I think one of the biggest dangers for our churches today is the temptation to become a museum that highlights the past instead of a mission command that propels us to the future! For the church to become a movement we have to cling to the past without being crippled by it.
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Recently, I was on a road trip with a good friend of mine and we drove through a small rural town where I saw the building displayed in this picture. You’ll notice the big letters spelling “Museum” on the side of the building. Now, I could be totally wrong, but as we drove by this building I thought, “That sure looks like an old church.” It so caught my attention that we actually turned around so I could go get a picture of it.
As I pondered the possibilities of what this used to be, I thought, “Did this used to be a church? If so, does the church still exist? Did it outgrow this building and needed something new? Did it’s ministry fade out and no longer exist?” I mean, if this were a former church, the possibilities were endless of why they no longer worship or wage war for the Kingdom in that facility. By this point my spiritual/pastor/leader brain was whirling.
I don’t think I said a word for the next several blocks until we stopped just down the road at a gas station. I looked at my friend and told him, “Ya know, if we’re not careful, we can turn our churches from a mission command that advances into enemy territory, to a museum that only highlights our traditions.” Every church, at some point, will face the dividing line of, “We’ve always done it this way” and “If we keep doing it this way we’ll die.”
I actually love tradition, I really do. Some of my favorite songs are old hymns. I love stained glass and steeples, pews and potlucks. Some of my fondest memories growing up revolve around the church and the traditions in it. And there is nothing wrong with any of those traditions by the way. What’s wrong is when the allure of traditions start to keep us from advancing into enemy territory.
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Just because something worked yesterday does not mean it’s going to work tomorrow. What was once cutting edge will eventually become common place, and then comfortable for the church. I’ve told our team on many occasions, there is going to come a day when we will have to change the way we do ministry in order to reach the people who need it most. At some point we’ll have to “do church” in a way that wouldn’t reach us, but would reach the lost! This is at the core of changing methods without changing the message!
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A museum preserves the past while mission command propels into the future.
A museum protects what was while mission command imagines what could be.
A museum celebrates who was already there while mission command seeks the people who have never been.
A museum admires tradition while mission command advances into enemy territory.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want our church to ever become a museum. Should we celebrate the past? Absolutely. But let’s not abandon our place as mission command in order to acquire artifacts for a museum.