The past weekend there was a 25th anniversary (of the building) homecoming at my larger church, and many former members and pastors attended. I was given the devotional at opening program on Friday night, after which there was to be an open mic for sharing and reminiscing. Facing the prospect of spending the better portion of two hours listening the people three times my age going on and on about things that happened when I was barely conscious of my own existence, I decided to preach a message on how to tell the history of a church.
The following three points were gleaned from a study of Deuteronomy 1-3 where Moses addresses Israel on the borders of the Promised Land:
- Own your mistakes (Deut. 1:26-28). We didn’t do everything perfectly, or we’d be in the Promised Land by now. So don’t pretend that everything was good in the good old days. Instead, own the mistakes so we can learn from them.
- Recite the victories God gave you (Deut. 2:7,33), and be sure to give Him the credit. These stories build faith, and faith is necessary if we are to cross the Jordan. Things will get worse before they get better, but if we know God is with us, we can face any battle.
- Declare God’s will for the future (Deut. 3:28-4:1). Now that we know what God did with you, tell us what He wants to do with us. Instead of escaping to the past, we must live for the future. What is the will of God toward our church?
These three lessons have the capacity to transform anniversaries from meaningless exercises in self-congratulation into spiritual landmarks that pass the torch to the next generation. At least, that’s how it felt in my church last weekend.