- Last Updated on 07:22 AM 03/28/14
- BY DR. RUSSELL LEE
It’s funny how things seem to get better with time. Give a shocking incident a decade or two, and it becomes funny. Give it a lifetime, and it seems like heaven.
There’s an old story about an elderly man in our church who was sitting in worship many years ago when a wasp landed on his bald head. A lady behind him smacked the wasp with her bare hand. He turned around in surprise, and the kids and adults nearby were in hysterics. The preacher was upset because it interrupted the sermon. Now it is a great moment to remember!
Nostalgia can be both good and bad for God’s people. A search of their history in the Bible tells the story.
The people of Israel were in bondage to Egypt for 500 years. Working conditions and food were awful. Cruelty and murder by their captors abounded.
When Moses led them out in freedom, at the first sign of trouble their first words were, “We want to go home! It was not so bad there!”
Moses and other leaders led them to true worship of their God, but again and again they went back to their sinful ways of worshipping gods of sexuality and greed.
These pitfalls still mar the church of today. We look at “the good old days” of church and pine for the past, when we should be making memories which will inspire people in the future.
Waxing eloquently about “the way things used to be” while doing nothing to grow and build new moments of wonder is the great sin of today’s church.
The other side of memories in the Bible is positive. Again and again they remember, particularly in the Psalms, how God led them out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, fed them in the desert, and led them to the promised land. Those memories inspire worship and ministry even today, for those very things can still happen to us.
Nostalgia can paralyze the church if we are not careful. History-remembering which inspires history-making is fine. If it causes us to complain and do nothing, we are in trouble.
“Remember the good old days, when the pews were packed and all we had to do was open our doors and the families would just pour in? That was the best!”
“Remember when Pastor _________ was here? What a wonderful time in the life of our church! Now, it’s just not the same.”
I had a friend who pastored two small churches in North Carolina who was very good at visiting. After a year or so of faithful work, one of his members said, “You know, the last pastor always brought his wife with him so we got twice the visiting done!” Not the best conversation to encourage a young pastor.
When I began ministry some 30 years ago, the focus was on saving souls and nurturing God’s people. Good theology and faithful adherence to God’s word was key.
Today it seems that the larger church spends so much time arguing about social and intellectual issues that we have trouble focusing on souls and scripture.
Idealistic nostalgia? Very possible.
Churches were full years ago. Part of it was that the church was the social and family center for society. Now it seems that church is one of many things happening on Sunday, even on Sunday morning.
I really think it is not so much the times that have changed but that the times have changed the people. We spend so much time locked in the past that we are unable to live toward the future.
Paul implores his people not to make that mistake. “I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward.” ~ Philippians 3:13-14 (AMP)
God is calling the church today to a supernatural changing of the world and its people. By walking with Jesus and making memories today, we build the church that God can be proud of and people will marvel about in the future.
God wants us to move from the paralysis of analysis to movin’ and groovin’ in partnership with Him. There are so many lives to change, so many hearts to fill with eternal life, and all it takes is one willing disciple.
Funny, but not funny saying. “A lot of church members who are singing “Standing on the Promises” are just sitting on the premises.”
Let this not be your tombstone, dear reader. Make new holy memories today. Next time you sing “Standing On The Promises,” resolve to do one thing that lets people know that Christ is your king, the next words in the song. Don’t rust out. Wear out.