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Resolutions Done Right

A column to kick off 2012 by Ben Cathey, pastor of The Orchard Church in Loganville.

Why do so many resolutions fail? I think it’s simple. At their core, most resolutions are self-centered. Far to often our goal with resolutions is not so much to be better, but to out do another. We want to win, and in our winning we fail because we do not look outside ourselves. It does not take long to lose motivation for self-centered resolutions.

I wonder if you might take a step back this year when you think of resolutions.  Will your resolution be a desperate attempt at self-improvement that lasts for three weeks, or will you take the high road and think a little about your small place in the midst of things that are bigger than yourself? Disclaimer: I believe in a God who created everything we can see, touch, hear, sense, and feel. I believe that same God wrapped himself in human flesh on Christmas morning and grew to be the Savior for all people. People tell me to prove God’s existence to them and I say prove the existence of love, hate, or jealousy and get back to me.  There is enough proof that God, as I read about him in the Christian bible, exists and is present in this world for me to have faith. 

Here is my point. Whatever your faith background or perspective, try consulting your creator with your plans . . . your resolutions. I think God wants to hear from you.  I think God loves you deeply and wants to guide you in the coming year.  I think he has your best interests in mind.

Can I ask one more thing?  Don’t just plan.  Celebrate 2011 as you plan for 2012. Give thanks. Lift up the good things about last year and grow from them. I’ve included a model for thinking below. It is a new year’s resolution for a group of people called . I hope it will be helpful to you as you make plans for yourself, your family, your business, or your church. I shared it with the congregation on Dec. 18. As you read it, I wonder if you might also find five areas in your life that can be celebrated . . . and five areas that you can ask God to help you grow in the coming year. What if your life wasn’t just about you, what if it were bigger? And what if the God who created you could lead you in being bigger than yourself? What if your family, your business, or your church could tap into the purpose and potential God has in mind?

Let these two verses from the Bible inspire your thinking, and maybe even your prayers:

     Psalm 33:11
     But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,

     the purposes of his heart through all generations, (NLT)

     Jeremiah 29:11
     For I know the plans I have for you,”

     declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you

     and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (NLT)

Here is the plan for the people of The Orchard Church in 2012:

1. Provide Meaningful, Life Changing Worship Every Week of the Year.

Last year we hosted 104 weekly worship gatherings. On an average week, 486 men, women, teens, and children came together to praise God and learn from the Bible. 40 people joined the Orchard as members and 26 people have been baptized. Stories of life change and deeper commitments to Christ through worship are rich. We cheered as one young lady came up out of the water after giving a video testimony about a home life that felt like a storm and parents who discouraged her from encountering Christ. We celebrated the risen Christ with a record breaking crowd of 882 people on Easter Sunday. We kicked off the Greater Things campaign, had a beatitude adjustment, learned what kids know about parenting, hosted the first ever family experience Sunday, participated in the faith experiment, and improved our marriages through the different message series. It’s been a good year!

In 2012 we plan to grow the weekly worship experience by engaging people where they are at in life. With meaningful content, intentional worship, and exciting special Sundays we plan to grow spiritually and numerically in worship like never before! January will bring a message series that will help us partner with you in your spiritual journey. It’s called “Sign Me Up!”  On the last Sunday of January we will host our second ever Family Experience Sunday.  February will bring a series called Awake 21 where you will be challenged to fast, pray, and devote yourself to God.  It will end with a multi-generational experience called 30 hour famine. The first Sunday in March will bring our tenth anniversary celebration. Can you believe it? At the big ten-oh bash we will kick off a message series about how God’s mission is “unstoppable.” On May 6th we will celebrate the one year anniversary of the Greater Things campaign. During the summer months we will study the questions Jesus asked in Matthew. This coming December, each week of the message series will focus on a different Christmas Carol.  It’s going to be a life changing year. You won’t want to miss a single Sunday!

2. Grow Each Person Stronger in Faith Based on Individual Needs. 

Worship + 2 is hot y’all. Have you heard of Clarity, Confidence, Challenge, and Calling?  A stunning 92% of adults were involved with a grow group or serve team in 2011.  By bringing Alissa Rothschild on board as our group life pastor we have dramatically improved the way we do grow groups.  Starting Point, Beth Moore studies, and the marriage group were highlights from last year.  We have also expanded grow groups to include children and youth. We hosted 4 children’s groups and 11 youth grow groups this past year including a Tuesday youth challenge grow group where teens are not only learning about the Bible, but learning to write bible studies they can teach to other people.  We also take joy in the fact that the Orchard served well in 2011.  Seventy-two percent of our adults made a commitment to host others, lead worship, greet, take photos, coordinate outreach, keep children for leader events, visit the elderly, prepare communion, run A.V. equipment, clean the buildings, help in the office, maintain our campus, pray, care, deliver meals, act, create cool stage sets, produce videos, take care of our website, clean bathrooms, make coffee, welcome others, serve communion, or grow a garden . . .  WOW!    

