By the EDITOR
In just a few short days a bright new year will dawn. 1999 will be born, and the prospect of 365 days to spend will be before us.
For a lot of folks, the monotony of the day-to-day grind has become total boredom. They will face the new year with a "been-there-done-that" attitude. They have no vision, little energy and no excitement.
But with a world approaching six billion living souls, and millions of them perishing every year, we must not allow the spirit of lethargy to take lodging with us! We must not give comfort to indifference! We must not sluggishly and selfishly pass the time mired in defeat.
This is a dark day, but the light of the Gospel still shines. It is a strong, piercing, illuminating light. It destroys the darkness every place it is sent. We are not helpless, and we are not without mandate. Now is the time God has given to us, and frankly, we must not foolishly squander it.
I am challenged by the word we have from the Lord to Ďredeem the timeí:
"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time."ĖCol. 4:5.
Surely right now is an excellent time to "push the reset button" and get a fresh start. I want to encourage every Christian and every church to do so.
Just to make clear what I envision, let me offer these suggestions to you:
I. EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD "REDEEM THE TIME IN í99"
Every blood-bought, born-again son and daughter of the living God should personally and individually make heartfelt resolves for the new year.
(1) Dedicate yourself afresh to a daily walk with the Lord.
Pray, read your Bible, live by biblical concepts and principles, and keep your heart open and attuned to the Lord. Ask the Lord to guide your every step. Determine that you will stay in fellowship with the Lord as you go about your daily business.
(2) Read your Bible in its entirety.
You can do that, and you can do it this year. Call the Sword for our daily Bible-reading calendar (615-893-6700). Itís a very handy way to set a schedule and keep a record of what youíve done. Youíll be blessed by systematically and daily walking through the Bible.
(3) Commit yourself to three services a week.
Iíve never seen it fail! When a Christian gets fully serious about making his life count for the Lord, he starts showing up at church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. Building everything around your local church is neither new nor novel. Itís an old-fashioned plan that produces good results. Itís still the way to go. Cull out other time thieves in your schedule. Trim and trim some more until you can make it happen.
(4) Attend special meetings.
When your church has revival, Bible conference, etc., make adjustments to your schedule and be there.
Youíll find vacations are well spent coming to the National Sword of the Lord Conference or a Sword Ladiesí Jubilee.
These special events will add a dimension of blessing to your life. So many Christians hear of it but keep passing it up for lesser causes. 1999 is the year to start taking full advantage of these big meetings.
(5) Give yourself to soul winning.
Take the soul winnersí training your church offers. Become a part of the team of soul winners who actively go soul winning every week. Youíll be amazed at how God can use youĖand youíll be further amazed at what blessing comes to the soul winner himself.
You really canít afford not to tithe. If youíve been trying to manage your business without this obedience to God, Iím not surprised at your stress. Rearrange your finances and put your obligation (tithe) to God at the top of the list.
If youíve neglected this during 1999, why donít you write a check now and catch up before the end of December? Start right in í99 and keep it up every week.
(7) Stop rehearsing past hurts and failures.
If you are nursing some old wound, give it up! Let it go. The past is past. You have today, and with Godís help you can make it beautiful. But by all means, donít let some ugly thing from yesterday steal the joys of today and the hopes for tomorrow. Clean out the attic of your mindĖand stop rehearsing the trash of the past. As you enter í99 look up (to the Lord) and look forward (to the future).
(8) Share the vision of your pastor.
Youíll do well to find out the dream your pastor has for your church and for reaching your area for Christ. Let yourself in on that vision. Dream with him. Invest yourself in bringing that dream to reality. Walk side by side with the pastor. Work with him. Stand by him.
(9) Keep your spirit warm and excited.
If you fall prey to the Devilís snare in becoming a critic and a crank, you are going to lose a lot thatís important. Donít let yourself become the judge and jury of everybody close to you. You donít want to be treated that way, so donít you do it to others.
Learn the good songs of the Faith and sing them every day. Be patient with the faults of your fellow Christians. Stay upbeat even when things go awry. Keep the joys of the Lord flooding your soul and flowing out through your countenance. Stay sweet and keep your spirit and attitude excited!
(10) Trust the Lord.
You canít foresee every shadow that will fall across your path. You canít stop trouble from camping in your neighborhoodĖbut you can trust God. No matter what, you can trust Him. He never leaves you nor forsakes you. When darkness engulfs you, trust Him. When the burdens grow heavy, trust Him. When you donít know the answers and you canít explain the circumstances, trust Him. Just keep on trusting!
