Is there anything more dangerous to the Church’s mission and purpose than nostalgia?
Traditions have incredible value for teaching and training future generations about our values and we use these traditions and rituals to pass on our legacy to our children. When the traditions, customs, and rituals continue to demonstrate and teach the core values for which they were created, then they maintain their worth. BUT, when they cease to teach the value for which they were created, it is then that they become worthless. And, when we hold onto them for the sake of nostalgia, it is then that they become dangerous.
Nostalgia is nothing more than idolizing the past, or worse our perception of the past. Idolatry is equated with adultery in Hebrew (same word, just context). The point is this, we commit adultery when we worship the past.
I am truly grateful to those who have served to pave the way for the present. I love history and I am likely to bring something from history into any conversation. I believe that those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. I have no interest in returning to the past, but I will study it. I believe the Church is dangerously close to committing adultery with the past – or our fantasized perception of the past.
I once knew a married man who was engaged in a dangerous relationship with another woman. The relationship had not crossed any moral lines, but I confronted him on the dangerous nature of the relationship. I believe it was the most loving thing I could do. I believe that the Church is in a dangerous relationship with the past. I hope that She has not crossed the line of idolatry, but because I love the Church, I must warn Her of the danger!
We long for our former prominence in culture. We want to return to past methods of ministry. We continue to use training mechanisms for our ministers that are no longer effective. It seems nostalgia is the driving force behind our decisions instead of the Holy Spirit – idolatry!
Each church and her leaders must think critically on this issue without becoming critical of how other churches have engaged in the mission of Christ. Rather than being critical of the culture around us, we must see the opportunities for ministry in the changing culture. Every culture poses various obstacles to the ministry of the Church which can serve as opportunities if we let go of our love affair with the past. Ironically, the Church has always been the best version of Herself when faced with the most obstacles from the culture because She is forced to look for opportunities.
Let us commit to letting the Holy Spirit direct our mission, worship, and community rather than nostalgia, traditionalism, and ritualism. Ask yourself and your church leaders, “Why?” If the response is, “That’s the way we’ve always done it,” then we should either stop doing it, or we need to be clearer about the Biblical foundation. I don’t want to dance on the fringe of committing adultery with the past.