I love looking back over history, hearing of the great heroes of our faith; hearing their stories and the amazing things they have done in the name of Jesus. I love listening to the great ways in which God has blessed their ministry. It is so important for us as Christians to look back and see what we can learn from these great men and women. It is equally important that we take heart that God has a future and we are included in it. A future that isn’t just about a failing religion.
I was chatting to a friend recently who said that his church continues to have issues between ‘good old hymns’ and ‘new modern worship songs’. They continue to have difficult conversation about how many hymns they choose and how many worship songs they have. It continues to spilt their church, with everyone seemingly having a different opinion. I wonder how many of you have the same conversations with your church family? Maybe not about music but maybe about chairs, preaching styles etc.
I am proud of my Christian heritage. I am proud of our great stories from the past. I am proud of the great things we have done. I am proud of the history that we have inherited. I am proud of my family and the way they have walked in the ways of the Lord.
There is a great verse in Jeremiah 6:16, ‘This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls”‘. It is so important that we remember our great heritage, it is critical and it is biblical that we look back over history and ask great questions, so that we can learn from theirs success and failures. The ancient paths will provide us with great wisdom for the future.
There is a but…. I am a Methodist. I grew up a Methodist. I love the Methodist Church. You may ask me why? I would respond with some words found in Galatians that, ‘the only thing that counts is faith working through love’. This was one of Wesley’s favourite texts and is at the bed rock of his theology. However the Church that I see in front me is not the Church that I believes that God wants us to be. We have so many churches that are shadows of their former selves. They spend all of their time trying to not sink. I see a church that has been tamed to such an extent it cannot even begin to muster a fight.
I believe that history is to provide a point of reference and not preference. We need to come to understand that we have a great past and tradition, but our future is bright and radiant. I believe that the Church is full of great stories that need to be shared and told. Stories of a God who is alive and wants to change lives. The Church is God’s chosen vehicle for change. I wonder as you read this, do you use history for reference or preference?