spirit and that he works mightily through us for his glory.
I am ready for this “new thing”. Won’t you join me?
P.S. What new things are you expecting God to do in your life in 2018? Share so we can join you in celebration of what’s to come and pray with you throughout the journey.