I spent last weekend in my hometown. We ate steak for Thanksgiving (the start of a new tradition!), celebrated my sister’s birthday, engaged in copious amounts of retail therapy, and visited many of my old haunts. I was overcome with nostalgia on more than a few occasions.
As much as I love my family and have fond memories of my upbringing, I love where God has me right now and I get positively giddy when I imagine His future for my life.
Churches are notorious for yearning for the days of old. I get it… There are days when I find myself humming an old hymn that I learned in my childhood or quoting a verse of Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible. The promise and fulfillment of salvation through Jesus is an old story, but one for which I am (and will be) eternally grateful.
Back to churches… I’m not discounting the past, yet I fear that sometimes we allow what was impede what will be. Often, God reveals His future plans through our past experiences. When we remember the past, we let the past portrayal of the future inform our present. Our experiences affect our perception of and efforts in the present.
Churches that are plateaued or declining provide cautionary tales for The Church @ Clayton Crossings. By the way, 90% of churches in the United States fall into the “plateaued or declining” category. Yikes…
Before we get too far into this conversation, let me offer two guiding assumptions regarding our mission to expand God’s Kingdom (or foster growth within the church):
- With a nod to Jim Collins, good is the enemy of great; and,
- Excellence is not anathema to spiritual substance.
The idea that we can implement the same processes, despite how our culture and attendance have changed, is to fall into the black hole of nostalgia. We have a choice between living in the past and learning from it. The glories of yesterday provide a treasure chest from which we pull out the resources we need, but they are not a map for the way forward. In other words, the plans, personalities, and methods that got us where we are today aren’t necessarily what will best position us for the future.
Lesslie Newbigin, a missionary-theologian, warned that nostalgia for the past and fear for the future are equally out of place for the Christian who seeks to expand God’s Kingdom. Nostalgia and fear distract us from the question we must be asking:
“What is God doing in these tremendous events of our time? How are we to understand them and interpret them to others, so that we and they may play our part in them as co-workers with God? [The Christian] is required, in the situation in which God places him, to understand the signs of the times in the light of the reality of God’s present and coming kingdom, and to give his witness faithfully about the purpose of God for all men.” -Lesslie Newbigin
Let’s draw from the deep well of the past to revitalize our church for the future. How can we ensure the past does not squelch, but serve, our mission in the present? If left unchecked, nostalgia can quickly overwhelm our hopes of realizing God’s mission for The Church @ Clayton Crossings.
To help you prepare for the hard work ahead of us, I’m asking you to do five things:
- Pray. We’re going to be in bad shape if we miss God’s direction and/or timing. Ask God to impart His wisdom on the leaders of the church. Ask Him to prepare your heart to hear His voice, give you courage to walk in obedience to His will, and empower you with His strength to do the work of a missionary.
- Commit. It’s tough to be part of growing a church if you’re not committed to the church. Even the most talented shooting guard won’t score any points from the bench. Get connected: join a community group, become a partner at The Church @ Clayton Crossings, and join one of our service teams. You’ll develop the skills and meet the people you’ll need to help you accomplish your purpose here on earth.
- Serve. As a follower of Jesus, you’ve been given a gift to share the hope of salvation you’ve already received. Not sure what your spiritual gift is? Jump over to our online spiritual gifts assessment tool and find out! Once you know, we’ll help you find the best place to use your God-given gift.
- Give. God, as the original giver, allows us to demonstrate our trust in His continued provision by giving back to Him. When we give, not only do we help fund Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost, but we are the beneficiaries of God’s blessing. Check out Malachi 3:10 to read God’s promise…
- Grow. Christianity is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Take advantage of our Next Level and accountability groups. Spend time in personal Bible study. Give generously. Join one of our mission teams for a life-changing experience on a short-term mission project. Pray about serving in ministry. God has big plans for His people – that includes you!
I am thankful for each of you and cannot wait to discover God’s “new day” plans for The Church @ Clayton Crossings!
What I’m reading
Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby
John Sanders is the non-stuffy pastor at The Church at Clayton Crossings. His primary mission is to help people find and follow Jesus. Additionally, he longs to write like the child of Aaron Sorkin and Dave Barry, preach like W.A. Criswell, look like Bradley Cooper, and eat like he’s seventeen years old. A more complete (and less snarky) bio can be found here.