The best I can surmise, it started with the #IceBucketChallenge of 2014. Millions of people, including many celebrities, took video of themselves having buckets of ice water poured over their heads to show their support for ALS research.
Since then, numerous other challenges have sprung up on social media. The latest to go viral is the #MannequinChallenge. Millions of videos have been posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter of people standing perfectly still in odd poses for exactly one minute as another person walks around videotaping them.
Every day new videos pop up on YouTube of people taking or making new “challenges” – hoping to be the next viral sensation.
I have a challenge to add to the list. I call it the #NewYearsDayChallenge.
Every so often, January 1st falls on a Sunday. As a pastor, I know that means one thing. I will be preaching to the crickets. Church attendance plummets when New Year’s Day is a Sunday. People are tired. They were up late. Maybe they imbibed a bit too much. And besides, they probably went to church the week before on Christmas.
The #NewYearsDayChallenge is simple: Go to church this Sunday. I know it’s New Year’s Day. I know you will be tired. I know it will be a pain to get the kids up and ready. I didn’t say it was going to be easy.
That’s why it’s called a challenge.
So often in our lives we let any and every excuse keep us from going to church. We tell ourselves we don’t have to go to church to believe in God. We tell ourselves we’ll go back eventually. We tell ourselves we don’t have to go to church in order to go to heaven.
Of course, you’re right. We don’t go to church in order to go to heaven.
We go to church because we are going to heaven. We go to church to thank Jesus for accepting the challenge of the cross for us. We go to church because in his Word and Sacraments our God comes to us to give us comfort, strength and guidance. We go to church to encourage and be encouraged by fellow believers.
Maybe your church attendance has become sporadic. Maybe you don’t have a church home right now. Maybe you’ve been telling yourself you need to get back.
Take the #NewYearsDayChallenge. Go to church this Sunday. Start the year off right. Don’t wait for an easier time to go. Don’t wait until things get less busy in your life. That will never happen. Challenge yourself.
Understand, though, that going to church is not some magic pill which will suddenly overwhelm you with peace and take away all your problems. Don’t expect God to change your life in one church service. Going to church one Sunday and expecting God to immediately fix everything is like dieting or exercising for one day and expecting a sculpted body. Our spiritual health is an ongoing process of which going to church regularly is a key element.
In the end, I highly doubt my #NewYearsDayChallenge will go viral. It doesn’t matter. You are reading this article. That’s enough. This is a chance for you to evaluate your spiritual life. Use this Sunday as a stepping stone to challenge yourself spiritually.
If you haven’t been going to church, start attending regularly. If you attend regularly, start going to Sunday School or a weekly Bible Class. If you attend Sunday School regularly, start reading your Bible every day.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. That first step is this Sunday.
Take the #NewYearsDayChallenge.