“Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?“ Mark 8:18
It’s funny how each decade gets stuck in your head and just about anything can bring back a host of memories. The 1990‘s remind me of the three most significant events in my life – my marriage, my kids and the startup of Northstar Church. It was reminiscent of Dickens classic line from A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” By worse I mean challenging, and there was some foolishness on my part during that decade. At the end of the day, the 1990’s left an indelible mark. Rarely does a day go by that something does not transport me back to the 1990‘s and completing the Dickens quote: “it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
Rarely does a day go by that I do not reflect on how far we have come as a church. There is no way of knowing exactly how many people have been touched as a result of the various ministries started by this church. But what we do know is God is faithful, and He has carried us through times of growth, challenge, weakness, and uncertainty. The purpose of this blog post is not a stroll down memory lane, but a look at what we learned from our early 1990 days at Northstar Church. After all, we are learning to plan a new vision for the future through the process of remembering the past.
We know that the past provides us a vast resource of information for making choices and shaping our actions moving forward. Our history, therefore, can act as a reminder to our present. The key is learning from the past, not living in it. So, what does the past teach us about where we are headed as a church in the future?
If you’ve just joined Northstar in the last year or so, you might not know much of our history. If the story of Northstar was a documentary, it would be the classic story of the seed growing into a tree. I remember asking myself two basic questions in those days leading up to our first service. Will anyone attend? Will we be successful? The first service took place in a local funeral home attended by 12 people. A few months later attendance had reached 30 people. Obviously, a lot has changed since then, but we’ve never forgotten where we came from and those early ideals and commitment continue to define us today.
The reformer John Calvin once wrote that it was his joy to climb on the shoulders of those who had gone before him, to see all that they had seen and then beyond. That is what we seek to do through the process of learning from the past.
The past can be humbling. It shows where we need to grow, where we failed, and where we missed opportunities. The past also reminds us that we are not in control. Even if you didn’t believe that, there were too many instances in the early days of the church where only God could have made that happen. It was a “God thing” became a regular component of our conversations. No matter how deeply you look at the past of Northstar Church, there is an inescapable conclusion. God is responsible for what is happening around here. We have seen God use ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. The past reminds me of that truth as does the present.
The past teaches us that we make choices every day. We get to decide how we will handle what happens each day. Will I greet adversity with faith or fear? Will I treat people with love or with judgement? Will I spend time with the Lord or be too busy for Him? Will I waste my time, or will I invest my time, energy, experience and resources in His Kingdom? The past teaches me that I did not always make the best choices. But, I can learn from them and make better choices today and into the future. And, no matter if I continue to stumble, God is there and He cares.
No matter what I look back on, I see that God redeemed, restored, renewed or refreshed me as an individual and we as a church. He was always there, and He was always involved in rescuing or protecting or comforting or loving. He blessed me with a wonderful wife and kids and ministry. And a collection of good times with family, incredible memories, great friends, laughter, goals reached and goals yet to be accomplished. Through it all, He listened to my anguished prayers and wrapped His presence around me when I felt unworthy or defeated. Those past experiences tell me that He will also be there with me, and each of us that attend Northstar tomorrow.
So what does the future hold for Northstar Church? We’ll have to wait and see. I do not know the future, but I trust the one who holds my tomorrow. God has a plan for us. We’re praying for more people to come to know Jesus, more churches to be planted, and Jesus’ name to be made known throughout the world. We can’t wait to see what God has in store for our church the remainder of 2012 and into 2013.