Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions.
Ecclesiastes 7:10

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

As churches across the nation prepare to open back up (or have already opened as is the case for some), one thing I think church leaders need to be intentional about is leading the church into the future. There are going to be far too many members who just want to “get back to normal,” as if “normal” was a good state to be in. We can’t go back, and we must not foster an unhealthy nostalgia for the past. Not everything was bad, but I’m sure it was far from perfect.

There is no going back. There is only the present and the future. So the questions I’m wrestling with, (and am inviting you to tag-team with me) are:

  1. What are some things that need to stay in the past?
  2. What are some good things from the past that need to be brought into the future?
  3. What are some NEW things our churches should embrace moving forward?

Maybe it’s because I’m a dreaded Millennial who is out to kill everything from napkins to fabric softener to Applebee’s, but I’ve never been a fan of “the good old days” talk. It’s all well and good to remember the past fondly, but we must not get stuck there. As it says in Ecclesiastes, it’s unwise to sugar coat the past and think it was so much better than the present. It seems like too many Christians serve the God who was, not the God who is and who is to come. We must celebrate what God has done for us in the past, yes. But we also must learn from our past failures. We should recognize that God is moving and working in the present, and he is surely there in the future.

As A.W. Tozer once wrote, “God is always contemporary.” And as Jesus said, “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.” In God’s reality, past, present, and future are all under his control and jurisdiction.

The church has a beautiful and broken past. But the cool thing is we get to be a part of God’s future.

This is the perfect time to ask ourselves: what practices, ministries, and traditions are worth leaving in the past? Every ministry has a shelf-life. Every church practice has evolved over time. Is there something that needs to be revised? Edited? Updated? Do we need to hit the factory reset button on some practices? Do we need to move some programs to the recycle bin?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
(Hebrews 12:1-2)