by Christian Ruch
Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” Matthew 13:53
A couple of weeks ago I wrote in this blog about the ten-year anniversary of the first Church of the Cross worship service, which took place in our home with a small group of folks committed to helping start a church. [Click here for that post.] As I wrote out that reflection, I found myself asking, ‘why is this helpful to share with people?’ It’s fun to tell stories about our church’s beginning, but I am also aware of the danger of falling into an unhealthy nostalgia–reminiscing about the good old days instead of celebrating the blessings of the present, and the promise of the future. And yet while we don’t want to just dwell in our history, we do see in the scriptures the importance and blessing of looking back (Lot’s wife, perhaps, being a notable exception). So here are a few reasons why we share stories from our history–and while we will be sharing some more as we approach our 10 year anniversary.
Looking back roots us in God’s faithfulness. One of my favorite pieces of scripture is the final chapter of the book of Habakkuk. It comes at the end of a dialog between Habakkuk and God about God’s justice and the suffering experienced by Israel. Habakkuk seems overwhelmed by God’s words, but he then recounts some of the ways God has shown his power and love in the past. By recalling God’s work in creation and the parting of the Red Sea Habakkuk’s trust in God grows, so that by the end he can affirm that even if great suffering is to come upon Israel, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab 3:18). In the same way as we remember all the specific prayers God has answered for this church in the past, it should grow our trust in his continued provision and help in the future. Specifically, remembering God’s faithfulness to us when we were a new church plant gives us faith and vision in regard to our ongoing calling to help start new church plants in the future.
Looking back helps us to learn. As we recall how God has worked in our church in the past, we can remember those lessons He taught us then and apply them to our current situation. For instance, when we were a brand new church, it was crucial that every person who joined us had a strong sense of ownership in our mission. Remembering this reminds me of the importance of continuing to invite new members of our church to take ownership of the mission, and to help them find ways to serve. Even though we are bigger now and it’s possible to attend our church without being involved (something that really wasn’t possible when we were only 25 people) we don’t want to forget the important lesson we learned from that season.
Looking back invites others into our story. I always enjoy hearing other people’s stories. As a matter of fact, one of the joys that I have as a pastor is to hear people’s testimonies of how Christ has worked in their lives. When I hear someone’s story it strengthens my connection with them. I believe that knowing the stories of those who join our church helps me to understand how God is working in our church and how He is growing and forming us. In the same way, it’s important for those coming into our community to know our past story, because they are now part of the story. For those of you who are new, please know that as we share stories from the past, the goal is not to exclude you because you missed out, but rather to include you because that story has now become your story as well.
I look forward to continuing to share stories of our formation over the next months. I am also excited to see all that God will do in the next ten years of Church of the Cross. Based on how He has worked in the past, I have no doubt that it will be exciting, stretching, and include many more learning opportunities. Thank you for being part of the journey.