I’m only going to mention two things here, not because I think the situation is really that simple, but because if we can get these two things right, most of the other things will fall into place.
The first thing the American Church needs to do this year is center on Jesus. By this I don’t mean “get its Christology right.” Sure, that would be a good thing. No, I’m saying the church needs to center its life on Jesus. Before that is an intellectual task, it is a matter of prayer, worship, and devotion. We’ll be centering on Jesus not for what he can do for us (give us stuff, make us successful, legitimate our political or cultural agendas), but because Jesus is Lord. All power and authority has been given to him, but we’ve too often treated him as a toy to keep in our pocket or as an ID badge to get us points with others. we have to go back to Jesus.
The second thing the Church needs is a sense of humor. Notice that I don’t say “a better sense of humor.” For the most part, our problem has been that we don’t have a sense of humor. We’ve become so serious about the political and cultural battles we’re fighting (in the church and the world), that our seriousness has crowded out a sense of humor. If we do number one – renew our focus on Jesus – perhaps it will enable us to take ourselves and our projects, however good and godly we take them to be, less seriously. When we gain a sense of humor we’ll be able to take John the Baptist’s attitude toward Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease,” and extend it to the people around us. When we gain a sense of humor we’ll be less susceptible to offense, whether the offense of people attacking us or of people living in a way contrary to our sensibilities. We’re sinners living in the midst of sinners, so of course offenses are going to come. But if we center on Jesus and gain a sense of humor, perhaps we can respond better with Jesus-style love.