LaCount Anderson, left, CBF field coordinator in North Carolina, takes communion during worship at the 2012 General Assembly.
LaCount Anderson, left, CBF field coordinator in North Carolina, takes communion during worship at the 2012 General Assembly.

Making spiritual resolutions

Like Lent, many see New Year's as an ideal time to revisit and reinvent spiritual lives.

By Jeff Brumley

New Year’s resolutions usually involve vows of eating better, exercising more and maybe delving into the self-help section at the book store. But for others it also means renewing or reinventing efforts to get right with, or closer to, God.

Pastors who specialize in spiritual formation say New Year's is one of those times -- Lent being another one -- when the mind and heart naturally bend toward spiritual improvement. 

The season offers “a natural rhythm to begin something new, to wipe the slate clean and start fresh” in one’s faith life, said Jayne Davis, minister of spiritual formation at First Baptist Church in Wilmington, N.C.

Davis said it's common for spiritual formation ministers to see a spike in interest this time of year from people asking what books or devotional practices they can add to reinvigorate their walk with Christ.

“It’s also a time when people are more likely to join a small group or start a class,” she said.

Davis said she uses a “Do’s and Don’ts” worksheet for New Year’s Resolutions. It includes admonitions against making resolutions that are too complex or legalistic, and remembering to make “becoming more Christlike” a central goal.

ABPnews solicited thoughts from a number of readers about their faith-based New Year’s resolutions. Some were short and simple, others a bit more involved. Here’s a sampling of answers received from the question "what are your spiritual resolutions for 2013?"

LaCount Anderson, Cooperative Baptist field coordinator in North Carolina: My intentions are to spend more time with God. I have been influenced by a book entitled Hearing God by Dallas Willard. The book has inspired me to spend more time communicating with Him. What I mean is spending more quality time with God, intentionally building time each day listening to him in reflection and contemplation.

George Bullard, general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship: One is to focus more deeply on the hopes, dreams, cares and fears of people in my church; to make it a more caring fellowship. To do this I have agreed to serve as a deacon in my church again, beginning in 2013, and take responsibility for pastoral care. Another is to help people in the Bible study group I teach in my church to distinguish between biblical truth and culture interpretation of Scripture; to understand more deeply what the diversity of Baptists in North America really believe in my role as general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship.

Anne England, minister of youth at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla.: One of my goals for 2013 is to do a better job of diversifying my reading list. Mix in more fiction and nonfiction into my pile of theology books.

Nell Green, CBF field personnel: I believe God has a voice and speaks. I believe the Word is always wanting to speak and the Spirit to guide. Sometimes it seems easy to hear that still, small voice. Other times it seems I am just wandering along on my own. … I plan on spending time reading various spiritual classics and nurturing my relationship with God in such a way that hopefully hearing his voice becomes a natural occurrence.

Andy Hale, pastor of Mosaic, a CBF missional church plant in Clayton, N.C.: My goal for 2013 is to help others discover their God-given strengths and talents, so that they can serve Christ more authentically and grow the Kingdom of God. My hope is that each person is not merely stuck in an opening of service at Mosaic, but instead, individuals will have the opportunity to discover, harness and engage their strengths within the Mosaic community and their everyday lives.  

Ellen Sechrest, minister of spiritual formation and missions at Boulevard Baptist Church in Anderson, S.C.: My personal goal is to strive to be faithful to the practices I learned at the “5 Day Spiritual Academy” in October. This was a great refresher that helped me reconnect to the Spirit, and by doing so I recognized what I had been missing and deeply needing. I intend to stay faithful through participation in my peer learning group. I'm reading more and trying to be intentional in seeking out books and people that help me sense the presence of the Spirit in both them and me. 

Bo Prosser, CBF coordinator of missional congregations: To work more on the spiritual discipline of humility -- not the self-deprecating or compliment-deflecting kind of "modern humility," but the depth of spiritual awe of understanding that I am a child of God and that God is guiding me in ways that lead to a future and a hope. I'm doing this through spiritual direction, readings, and continuing education ... and prayer -- lots of prayer.