Forget about what’s happened;
don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
rivers in the badlands.
Isaiah 43:18-19 (The Message)
There is an old saying, “If you forget about the past, you are destined to repeat it.” But there is a fine line in that remembering. Countless times throughout my ministry I’ve met people who are being held captive by their past. Past mistakes and trauma keep them from the potential of a bright future. While we certainly don’t want to repeat our past mistakes, I find the prophet Isaiah’s advice to usually be more applicable. Instead of wallowing in the past, God calls us to be present in the here and now. But, more than that, to look forward to the overflowing abundance of God’s grace.
One of the best places for us to live, both as individuals and as a community of faith, is in the intersection between history and the future. When I talk with churches who are embroiled in conflict, I often find they place an emphasis on the future, or the past. Focusing on one at the expense of the other is a recipe for heartache. One group feels that they are not as important as another group, which is never good. Everyone wants (and needs) to know that they are a valuable part of the community, that they matter.
In the past year or so, we’ve been blessed with many new faces at the church. But I’m afraid we haven’t done as good of a job as we would like in integrating these new folks into the life of the church. In our Elders training two Sundays ago, and our regular meeting this past weekend, we talked about ways to help us get to know one another better, and to encourage better care of and communication with our community of faith. Two main ideas surfaced. They aren’t particularly new, or innovative, but we do hope they will help us to get to know one another better.
The first thing we are planning is a new church directory. We plan on producing this directory largely “in house” but are talking about how we might include family pictures. It is just so helpful to be able to put a face and a name together. Plus we’ve had so many new people joining our community, we have missed out on some important information. So, in the next few weeks we will have “information sheets” which we are asking everyone to fill out. This way we will have accurate phone numbers (I know our number changed before we decided to drop the home phone…) as well as email addresses, birthdays, and anniversaries. This way we won’t miss someone’s important day just because we didn’t know when it was!
Also in 2017 we will be revisiting an old practice which the Elders feel is needed in our current day and time as well. We will be kicking off what we are calling “Shepherding Groups.” The Elders and I want to make communication and relationships a priority for our church. But it is hard to keep in close contact with everyone, so each elder is taking responsibility for a few families. Our hope is to share joys and concerns, and to create small groups where we are able to get to know one another better, even as we grow in our spiritual walk with God.
Personally, I am very pleased with these positive steps we are making. We truly want to live into our mission of “journeying together” and we hope these two ideas will help make that a deeper reality in the days ahead. I’d also love to hear your ideas about how we might build relationships among our community. Would you like to see us go on a mission trip, have a monthly fellowship event, have a fish fry, serve others in our community in some way? Whatever your ideas are, we’d love to hear them. So we can grow closer to one another as we grow closer to God.