Sadly, the closest most of us Christians get to an ongoing, formal process of reflection on what God is doing in and through us is the “what-are-you-thankful-for” exercise around the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Sure, there’s also the New Year’s Eve gathering, but this is as likely to be devoted to playing Pictionary and watching the live feed from Times Square as it is to a searching process of reflection.
In churches that follow a liturgical calendar, the various seasons of the liturgical year are designed to guide us through a process of reflection and worship, and yet…
Where is the point at which we stop and ask in the presence of God and our covenant community:
How did God grow me to be more like Christ this year? And in what specific ways is he prompting me to grow more like Christ in the year to come?
These two questions have always seemed to me to be among most pertinent questions Christians can ask, and yet it is perpetually surprising to me how little space is created for the asking and the answering.
Let’s change that.
I wrote The Whole Life Offering book as a Scriptural framework in which one can grow to fullness in Christ by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit as one becomes ever more attentive to Christ performing each of the Works of Mercy upon oneself, and as one mirrors those Works of Mercy into the world ever more fully as one’s reasonable worship to God.
There are ten Works of Mercy detailed in the book. When a period of preparation is added to the beginning and a period of reflection is added to the end, a total of twelve periods are created. What we do at .W is to devote a month to each of these periods, establishing an annual Whole Life Offering. In such a framework, an individual, in conjunction with any or all the three groups to which the individual belongs—family, local church, and denomination or trans-local fellowship:
- Devotes each January to preparation by reviewing the Whole Life Offering framework, studying each of the Works of Mercy and the Works of Piety that constitute each Work of Mercy. The goal is to develop and share a vision of personal and social holiness conjoined. The work is to create a plan for personal and corporate growth for the coming year. We find it especially meaningful to begin such an undertaking with a Watch Night service on New Year’s Eve.
- Focuses on a different Work of Mercy each month, from February through November. Asks how God is seeking to grow one comprehensively in Christ through that Work of Mercy rooted in each of the Works of Piety. Growth plans begun in the January preparation period can be augmented and refined month by month, Work of Mercy by Work of Mercy, Work of Piety by Work of Piety, in mindfulness of how growth in a particular area relates to the Whole Life Offering overall.
- Undertakes a period of comprehensive reflection in December. It should be a period of celebration, remembrance, repentance, testimony, and worship as one contemplates how God has grown one comprehensively in Christ over the past year, and how one has responded. Individual reflections can coalesce into corporate ones, as a community reflects on its overall growth toward fullness in Christ as well.
- Begins again each January.
Let me be clear: There’s nothing great, special, or unique about this method. It is but one method from one book, a modest and insufficient guide to the hearing and doing of the word. The topic itself is inexhaustible.
But that it is inexhaustible cannot mean that it is an impractical or impossible work to undertake. Whatever the method that is employed, the counsel of Scripture and the call of the Holy Spirit to each Christian in every age is unmistakable:
Hear the word. And do the word.
It is the work he has prepared from the beginning of the age for each of his redeemed ones to do.