In 2012 we want to amp up our grow group and serve team efforts by helping you engage in the growth stage that is right for you. We will offer the spiritual growth assessment as a tool to help you figure out if you need to engage God at a Clarity, Confidence, Challenge, or Calling stage.  You will be able to take the assessment online as many times as you like through out the year.  Each worship + 2 experience will be designed to help with a specific stage in the spiritual growth continuum. We will also offer the best sign-up system ever.  Find out more on January 8th as we unveil the new online sign-up system.  More grow group options will be offered for children, youth, and adults than ever before.  Our hope is that 100% of you will be involved beyond worship in 2012!

3. Do Exceptional Ministry with Children and Youth

2011 marked the best year of ministry with children and youth ever! Our investment in full-time staff for these areas is bearing fruit. Our K-12th graders are growing spiritually, learning about the bible, and inviting friends to join them like never before. Just ask a parent. Have you been by The Orchard on Wednesday evenings? The place buzzes with excitement as children gather in grow groups while teens get ready for 633. Voices are happy, music is rockin’, the skate park is open, and Pastor Rich and Pastor Mikey make sure the Word is taught. We do not believe in kid watching or baby sitting at The Orchard.  Our mission is to grow new and stronger followers of Jesus and that’s exactly what we do with children and youth. We engage them at an age appropriate level and teach them biblical principles in a way that they can apply the lessons to their world . . . at school, on the sports field, with friends, and at home. Have you seen the number of children and youth who have made authentic professions of faith through baptism this past year? God is good!

2012 promises to be an exceptional year as well. We will be improving ministry with youth right off the bat by providing Wednesday environments that are targeted to more narrow age groups. Middle schoolers will have more time to learn with middle schoolers and high schoolers will have more time to learn with high schoolers because we will be providing separate 633 experiences each week. Now we will be able to relate with students in ways that will help them grow best.  Plans are in place right now to do some minor room adjustments in the children’s building to make room for better break-out space for grow groups, 2HK, and mid-week activities. Let’s keep investing in ministry with children and youth as we reach and raise-up a new generation of Jesus followers.

4. Expand Fellowship Group Offerings to Grow Relationships

Have you been on a Women’s outing, attended a young adult social, gathered with other sing adults, or attend Married People date night? God uses relationships and retreat experiences to grow us stronger in faith. This past year we hosted over 40 women at the Women of Faith conference and over 30 attended our first ever women’s lock-in. Married People date night was a huge success, not just because of outstanding music and speaking, but because of tremendous feedback from couples. Our young adults have gathered to white water raft and serve through Project 52. The singles group is growing and has started to plan inexpensive monthly social outings.

In 2012 we want to continue to expand fellowship based ministry experiences by offering more options for women, men, singles, young adults, and married people to spend more time with people who are experiencing the same struggles, concerns, and joys because of similar life situations. By connecting people in meaningful fellowship based activities we will provide a sense of belonging and platform for spiritual discovery that is crucial for overall wellbeing and personal spiritual growth.

5. Show Jesus to Others through Missions, Outreach, and Compassion

Wow! Know what Project 52 is? It’s an attempt to reach outside the Orchard campus with simple illustrations of God’s love every week during 2011. Who would have thought that Project 52 would be as successful as it has been? Praise God! 442 of you have left the Orchard campus to serve in one or more of 72 different projects that have reached 11,645 people. Each contact is a small illustration of God’s love. Put them together and they add up to a big illustration of God’s love. One of the best comments was heard late in the year . .  “Oh, you are from the church that does this all the time.”  Yes! We are loving people into heaven all the time. We don’t believe that one bottled water, one cup of hot chocolate, or one free roll of toilet paper will cause someone to fall on their knees and accept Jesus as savior, but we do believe that a 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th gift that illustrates God’s love will begin to break through to people who will not admit that they need a church family, a savior, and a Godly life mission.  Way to go Orchard!

We have also shown Jesus to others through missions, special outreach events, and compassion ministries.  We organized a group of 15 people who carried God’s love to an orphanage in Jamaica as we hosted our first ever international missions trip.  We have successfully planted an Orchard garden and shared the produce with local people in need.  We have met practical needs in the community through the Jesus Action Ministry.  We have shown compassion with monthly Elder Care team visits to Southern Living Plantation.  In all of these ministries we are changing lives by reaching outside ourselves to show other people God’s love.

You guessed it! We believe that God is calling us to even greater mission, outreach, and compassion involvement than ever before in 2012.  Did I hear someone say, “Let’s do Project 52 in 2012?” Exactly! We plan to explore international mission opportunities. We plan to visit with elderly folks at least twelve different times. We plan to grow more vegetables than ever to share with needy people in our community. We plan to organize the Jesus Action Ministry is such a way that we will make a profound impact on the lives of individuals and families who live just a couple of miles from the entrance to our campus. We will do all this because it is God’s best for our lives and because he calls us to share his love with others around us!

Happy planning.

And Happy New Year!

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