January 7, 2016

With Advent and Christmas behind us, January ushers in the (liturgical) season of Epiphany. Epiphany recognizes that the time between Jesus’ infancy and his recorded ministry was a time of growth and development. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man,” as the King James Version records in Luke 2:52. This emphasis on growth is important. Jesus wasn’t born wise; he needed to learn, grow and develop. At age 12, we find him studying, learning and asking questions in the temple. Jesus lived the human journey of learning and growing over time. Even his childhood sets an example for us to continue in our journey of learning and growing.

The American Baptist Churches, USA, our denominational family, recently proclaimed their ongoing commitment to learning and growing through identifying seven priorities for ABC ministry emphasis. Over the next 20 months they want to strategically engage the following topics: Next Generation of Leaders, Violence Discipleship, Poverty, Gospel in a Rapidly Changing Society, Women in Ministry, Alternative Models for Pastoral Ministry. I commend the work of our denomination in clarifying and articulating focuses for growth and prioritization.

As we enter a new year, we are given the same opportunity. Looking back at where we’ve come over 2015, and forward to all we hope for 2016, where are we learning and growing? How are we developing, and what do we want to prioritize in the year ahead? What are the ways – small or large – that God invites us to continue developing? What growing edges can we embrace as part of our ongoing journey to increase in wisdom and stature?

These questions are for both individual and communal reflection. As 2016 begins, I hope you will think about your own grace-filled opportunities for growth, and invite God to illuminate ways in which you can keep maturing. As 2016 unfolds, you will also be invited to participate in communal conversations about congregational growth and development. These conversations are still being developed, but the invitation goes out to all – as the calendar changes and time continues marching, may we follow in Jesus example to grow and develop ourselves into the likeness of Christ.

Peace on the journey,