There’s a great deal of debate in the church these days. That happens in times of uncertainty and great upheavals. And let’s be clear, COVID-19 and the changes wrought on society have caused a great upheaval. All the things that were normal to us have been shaken to their core. The question is what do we do now?
Do we look to the past and try to go back to what we thought was normal? Or do we go forward into an uncertain future?
Unfortunately isn’t just not as simple as one question. There are many other questions that relate to this that we should be asking.
Should the church look to nostalgia for guidance of how to proceed?
Should the church return to something in the past because that was the ideal of what church should be about?
Should the church try to recreate the times in which there was more money and more people in the pews?
Are the best days of the church in the past? That’s the core of what this way of thinking is about. If the best days of the church are in the past, then it makes sense that we would want to recreate those days.
But there is a major problem with that way of thinking. Actually there are many problems with that way of thinking. For one thing, what exact time are we trying to return to? Is there a specific date? Year? Something specific that we can point to? What makes that day or year or something so much more special than any other time in the church’s history? Why is that time better than when Jesus walked the earth and got the church started with just a handful of people?
Is it the numbers? More money, more people in the pews? Maybe it was that the church was given some kind of special place in society?
While there may have been more numbers and special privilege, was it really all that great? There was abuse going on after all — just hidden and behind the scenes. There were abusive systems in place — the congregation would abuse the pastor, but give the pastor a prominent position and voice and say. And the pastor in turn would abuse the congregation through manipulation and demanding that things be done his way (yes, there were only male pastors during this time). This is certainly not true of every congregation, but I’ve heard enough stories over the years to know that this was not a rarity.