The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Co 5:17). The same could be said about 2017 transforming into 2018! Happy New Year! The New Year brings a lot of exciting things for the Florida-Georgia District. For one thing, it is our 70th Anniversary year. We will actively celebrate from Pentecost 2018 to Pentecost 2019 as the Spirit moves among us! It is also a Convention year, and that means that June will be a busy month.
The theme for the Convention comes from John 15:12-17, “Chosen with Purpose: To Abide in Jesus!” This section of John 15 begins with Jesus commanding that we love each other. He doesn’t give any option here. The disciples were to love each other the way that Jesus loved them, even to the point of laying down their lives. Imagine the power of that kind of love! It transformed them from servants into friends, depicting the kind of intimacy that Jesus longs to have with each of us.
Each day of the Convention we will experience His transforming love through a specific focus. As we begin on June 22 the theme will be “Abiding in His Presence,” as we gather together in His presence. There is no greater place for us to be than in the presence of Jesus! Day two will focus on “Abiding in His Fruit,” as we will do much of our Convention work on this day. These works of our hearts and hands are to bring glory and honor to Jesus! On the third day we will focus on “Abiding in His Love,” as we gather to worship and celebrate His love, and then are sent out into the world, not only abiding in that love, but also carrying that love with us into the world, starting right where we live!
Life is all about choices, isn’t it? From clothing styles to favorite foods to where we live, we make many choices every single day. In John 15:16, Jesus also talks about choices. He says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” Jesus chose each of us, but He chose us with purpose—to abide in Him, and to bear abiding fruit for Him. We are to be fruitful followers, connecting people to Jesus as we engage in the Master’s business.
Here’s what I know: an apple tree cannot bear peaches, and a plum tree will not grow bananas. As each is unique and created for a specific purpose, so also are each of us. The fruit borne in your life will not look the same as that which is borne in mine, and vice versa. In other words, this is not about comparing ourselves to another, but rather about living out our faith in the world each day for Jesus’ sake. It’s all about Jesus! As we abide in Him our lives are filled with fruit as a natural overflow of His love living in us. Unused fruit rots and is useless. Just so, we share the fruit of our faith with others so that they can be blessed by Jesus. May that guide our life and actions in 2018 and beyond!
A New Year is a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. Over the years I’ve learned that you can’t change the past, but you can make an impact on the future through the decisions you make today! As we look to the future what a blessing it would be if in the next five years we made every effort to grow God’s Church by bearing fruit and reaching more people with the Gospel and connecting them to Jesus. Currently the Florida-Georgia District has about 200 ministries and about 51,449 members. What might happen if each of our five regions intentionally worked together to raise up 10 new ministries by 2021? That amounts to about two new ministries per region each year. Jesus told us that the harvest is plentiful, and who of us could argue with that? What if we began by challenging ourselves our congregations to baptize 1000 babies and 2,000, adults all by 2019? That would mean each of the five regions would baptize 200 infants about 400 adults and in the next year! Now, think about this: with 203 congregations, this would amount to about 1 infant baptism and 2 adult baptisms per congregation in a year. It is certainly a possibility, but will only come about as we make every effort to grow God’s kingdom by connecting people to Jesus. In fact, I bet some of you are already thinking of people that might be reached as we work together. Mind you, this isn’t a numbers game at all, but rather a desire to bear fruit for Jesus by obeying His call to make disciples as we live in His love. Jesus reminds us that what we ask in His name, the Father will grant to us, so let’s ask Him to help us connect people to Jesus!
As you consider your personal resolutions for the New Year, let me encourage you to gather with the congregation or church leadership and resolve to baptize two adults and one infant this year. If you really want to challenge yourself, make it this quarter, and then follow the same pattern throughout 2018. You won’t get any extra points with God, but you will rejoice with the angels because of all the souls saved! You have been chosen with purpose, to abide in Jesus and bear fruit for Him. May this be a year filled with fruitful ministry for Jesus in the Florida-Georgia District!
Happy New Year!
In His peace,