By Kenneth D. MacHarg
If you were tasked with writing a history of your church, what would you include?
Several decades ago I assisted an association of churches in a radio series which presented the history of each if its congregations. Members of the church wrote the five or ten minute scripts and a representative of the congregation came to the studio to do the recording.
To add a bit of interest, I suggested that they utilize sound effects to illustrate their historical stories.
To my surprise the most requested sound was hammers and saws. Only one church asked for something different—they had established an orphanage for children left as orphans during a smallpox outbreak back in the 1850s.
What I discovered in recording that series was that most churches identify their accomplishments and activities by the construction of facilities and a “parade of pastors.”
So it goes. Recently on a trip I picked up a small pamphlet outlining the history of an historic church in a Mississippi River town. I was not surprised to find that it, too, is a history of building construction, remodeling, the selling and buying of property along with a list of pastors who served there since 1807.
Somehow we can’t see the forest for the trees, or the movement of the Lord for the business of fellow humans.
How I would love to read a church history that related stories of those whose lives were changed when they committed themselves to Jesus Christ.
I would like to know about ministries that changed the course of the community or led people to crucial outreach in the church.
How nice it would be to hear about people from the youth group or the church as a whole who went into full-time Christian service. (From the youth group in the church that I grew up, three out of around fifteen young people were called to serve—one as a seminary professor, one in pastoral and denominational ministries, and one as a pastor and missionary)
Wouldn’t it be great to know about people who taught Sunday school into their nineties? Of others who relocated overseas as second or third career missionaries in their sixties or seventies; to hear about pastors who went beyond their normal call to write books or establish a homeless outreach or mentor seminary students?
How exciting it would be to read about unique ministries such as the founding of a children’s home, the establishment of housing for the elderly, a resettlement program for refugees, the instituting of a scholarship for those going to seminary or Bible college, a counseling program that healed wounded souls, an outreach to mentor pastors new to their calling—the list could go on and on.
If you or your church are considering writing a history, be creative, be motivating, be faithful in telling not your story or the organization’s story, but the story of what God has done through the congregation. To Him will be the glory.
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