A very happy (Methodist) new year to you all!
We Methodist Christians are lucky – we have two ‘New Years’. This one, starting in September (and echoing the educational year), marks a new annual cycle of Church events and celebrations.
This new year can pass by almost unnoticed, or be seen merely as the beginning of a well-rutted routine, now largely missing any sense of purpose or passion. But I hope not.
I want us all to consider how ‘the year of our Lord’ – September 2016 to August 2017 – might be lived out by those who desire to be better disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Ex-President of the Methodist Conference, Steve Wild, during his year of office 2015-16, challenged each Methodist to seek to bring one person to faith in Christ over the year. How about committing yourself to that this year?
Many of our meetings start up again: Disciple bible study, prayer and fellowship meetings; a new Alpha Course from 26 September; a new programme to train for prayer healing ministry, to name but a few. Is it time you committed yourself to one of these?
Or what about our commitment to Church attendance? A major book some years ago claimed that most churchgoers who cease to attend Church regularly or completely do not normally do so because they have ‘lost faith’. They do so simply because they have lost the habit – the good and right habit of gathering with others to praise and thank God, to sing and pray, to hear God’s word read and taught, to share bread and wine as blessed food for the journey. Is this a year to get more regularly into the habit?
Or what about some of the many ‘good works’ that need doing? John Wesley said that Methodists know no holiness but social holiness. By this he didn’t mean that what we do in Church was unimportant, he meant that Entire Sanctification (to use his usual phrase to describe ‘holiness’) is the sanctification of everything – every part of our lives, individually and collectively. So what are we going to volunteer for this year? How are we going to make a difference, to transform the world, if only our little bit of it, for good and for God, this year?
And what about our giving of money? We want to respond to God’s faithfulness, we want to be generous, we want to support those things that deepen discipleship and expand our partnering in the mission of God in the world. But as with everything else, this needs resources. When it comes to realistic giving, are we on a diet!
So, what will you resolve, in order to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ in 2016-2017?
Happy new year!
Revd Dr Martyn Atkins