God always uses five factors to grow and shape us, but our hearts need to be responsive to what He’s doing in order for us to really grow. In this message, Pastor Brandon Cox talks about preparing our hearts for a whole new year of growth.
2012 was an awesome year for Grace Hills! Angie and I arrived in northwest Arkansas with a big dream and have continued to be amazed at the great things God has done this year. We launched on January 15 with 176 people in attendance, far exceeding our goals and expectations. And in the last year, we’ve baptized 30 people, launched more than a half dozen Grace Groups, and have performed hundreds of hours of service to the northwest Arkansas community in partnership with local organizations. It’s been a good year – a year to celebrate – so glory to God!!
What’s coming in 2013? I don’t know. If that sounds strange, understand that I always approach the issue of “long range planning” with hesitancy because of the unpredictable variables. We don’t know who will come to be part of us in the next year, what will happen in our economy, or what unforeseen opportunities will arise. That’s why one of our core values is to “stay fast, fluid, and flexible. There are no sacred cows. We embrace the pain of change for the win of seeing more people meeting Jesus.”
While we remain flexible, we also believe strongly in vision, so we do plan, but we hold those plans with a loose grip. So here are a few of my intentions for 2013 based on the vision I believe God has given me as Grace Hills’ Lead Pastor…
- Grow a GREAT Children’s Ministry! We’re welcoming a new staff member on January 1 – Meredith Chapuis – who has a big vision for what God wants to do in Grace Hills’ kids. We’re going to create a better environment, improve on an already great teaching system, and reach more kids and families.
- Launch more Grace Groups, and get everyone into a group that we possibly can. We hope to have 12 groups going strong as soon as possible. We have a loose group structure. There may be men’s groups, women’s groups, singles’ groups, etc. but there will also be groups mixed with all kinds of people. If you’re part of Grace Hills, pray about hosting!
- Discover the purpose of life as we take February and March to go through a major, church-wide spiritual growth campaign called What On Earth Am I Here For? It’s based on the tenth anniversary re-release of the best-selling nonfiction book in American history outside the Bible, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, and thousands of other churches will be doing the same study at the same time.
- We currently offer a Newcomers’ Lunch, which has been very effective and successful at introducing people to Grace Hills, our vision, our values, and what it means to be a member. In 2013, we’ll launch two follow-up classes: Maturity Matters (an introduction to the basic habits for growing spiritually) and Ministry Matters (where people can explore how God shaped them to serve Him).
- We would love to launch a full-blown Celebrate Recovery. Grace Hills has already become a place where people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups feel accepted and welcomed. But we need to go further and offer solutions for healing in community.
- We keep doing some things we’ve done well – serving the community outside the theater walls, creating an environment where unchurched people feel comfortable investigating the faith and connecting with believers, and getting involved in messy lives in hands-on ways.
- We hope to plant another church, or at least be heavily involved in the planning phase. We always intended for Grace Hills to be “born pregnant” and be a teaching hospital for multiplying new churches for the Kingdom, and we want to stick to that vision.
- We may just move, physically. The movie theater has been a great place to start, for plenty of reasons, but we’re also testing its limits in terms of housing all that we do on the weekend and all that we wish to do during the week. I see a possible new, leased facility as a place to start and launch new groups and ministries. We will remain committed to both gathering and scattering, and a better space would be a great tool for doing both.
As I wrote before, I don’t know all of the unplanned and unpredictable opportunities that God will open before us in the upcoming year. What I do know is that I’m ready to see God move in a fresh and powerful way in the northwest Arkansas community to awaken people to the reality and the life-changing power of the gospel.
If you’re part of Grace Hills, I want to challenge you to adopt this vision as your own. As you give your time, talent, and treasure to see the dream become a reality, God is going to show up and do powerful things so that God ultimately gets the glory and the credit. Let’s spread the fame of Jesus so that the least, the last, and the lost can come to know Him!
2013 is gonna rock!
As a Pastor, I’ve always gotten excited about January 1. Everybody is busy at Christmas and while it’s a great time for outreach, it’s also a great time to get distracted from kingdom growth. January provides a month when people are calming down, seeking peace, and making fresh starts and new commitments. It’s the perfect time to challenge a congregation to go forward.
I’ve recorded about a 6 minute audio talk about leading in the new year, casting vision, and setting an agenda for forward progress.:http://brandonacox.com/wp-content/uploads/LeadingIntheNewYear.mp3|titles=Leading
I would love to hear your thoughts about leading a congregation around January 1. If you’re a leader, how do you lead? If you’re a member of a church, how do you respond to leadership around the new year?
This is based on my sermon for New Year’s, which comes from [youversion]2 Timothy 2:21[/youversion] and surrounding verses.
Is it even possible to really change? Millions of people must be asking that question, especially as we face another new year. You may already have a list of areas of your life you’re going to change. Whether they are “resolutions” or not, you’re hoping you can make it this year.
ONE GREAT TRUTH: Change is possible. In fact, it’s God’s plan for all of His children to change us into the image of Christ, but we have to be ready first – prepared for His use through repentance and renewal.
Donald Whitney has a way of putting things in perspective. He’s listed 31 great questions to ask at the beginning of each new year. Here are my favorites…
- What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
- What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
- In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
- What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
- What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
- What’s one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?
- What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?
- What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?
- In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?
These are ideal questions for journaling. Can you add one or two of your own in the comments below, or perhaps answer one or two?