The church where I serve is the oldest Baptist church in Utah. How does that happen? Easy: be the first to open the doors, and then keep them open. As a church we now have 130 years of history and that’s impressive, but I’ve been thinking about it and wonder why we should care.
In this country we tend to like new and improved. We want bigger, better, faster. Throughout Europe when something has outlived its purpose they make a museum. Here we’re just starting to do something other than tear it down and haul it away. Who’s right? I don’t know the answer to that, but its fun to wander through Zaragoza, Spain and see the remains of the city that used to be there: remains in which they have found Roman coins from the time of Christ.
I’ve been going through the history of our church lately, as we look forward to celebrating a milestone. God has been good to us over the years, even though there have been some rough spots. So what are we celebrating? The building isn’t even 100 years old, and all throughout Europe you can find buildings, or the remains of buildings which are 1000 years old.
Businesses that don’t provide a service or goods that are needed don’t survive. And in many ways a church is like a business. So at some point we use these milestones called longevity anniversaries to take inventory of what we are, where we have been, and where we are going.
The past is a fun place to visit, but I no longer want to live there. So as we celebrate this anniversary, we want to look not so much at the past but rather towards the future. Hopefully we can use the past to point out what worked, and then figure out why. We can look to see what didn’t work and why; but as we look towards the past, it’s not with the goal of returning. We don’t want to stay there; the purpose of studying the past should always be to learn how to remain relevant in the future.
Learning from our mistakes and building on our successes will help us as we move into the next season that God has planned for us. So we care about the past because it has brought us this far and, if we let it, will prepare us for the future.