Dealing with Your Church History

Has your church experienced a season when everything seems to be going really well, and then—Boom!—something happens? It could be sudden or gradual, and the church starts to reel and loses its spiritual dynamism and momentum.

That problem may be a conflict within the leadership or between the leaders and the members. It may be fear, as members are called not only to accept change but to change as the church ventures into new “territories” of ministry. Perhaps, it is financial sacrifices they are challenged to make as the church embarks on enlarging its facilities to accommodate its growth. The problem could even be marital unfaithfulness especially of someone at the primary leadership, such as the pastor or elder.

However, when the leadership starts to deal with the problem they discover that a similar problem had happened before. Maybe, not only just once before; perhaps, even a few times. The situations may be different in the details but you can’t miss the similarities between the past and present episodes. If I may be permitted to be a little melodramatic, it would be the case of: Different actors but the same story line!

What usually happens is that the church will deal with the presenting problem. If it’s a conflict in the leadership, then it will deal with the parties concerned to bring clarity, forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. (The honest truth is that even this is often not done; most times it is simply swept under the church carpet!)

Doing the above is good; but, not good enough—if the present issue is just the latest in a series of a same type-problem that has manifested itself over and over through the history of the church. The problem needs to be addressed at its root. It may be spiritual, structural or systemic. It could be due to the culture, values or practices of the church. Likely, it is a combination of two or more.

Certainly, the spiritual dimension must never be overlooked. Corporate prayer is critical. Corporate repentance beyond the present issue and into past episodes and how they have been inadequately addressed (or not addressed at all) is needed. And finally, a deliberate change in the corporate mind-set of the church to live and work in the opposite spirit needs to be affirmed.

I know of a church that has gone into its history and made right what had been wrong, and since then, for many years now, it has been making good progress. And I also know of churches that have not been willing to address the issues that have been etched in its history, and so continue to be weighed down by the spiritual consequences.

All churches hope to do well and make great advance for the Kingdom of God. They may embark on all kinds of programmes and work at reviving the church. However, if they fail to realise that the history of the church plays a vital part in the present health or ill health of a church they will not go far. If there is an unaddressed pattern of sin, it will forever plague the church. No matter what strategy the leadership uses to move the church forward, this problem will come back to kill it.

I believe every church needs to look at its history; and see if there’s anything it needs to address—to set it free to be the church that the Lord has destined it to be.