Each new year, we give ourselves an opportunity to get a new start by setting aside all that happened in the previous year. A new year gives us permission to clear our minds of all that happened the year before, both good and bad alike, and reset ourselves for another year.
However, taking the full benefit of the new beginning of the new year requires “The art of remembering and forgetting.”
We live in a world where we mistakenly think we can focus on the good we accomplished the year before and try to recreate that magic. In most cases, however, the success of one year does not carry over to the next. As a matter of fact, trying to repeat what we did before is an almost certain formula for failure.
When we want a fresh start, we need to forget our accomplishments or the numbers which we believe reflect our success of the past year, but we need to reflect on how we carried out our ministry. We can’t always control the outcomes, but we can control our attitudes and behaviors.
The success of our food bank ministry is not that we serve 350 people each Thursday but that we have dedicated our resources to helping people meet their food insecurity issues. Our success is not that we gave people food but that we greeted them and showed them love as followers of Jesus. Our success is not that we have a truck and have several sources of acquiring food, but our success was in our enabling three other churches to live out their faith in service.
Our success was not our numbers but that we cared. I have heard from the people at our food bank that they come to our site because our people are nice. They tell me that our site is the only place that greets them and thanks them for coming. It is also amazing to see the genuine care that has developed among the people in line.
In 2023, as we look for another year of successful ministry, we will not look at only the numbers. We will examine how we treat one another and how people experience the love of God through us when they encounter us, in worship, in service, in community work, or just out on the street.
Our mission is not to grow the church numerically but to show the love of God to those we meet. Jesus focused on teaching people how to live their lives, not on correct doctrine. Jesus taught his followers how to treat other people with compassion, love their neighbors, and not pass any judgment.
We do not measure our success by numbers. We measure our success by how we have loved. God does not accept us because we are morally superior, but we are accepted by God’s grace.
As we seek God’s vision for us in 2023, let us forget all that we did in 2022 but remember how we loved the people around us. Let us forget the number of people we served, but remember how we loved them and will do it again in 2023.