I’ve pastored two churches. The first was a start-up, and we began in my living room with about a half dozen people. On opening Sunday, we had twelve. I enjoyed watching that ministry grow for the next nineteen years.
But when I arrived here nine and a half years ago, I was struck by the sense of history in this church. The church was not in a very good place at the time. It had been in decline for years and our attendance was only a fraction of what it had been in its heyday. But the church was launched way back in 1927, and everywhere in the old building (this was before we remodeled and added the lobby) there were reminders of that history. In its first fifty years, it had only three pastors and attendance had reached what was at the time a mammoth size for an evangelical church, averaging over a thousand on Sundays. From my first days here I felt an obligation to the founders and early members to reignite the great work that they had begun. It has been the thrill of my life to see that happen.
Something this church has taught me is that we are just a small piece in all that God has going on, but an important piece nonetheless. I see it as a relay race. Each generation is responsible for running their heart out while holding the baton. But they then pass that baton on to the next. Here we are now, holding the baton. I say “we”… that includes you. We’ve got a race to run until we hand it off. Are you running?
This week I’ve been helping us get ready for our 90th anniversary and have been going through old pictures and records. I found the very first minute entry of the church, and records that go back to its founding in 1927. I found records of baptisms and baby dedications. It was fun to see the name, “Becky Jeanne Von Busch” among the baby dedications (I won’t tell you what year so that I don’t get in trouble). That’s the Becky that almost all of you know, the lady who stands at the top of the stairs before almost every service and greets many of you by name. She was dedicated as a baby here, and now her office is located where the nursery used to be, the very place her parents would have taken her after the dedication was over.
Becky was handed a baton and she’s been running her fastest ever since. Some day she’ll pass it off to someone in the next generation.
I love going through the old records, reading minutes and notes from former pastors, and looking at pictures of people who were just as excited about “our” church as we are today. And it thrills me to know that we are part of something that is way bigger than ourselves. Those records, minutes, and pictures represent our family lineage here at The Bridge. We’ve had tall shoulders to stand on and I hope and pray we leave a legacy worthy of the legacy left to us.
But that is up to us. What will this ministry look like when we hand it off? What are we doing to ensure that it is strong and fit, ready for those who will run with what we give them, to maximize their impact? Because what we do today not only affects the world we live in now; it’s going to affect the world of our successors.