Last week, I watched Spokane's Hoopfest Basketball Tournament on TV. During the final round, the announcers repeatedly made comments about the importance of finishing. They said things like "This team must finish strong." Or, "They must fight to the finish." But one reporter said something that made me think twice.
"It's not how they start this tournament that matters, it's how they finish it."
I cocked my head. Of course it matters how they started! The way each team started the tournament impacted not only who they played but also how far they advanced. Beginnings matter. It's not just how you finish. It's how you start, too.
Beginnings at Bayview
It's no secret that this summer means new starts at Bayview Bible Chapel. This is my first week as the new pastor. We're beginning a new sermon series next week. We're even beginning a new Sunday School curriculum.
Beginnings are often difficult because they bring the unexpected. There's fear in something new. No wonder the first quarter of football games are often the longest. It's delayed by all the nervous mistakes made by the athletes!
So how can we conquer the fear and difficulty that comes with starting new things? How can we do so in a way God intends? On this July 4th, I couldn't help but look to our Founding Fathers as a perfect example. Here are three traits they displayed in their decision to start something new.
When the members of the 2nd Continental Congress announced their separation from Great Britain, they did it with boldness. They were 100%. All in. There was no hesitancy. Plenty of deliberation occurred before then. This was no hasty decision. But, when they took the first step in beginning a new nation, they did so boldly. No wishy-washy phrases exist in the Declaration of Independence. Only statements like, "We hold these truths" and "we mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor" exist in the document.
This illustrates what God has said to us. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Paul wrote the the Romans. He also wrote to Timothy, "The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power."
Whether we are in the process of starting something new, or putting it off, we must be reminded of God's command for us to be bold. The founders were, so much so that John Hancock broadly scribbled his signature across the page.
Benjamin Franklin famously quipped while signing the Declaration of Independence, "We must all hang together, or we will all hang separately." He knew that the men signing this document were different. Some were liberal, others conservative. Some rich, others poor. Intense debates rattled the windows of Independence Hall in the months leading up to this moment.
But when the time came, they left petty disagreements at the door. The different men united just like the Thirteen Colonies would. Without that unity there would be no nation today. This echoes what God said through Paul's letter to the Corinthians, "Bear with each other and forgive one another... and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."
Bayview Bible Chapel exists in a season of new beginnings. It is always easy during these times to become embroiled in self-interest. It's easy to hold onto thoughts like, "This is what I prefer" Or, "That's the way we do it." Statistically, the most dangerous threat to the existence of a church are not atheists, devil-worshippers, or even Democrats. They're the church members. Disunity stalls progress, and makes new beginnings hard to do, if not impossible.
The Founding Fathers knew their many differences, but recognized their common desire for the same cause: a nation of freedom. We too can be united under a common cause: sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Finally, the signers of the Declaration did so with a God-focused attitude. Historians debate the personal convictions of each individual signer. Regardless, in the moment of crisis, each agreed to sign a document that based its principles on God alone.
We know this because Jefferson famously wrote that "all men... are endowed by their Creator with certain innumerable rights." Regardless of his personal decisions about Jesus, Jefferson and the Founders based their ideas and actions on God alone.
And so too with us. As we begin new series, new programs, and new groups, each must be God-focused. They cannot be "me" focused, or even "Bayview focused." It must be God. To repeat the author of Hebrews, "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith." The new chapters of ministry that will begin here must never be built on anything less.
This week, I've personally had to deal with a lot of beginnings. A new job. A new town. An *almost* new house. If there's one thing I learned, it's that beginnings are often the hardest step of any process. As a friend from my old church used to say, "The hardest part about exercising is deciding to put your shoes on."
Maybe you're like me. Maybe you have difficulties with the take-off. It could be anything. Starting that "honey-do" list. Tilling that garden. Opening the envelopes to pay bills.
Or perhaps it's something more serious. Maybe it's starting to attend a Bible study for the first time. Or starting to read the Bible at all. Maybe it's dialing the phone to call up an estranged relative.
Ultimately the new beginnings that happen at Bayview Bible Chapel will only be as good as the beginnings that take place in the heart of each individual. If we remain bold, united, and God-focused through these new starts, I believe our future is bright. Just like our Founders thought.