As we look and review the church’s past, present or future when do the best days fall into place? How many stories have we heard, when the church was packed – maybe it was a homecoming or when a certain minister’s family, who endeared themselves to the congregation, all came back to visit?
How often has it been an anniversary, a special day (like burning the note) or the special date when the church was built, and there we hung a “bronze plaque” to commemorate the date? We hung the “bronze plaque” as a memory to those in the past but never looked ahead or embraced a vision towards the future. How often we celebrate a special day, but our present services lack the eternal flame of spiritual fervor to keep the services fresh and alive. In celebrating, we are always thinking the best days are behind us, but friends they are not!
The best days of the church are always ahead of us! And why shouldn’t they be? If the best days are not ahead of us the church body has lost its way. If all we can think of are the days of our past, our thinking will be tied up only in past events, or on a symbol calling us to a time the current congregation cannot remember or has no direct connection to that event.
The outlook of the church must envision the possibilities of a new-found faith with themes to be carried into future events but also close enough to the heart of the congregation that they cannot only see it as a contractor may see a finished building, but so they can embrace and take ownership of working together to see the fruitfulness of the vision come to pass.
That vision must cast us parenthetically into the future. Testing new ideas – allowing the younger generations to add also, but not replacing the “old guard” as an attainable goal. Not taking an old concept or idea, tweaking it, or re-working it so many times that a weakness appears detectable only when it is tried and falls apart, unraveling, until it cannot bear the weight of something new.
This fulfills the scripture that we cannot put new wine into old wine skins because they will be stretched beyond their limitations and finally, bursting, coming apart and losing the creative ideas or the new wine that is of full strength. (Matthew 9:17) When God does something new in the life of the church, the construct of these new ideas must be implemented through ways surging with extra energy brought on by the ‘new ideas” and an integrity to hold it together while creating a synergy to become a vital and alive congregation!
A good example came about when a congregation integrated “praise music” into its congregational singing. Somebody in the congregation or choir had to take a risk, not knowing how the congregation would respond.
No one could probably say who was the “First” to do so, but somebody did and it caught on, not just in one denomination but across the board until most major denominations see it as commonplace in leading worship.
Who knows how far the pendulum will swing until singing out of hymnbooks and recovering the old hymns, savoring not only the historical significance but also a deeper form of worship, will once again take center stage making a comeback. Lord, let the church at large be open to new ways, birthing an excitement about Sunday morning worship-gathering to praise, lift up and exalt the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords through various styles of worship. One way does not fit all as the only way! Every church’s congregation must find their way of becoming vital not only to the people who come, but to all who live in the community together.
An old, old saying goes like this: “A church that is alive is worth the drive”! Let the church rise up finding ways to make their congregation a place of vital worship. Using the “old paths” of a well established format but not shutting off from the voices of new generations-voices that in several years will be the older.