II. EVERY CHURCH SHOULD "REDEEM THE TIME IN í99"
The greatest place in your town is the church house. The Lord gave birth to the church. Itís His idea, and He intends that it be big in your life.
Surely every fundamental, Bible-believing church should chart a course to "Redeem the Time in í99." May I suggest:
(1) Set goals, make some plans, and dream again!
Goals are important! If you have a great cause (as we do), then there ought to be worthy goals. As we begin this new year, why donít we set goals for attendance, for souls saved, for baptisms, etc.? Make them reasonable, achievable goals, but do get them in place. Let everybody know what youíre shooting for. Be excited about it.
Then make plans that will assure you of reaching the goals. It will take more than idle talk: there has to be a plan! The plan should be spread over fifty-two weeks rather than just a few weeks here and there.
Donít be afraid to dream again. The Lord put you where you are, and until He decides otherwise, you are responsible for what and where He has put you. So come on, letís get up, set the goals, make big plans, and let the dream become reality in í99.
(2) Develop a fifty-two-week plan.
Have something going on at all seasons. Plan a variety of things, a balanced program.
Set a spring program during March, April and MayĖmaybe seven weeks in length.
Plan things for the summer too. Yes, a summer program! Keep the pace up during the summer. Donít just coast until vacations are over. Make your folks dread to go away! Amen!
Set a program for September, October, NovemberĖagain, seven or eight weeks of events.
Make December a month of Christmas-related things.
In January and February put together some things that will work for winter.
The idea is, keep things happeningĖfifty-two weeks a year!
(3) Prioritize on soul winning!
The pastor must set the pace by winning souls every week. If you have a staff, they must do the same. Deacons, Sunday school teachers, bus workers, etc., must be active in the soul-winning program of the church.
Set up a year-round training program and train soul winners. This is the main thing, our number one businessĖso letís get it on the front burner all year long!
(4) Plan some big days.
Forget "it canít be done," and letís do it! Many of the churches where Iíve been in 1998 have had all-time record days. They did it on purpose. It was no accident. You can do it too. Get your people committed to it and then go for it! Be creative, and youíll find it will come.
(5) Stay excited!
When we go to church, itís right to be warm, friendly, joyful and excited. We need to expect something! So letís talk excitedly about the church, the plans, the goals, and all that weíre into. Let the excitement show!
This excitement is not just for the big day. This is to be the norm for us. Yes, even on low Sundays, when the crowds are off, stay excited. Make coming to church a wonderful experience. Build a fire in the place. From the first note of music till the last amen, let the fire burn. Amen!
Three times a week, preach! On the big days, preach! When the attendance is down, preach! When troubleís stirring, preach! Whatever and whenever, preach!
(7) "Spiffy" up the place.
Thereís no excuse (absolutely none) for Sunday and Wednesday to roll around and the building be unswept and unclean. Get out those paintbrushes occasionally. Stash the trash. Put stuff away. Get things organized. Be ready for guests.
(8) Start something new.
Add a new class (if you have a good teacher), add a bus route (if you have workers), add a new ministry that will address a need. Find a way; get it going!
(9) Publicize what youíre doing.
You must tell your story to the general public in your area. If they know whatís happening at your place, they will feel much more inclined to come to see you.
Write press releases for your local media. Get on radio if you can. Churches with resources to do so should consider a local television ministry. Thousands of fliers should be circulated. Gospel tracts should be scattered freely and often. Keep your church visible all year long. If people know about you, it enhances everything youíre trying to do.
(10) Canvass your area.
An orchestrated effort to knock on every door in your "Jerusalem" as often as possible is a necessity. Get your troops organized and invade those neighborhoods. Weíll find more and more people coming to church if we go into the neighborhoods knocking on doors. Letís stop making excuses. Put your other plans in mothballs, and letís go do it.
Oh, dear pastor, dear Christian brother or sister, letís give 1999 a full effort. Letís make the kind of push that is worthy of our Saviour who gave His all for us.
"What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops."ĖMatt. 10:27.
We have heard from the Lord! We know what to do. We cannot be silent. Find a housetop and shout it!
A whole new year! 365 days! Letís not lose it in lethargy! Letís run the race excitedly and fervently.
Letís "Redeem the Time in í99"!