In her book, Thinking in the Future Tense, Jennifer James quotes Sheldon Kopp and Peter Serge: Psychologist Sheldon Kopp warned clients to plow the fields of their past if they wanted to be able to plant their own crops. Business consultant Peter Senge agreed; “Structures of which we are unaware hold us prisoner. Once we can see them and name them they no longer have the same hold on us. This is as true for the organization as it is for the individual.”
It was said of Jesus in John 13, “And Jesus knowing that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist … and washed the disciples’ feet.”
Once we understand our past and have a vision for the future we are freed up to be about service and mission. Otherwise we are servants to the invisible powers and shadows of the past. Please consider the following questions as you take time today to examine where you have come from in order to assist yourselves in your future vision planning and free yourselves to “take up the towel”:
What have been some of the church’s High times, Low times, Additions, Deletions, Stressors, Strengths, Gifts?
Can you share a story of an event that marks how this church processed some of the above?
What is typically not talked about in this congregation?
Where is the energy in this congregation; where does it come from?
What were the key events or experiences within the life of the congregation in the last ten years? Twenty years? Thirty years? Forty years?
What other normal life cycle events or unexpected crises has this church either had to face or refused to grapple with in recent (5) years? 10, 20, 30 years?
How did you make it through that very difficult time in the life of the church?
What do you think kept it from being worse than what it was?
What kind of strengths do you think people brought to that event so it turned out better than it might have?
Think about history as process; how did you relate to each other, interact?
What do you think are the unresolved issues from that past that continue to affect the emotional life of this congregation?
What Biblical story does this remind you of as you look at your history?