I have had people in my congregation make comments like, “This ministry was done thirty years ago and worked, filling the church, we should go back and do that.”
The problem with that thinking is that both the community and the church have changed. Simply duplicating a past ministry or worship style or whatever will not guarantee the results of the past. In fact, some of the decline in the church may have been from an unwillingness to change with the times.
Some may counter by saying the gospel never changes. That is correct. The gospel is timeless but we shouldn’t confuse the content of the gospel and our strategy for communicating that gospel. Both Jesus and Paul tailored their message for the audiences they were speaking to. Jesus and Paul were relevant before relevance was cool.
Having said that, I don’t believe in jettisoning the past. I have read some of the history of my congregation and have been inspired. They were willing to take some major risks in order to expand the kingdom of God. There was a real pioneering spirit.
I believe it is possible to embrace the principles without duplicating the models. Instead of doing what the congregation did in the past, we should emulate the motivations they had for what they did.
I believe that churches that either try to live in the past or ignore the past are both wrong. We should remember the past, be inspired by the past, but put those principles into practice without duplicating the past.