We have a new TV at our house. It was probably overdue, because our previous TV was 15 years old, square, and only showed about two-thirds of the information that now seems to scroll continuously along the bottom of the screen.
But that outdated, misshapen, low resolution, antiquated TV simply would not die on its own, though I would occasionally toss the dog a ball in its direction, hoping something would happen. The old TV was still functional, and so year after year, we kept settling for that increasingly dated picture of our world.
As we now enter a new year, I feel the need for higher resolution in my spiritual life as well. Perhaps you do too. I don’t want to keep settling for an old picture of how things are, or how they should be, while the rest of the world is so quickly changing around me. I want my life and my church to have a sharp, accurate new picture of our purpose and mission in the world.
What does that mean? Well first, I think I need a new, higher-resolution picture of lost people. I need to stop seeing those around me who don’t know Christ as satisfied, self-sufficient neighbors who deserve their privacy. I need to see them clearly as hollow souls, spiritually dead on the inside, who are living life with quiet, inward desperation until someone finds a way to break through with the good news about Jesus.
I also need a higher resolution picture of what it actually takes for me and my church to deliver this good news. I can’t keep seeing the routine weekly schedule of my church as an adequate witness in my community. I need to see clearly what behaviors and changes are needed to actually share the gospel with people, and welcome them into the family of disciples that we call church.
I wrote recently about five actions that, statistically speaking, most often result in people coming to faith in Christ. They are an evangelistic prayer strategy, Vacation Bible School, witness training, outreach events, and starting intentional new groups. If my church and I don’t at least embrace those proven actions, we’re probably not seeing clearly at all.
Finally, I also need a higher resolution on what people, organizations, and partners are actually advancing the gospel, and most deserving of my time and resources. A couple of years ago, my wife and I updated our estate plan, and it made us think carefully about where we want the resources of our life to go. Sadly, in just a short time, some of those organizations or people have changed or drifted enough that we feel a need to rethink our plan. We want to generously give our best, but with a clear, current picture of where our investment brings the greatest Kingdom return. I’m happy to say that our cooperative missions work here in Illinois is still on the top of that list.
You should see our new TV. It’s not only larger than the old one, the picture is incredibly sharp, it’s relatively lightweight, and because it’s a “smart” TV, we can now access all kinds of new features through the Internet. It’s amazing. Yet it cost less than half of what we paid for its antique predecessor 15 years ago.
I can see things so much more clearly now. It makes me wonder why I waited so long to get a better picture. I don’t want to wait any longer to get a clearer picture of what it takes to reach people with the gospel either. I think that higher resolution will also give me higher resolutions for this new year.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org. This column appears in the 1/4/16 issue of the Illinois Baptist.