“The future won’t look like the past, but it will build on the past, on its great history.” – Dr. Bob Rhoden
The above quote was stated by interim Pastor at Calvary Assembly in Orlando, FL. Calvary was once a mega church that through the years has declined. It was an article on Ed Stetzers blog that brought me to the story and this quote by Dr Rhoden. Personally, as a young Pastor given the charge to Shepard a church which just celebrated 58 years of ministry, Dr. Rhodes quote inspired me.
Often as Pastor’s, especially young ones like myself, we have so much zeal and vision going into a position for the first time or as we move from one place to another, that we end up doing more harm than good at the place which God has called us. In short, God opens a door and we go. We feel Gods plans for that congregation is __________________. In our zeal and inexperience we push our vision without putting in the time to build trust and learn about the particular place God has called us. Often we hurt our chances of doing the most good because we haven’t taken the time to know the history and people whom God has called us to Shepherd.
With that said, here are a few things that I am in the process of learning and even gleaned from the above quote.
We can’t go back but we can look back.
Here’s the truth, you may have the zeal but the reality is you do not have the tenure. Get to know the past history of the place God has called you to. I am not asking you to go back, but get to know the past successes and failures. Learn who came before you, their tenure and investment in the life of the congregation you Pastor. Remember, early on you may have the title of Pastor but the trust has not been built to be the Pastor.
Build the Foundation of the Future on the Pillars of the Past.
I have come to view Church ministry as multi-level as opposed to single story. A single story building has one large foundation separated by rooms. A multi-level building consist of a base foundation of a certain size in which pillars/supports would go up in order to be a support for the floor above it. As we Pastor, especially in a Church that has been in existence for any length of time with multiple Pastor’s preceding us, it is not our job to tear down the foundations that have been laid. It is our job to go in a build on the pillars that have already been established. Building the foundation for the future it isn’t going back to a certain style but it is proclaiming that you embrace the identity of the past and allow that to be a launching pad for the future. The pillars which have been erected prior to your arrival, if you let them, will give structural support for the foundation you lay today. The pillars you erect are going to be the structural support for the foundation that the person lays once you are gone.
Celebrate the Churches History while Offering Vision for the Future
Celebrate the past but don’t get stuck in the past. You need to know the past in order to build the future. A detrimental mistake is to be a cocky pastor who doesn’t listen to the history. I understand why we choose not to listen, we are arrogant. We think our way is the best way. We may be uncomfortable who God created us to be that we squirm when we here praise for the people who came before us. Please allow me to speak into your life, listen carefully. Celebrate the men and women who came before you in front of the people you serve. The only way to build a future is to celebrate the history.
Maybe you are like me and are serving in a new ministry assignment. It’s been a little over six months at the time of this posting in which North Aiken Church of God has given me the opportunity to be their Pastor. I served at my previous assignment just a couple of weeks shy of two years. I write this with a little under 3 years of Pastoral ministry experience but I want to leave you with 6 things that you can do today which I believe can give you success over the next 6 months. I will expound on how I have put these into practice in the coming days but for the sake of time in this post, here is a short list.
Preach the Word
Learn the history of the Church, the past success and failures
Find out the organization date, former Pastor’s names, length of tenure
Remind those you lead of the past success of the Church
Don’t just tell the people you serve your vision, preach and live your vision.
Helpful links from this post:
Morning Round Up 9/23/2013 – Moody’s Policy Change; Megachurch Not For Sale; Ph.D. Perils | Ed Stetzer
North Aiken Church of God, Aiken SC – An assembly of devoted Christ followers with a passion for God and a Love for people who are reaching upward and reaching outward in order make a difference in their community.