by Pastor Larry Sorrells, Rockville, Trinity UMC
When it comes to the New Year, most people are happy to see this one end and openly welcome the new one. This year has been a historically difficult one, so there has been a renewed rash of New Year’s resolutions.
When it comes to the types of resolutions people make, Americans focus on self-oriented changes. According to the Barna Group, among those planning to make resolutions, the top pledges for 2021 relate to weight, diet and health (30%); money, debt, and finances (15%); personal improvement (13%); addiction (12%); job and career (5%); spiritual or church-related (5%); and educational (4%). Personal improvement responses included being a better person; giving more; having more personal or leisure time, organizing their life or home, and having a better life in general.
People concentrate on themselves when making New Year’s resolutions, and few say they want to improve relationships with others. Nearly no one mentioned volunteering or serving others. Only a handful commented about marriage or parenting; almost no responses focused on being a better friend, and only a small fraction of people mentioned improving their connection with God.
A leading researcher of the group explained, “Less than 1% of survey respondents mentioned that one of their objectives for next year was getting closer to God in some way. Even in the rare instance when people mention spiritual goals, it is often about activity undertaken for God, rather than a personal pursuit of God or an experience with God.”
We maintain a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions: millions of people make them, but they rarely report success. Most people want some personal change in their lives, but achieving it isn’t easy. We focus on individual change rather than realizing that lasting change often serves and sacrifices for others. Churches have a significant opportunity to help people identify what makes for transformational change and achieve those goals beyond individual efforts.
To receive this fresh wind of the Spirit from God requires us to pursue the right relationship with God. This relationship is the most important relationship we have as Christians. Yet, few of us give it the proper attention and cultivate that relationship to keep it healthy and vibrant. This year let’s make that commitment. Blessings.