I’ve been spending time since I have been here looking through old pictures and directories. I have read some of what this congregation has put together telling the history of this congregation. The pictures tell a lot about the congregation. But all that history that I have read and dug through really doesn’t tell the whole story.
It doesn’t tell the story of the pain this congregation suffered when a pastor died while still your pastor. It doesn’t tell the story about all the outreach this congregation has done over the years. It doesn’t tell the story about what it was like growing up in this congregation, or raising children in this congregation, being married in this congregation or burying a loved one in this congregation. Those histories don’t tell the whole story.
It is important to remember where we came from and how we got to where we are today as a congregation. It is important to know this and to honor our history when it is appropriate. When we remember our past, we should remember it with eye to helping us move forward. Whatever is good from the past we need to use and honor and leverage to help us move forward. What is unhelpful from the past, we need to leave it in the past and fondly remember it when appropriate.
Now is the time to look to the future. With an eye on the past, we look forward. We need to define who we are as a congregation in Christ. Who are we? That is the question every congregation needs to answer for itself. And we need to keep asking that question as we age and grow. Just like individuals, congregations change over time and who they are change too.
Before we decide what ministries we will pursue, we need to decide who we are first. How else will we decide who we help and what we do if we don’t define ourselves first? Our mission, vision, and values will guide us in our decisions of who we partner with in ministry and where we reach out to the world to help and sooth the hurts of this world.
It is important to look to the future. Imagine what this congregation will look like in ten years. Imagine what this congregation will look like in twenty. Imagine what this congregation will look like in thirty.
It is an important thing to do. There will be a different pastor here. A person lot younger than I will be in thirty years. In thirty years, what will this congregation look like? What things will happen within this congregation in those twenty or thirty years?
Now I will ask you to do something that can be a little shocking. Imagine where you’ll be in twenty years. Now imagine thirty years. Take some time to really think about that. And now what do you want for this congregation? What do you want this congregation to be in thirty years?
Pastor Andy Stanley states in one of his books, “the church needs leaders who are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we hand it off to the next generation in better shape than we found it.” I think it is an important quote. We, the current congregation of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, have a responsibility to those that follow us. We have a responsibility to leave this congregation better than when we became a part of it.
What will we do in the next twenty to thirty years to do that? It will mean changes. It will mean sacrifice. As stewards of God’s congregation called Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, it means we will need to make hard choices, to put unity above division, people before programs, and reach out to the world around us and share the love of Jesus Christ.