HANCOCK COUNTY — Some see the face of resolution burnout in dwindling numbers at the gym come February.
The Rev. Todd Beale has seen it happen when some try to read Leviticus.
While there are plenty of people with goals this time of year to lose weight and/or exercise more, Beale — pastor of Community Christian Church in New Palestine — sees some people set spiritual goals as well. Local clergy members have some tips to offer to help those resolutions stick.
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Some of it sounds similar to advice offered for keeping other resolutions: Set realistic goals. Find a like-minded friend so you can encourage each other. Jump back in if you get off track.
The Rev. Paul Bravard, pastor of Westland Friends Church in Blue River Township, recommends reading the Bible, praying and journaling for those wanting to grow spiritually. He asks people what they’re going to give up to make room for the new practice: “With anything new, you have to give up something. What are you going to give up?”
He also often recommends practices he said people might not think of as practices: Go to church. Spend some time with fellow believers.
“We’re all called to follow the last passage in Matthew, … (but) we also have to have a renewal time to come together,” Bravard said. “Then we can go back out and hit the Great Commission.
“There’s tremendous value in getting together once a week. There’s also great value in getting together with folks to recharge.”
The Rev. Ethan Maple, lead pastor of the Movie Theater Church meeting in Mt. Comfort, also emphasizes relationships when he talks about resolutions to grow spiritually in 2018. He recommends having a mentor, being a mentor and having a peer for mutual encouragement. He points to the Apostle Paul’s mentorship of Timothy and friendship with Silas as examples from the Bible’s New Testament.
“Spiritual growth is not a solo expedition,” he wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “We all need a Paul, someone who we can learn about faith and life from. Secondly, we all need a Timothy, someone we can pour into and help them grow. And thirdly, we all need a Silas, someone who is in the trenches with us, walking alongside us.
“No matter where you are in your faith journey, these three people will help you get further.”
Speaking of the New Testament, Beale says that’s a good place to start reading the Bible, a common goal he hears voiced this time of year.
Many start at the first book of Genesis, he said. Some make it through that and through Exodus, but then they begin reading Leviticus and encounter some very detailed instructions about dietary laws, presenting offerings and more.
The clay pot the meat is cooked in must be broken; but if it is cooked in a bronze pot, the pot is to be scoured and rinsed with water,” reads Leviticus 6:28.)
That’s where some readers get “bogged down,” Beale said.
Instead, he recommends starting with one of the four gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, the first four books of the New Testament — and then reading the book of Acts, which tells of the early Christian church. That’s a good framework for reading the rest of the New Testament, which includes several letters from the Apostle Paul to churches he visited.
Then it might be time to go to Genesis, Beale said.
Or, it might be better to build a Bible-reading habit with a free audio app on the drive to work, or a study of verses on a particular topic, “trying to find something that’s pertinent and helpful helps you stick with it longer,” he said.
Having a friend who’s studying the material, too, also helps, he said. He thinks of women’s groups at his church who do a daily study on their own but meet to discuss the study every one or two weeks.
“Having somebody else there to help you helps push,” he said.
He also recommends serving in a ministry as a way to grow. He’s found that people who help feed homeless people or visit a nursing home are asked questions, and searching for answers to those questions helps fuel their Bible study.
“It’s something that gets you out of yourself,” he said.
“If you’ll do those two things — 10 to 15 minutes (daily) in the Word and one to two, or four hours (monthly) serving — they will do more for your spiritual growth than anything else could do.”