Lay Ministry: A Clean Slate for the New Year


A Clean Slate for the New Year

Once a year each of us is afforded the chance to start over with our attitudes, actions, and our verbal communications with other people. Each New Year we make resolutions of which we keep some and some we don’t even keep until nightfall of New Year’s Day. It is a luxury to live in a country where our mistakes, especially slips of the tongue, can be corrected and we can start over each New Year. We may have to say we are sorry and that we did not mean to hurt someone’s feelings, but we do have the opportunity to start over. I write this knowing full well there are those in our United States who have lost jobs and careers over things they have said about sensitive subjects that explode in social media and cost them their job or their reputation, or both.

There is a good chance those who read this column have said things, they wish they could take back, to family, work colleagues, school mates, other Christian friends and acquaintances. Many of us will say things we really don’t mean to workers in public places or over the phone to people who are just doing their jobs. I will say before going any further, telemarketers at best, test our patience.  I will preface, I have nothing against telemarketers personally, but I do not like the job they do in making unsolicited calls, trying to sell a product or a cause. It seems they always call at the most impropriate time.

While on the subject of telemarketers, an acquaintance of mine told me his solution to telemarketers calling is that he asked them before they could give their message, if they had given their lives to Jesus Christ as their Savior? Fortunately or unfortunately, either way the conversation usually ends at this point. I asked my friend if this was a smart answer way of getting rid of the caller and he said maybe so, but for sure it left a lasting impression on the person who called. He said somewhere later when the telemarketers were comparing notes of their daily calls; that caller probably said to a fellow colleague caller, you won’t believe what this man asked me today.  Had I given my life to Jesus Christ? 

I ‘m not sure Jesus Christ would have answered a telemarketer in the same manner, he probably would have been more polite and listened to the sales pitch and then asked, "Why don’t you put down the phone and follow me. I will promise you eternal life for free."

Don’t we often call God, and we become the telemarketer, trying to sell ourselves and our needs to someone who already knows our needs and desires before we can ask or give our stock message?

In a New Year, we also get to start over in many other ways. We can renew our relationship with God and start anew with a clean slate. All we have to do is tell God we are tired of the way we have been communicating with him and would like to start over, opening up a new channel of communication through our prayers. Have you noticed how we may go for long periods of time and never think to pray for someone to whom we are connected, until there is a problem with that particular person? Perhaps an illness or a devastating problem causes us to have real concern for this person, and we make an attempt to pray for them. Our prayers seem shallow but God still hears them and will weigh them in his healing and care of that person.

A perfect example of how we pray when there is a problem or situation we have never personally encountered before, such as “Sandy” in November of 2012 or the useless killing of the small school children in Connecticut in December of 2012. More than likely, those reading this column do not know any of the families of the useless massacre, yet we find ourselves praying for these hurting families. I feel God hears these prayers and that our prayers help in the healing even many miles away.

When we pray for situations of tragedy that suddenly happen, then we are praying from a clean slate and helpful in our personal healing because if we are praying in earnest for those we don’t know, then we care for them as well.

Each Christian has others who have prayed for them in times past, in the present and regularly. When we have troubles, it’s comforting to know there are other Christians that are praying from a clean slate for us.

I know there are United Methodists of North Alabama that have and hopefully now pray for me as I represent the Laity of North Alabama. I thank you for the prayers that have been prayed, and for those to be played for me and for the Conference Lay Ministry team as well.

Bishop Debbie Wallace-Padgett came to North Alabama in September of 2012 and she is offering us an opportunity to start over with a clean slate in ministry and we should keep her in our prayers as she performs her duties as the Episcopal leader of North Alabama. Bishop Wallace-Padgett and her influence on our ministry is a gift for the New Year from God, and God through her is giving us a chance for change that will be beneficial to Clergy and Laity of North Alabama.

God be with you in this New Year, and may each of you have a clean slate to fill with prayers for everyone you know, or don’t know.

Happy New Year,
Steve Lyles
Conference Lay Leader

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