Yesterday I spoke at an anniversary service for a local church.  This congregation has been in existence for 100 years.  The pastor and committee together oversaw a wonderful weekend celebration.  They celebrated the past, honored the present and focused on the future.  It seems to me that they struck the proper balance.

The past, they included in the celebration the acknowledgment of the pastors and key lay people who had sacrificed and laid the groundwork for the present day congregation.  It was done tastefully and respectfully.  

The present.  There were two representatives of compassionate organizations that this congregation has assisted down through the years.  One is located in Indianapolis and is  a part of our denomination.  This church sends 1000’s of boxes of cereal to Shepherd Community to assist with children receiving breakfast.  There was a representative from an organization in Illinois “Feed My Starving Children.”  We were told that the people of the Shelbyville First Church of the Nazarene have packed nearly two million meals for the hungry.  This is not something they used to do, this is something they are doing in the present!  

Two missionary families who are out of the church were present and gave testimony to not only what God is doing in the places where they serve, but the impact that this church had on their spiritual formation.  The reminder that all missionaries, pastors, evangelists and kingdom workers come out of the local church was a powerful part of the celebration service.

We heard from musicians from days gone by up to the present.  

Not only did the church celebrate 100 years of ministry, but the day was also exactly twenty years to the day when Dr. Bohall became the pastor of this congregation.

Allow me to make a few observations:

  • Every church was a new start at one time.  One hundred years ago a group wanted to see a holiness church planted in Shelby County Indiana, and they were willing to sacrifice to make it happen.  New start churches is not a new phenomenon it has been going on for over 2000 years!
  • We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before.  Everything we enjoy today is because someone saw a need and paid a price. It does not hurt us and in fact helps us to stop periodically and offer thanks.
  • The past is a part of who we are today.  I have been to several anniversary celebration services and in some, you would get the feeling that nothing significant ever happened at that place until the present pastor arrived.  It is the height of arrogance to assume that we are the reason that there is a celebration. We should not become a prisoner to the past, but we must honor the commitment and sacrifice of those who have gone before us and it is a good thing to do!
  • Focus on the future.  Whereas it is good to celebrate the past we cannot live there.  I am old enough to remember the good old days. Often they are better remembered than lived! Just as the pioneers sought ways to reach their communities, we today must find the tools and avenues to reach this current generation.

This article is meant to celebrate with my friends at Shelbyville First Church of the Nazarene in Shelbyville Indiana.  I think they set the proper tone and celebrated with excellence and spirit. While I sensed their appreciation for the past it does not paralyze them, they are firmly committed to being The Lord’s witnesses in the present.  

Reflect on the past, live in the present, plan for the future.

Congratulations to a great church and to Dr. Steve and Barb Bohall and may we all seek to be light and salt in this generation.

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