My wife and I spent last week on vacation at Panama City Beach. The weather was ideal with mid-80 temperatures most of the week, no rain, and lots of sunshine. Earlier in the week the crowds were rather small, but that began to change towards the weekend. This past weekend was a special celebration the city has each year remembering an event in their history.
I don't know all the details, but evidently in its earlier history PCB was home to a pirate, Dominique Youx, who treated the town very well. According to the stories, another group of pirates decided to invade the town, defeat Youx, and take his treasure which he shared with the people of PCB. The townspeople rallied to support Youx and defeated the invading pirates. Every year the battle is re-enacted and a three day celebration occurs with floats, games, and give-aways. We were there for the first evening of the celebration, and I have to say it was fun.
As we drove home the following morning I thought about how our churches often remember their histories. I've been to numerous "Homecomings" and church anniversaries, and I have to say that most of them do not really resemble a celebration. There may be a church history read, a previous pastor is invited back to speak, and there is often a church dinner, but there is seldom anything that I would call a celebration. While I have attended a few that truly did celebrate the history of the church, they tend to be the exception.
If the church you serve is very old it has seen a lot of history and has survived a lot of challenges. The church I pastored began in 1828, the year Andrew Jackson was elected President. It survived the Civil War, two world wars, a depression, and countless other events that could have closed its doors. During WWII a large number of its members were forced from their homes when the government purchased their farms for a large munitions testing range. Many of them moved away never to return.
Despite all the obstacles, countless thousands of people have worshiped in that small church during its 187 year history. Many found Christ and were baptized in that church. Families worshiped together. No doubt there have been thousands of weddings in that church and perhaps as many funerals. I doubt that anyone could count the number of pitch-in dinners that took place on the property. Members felt the call of God to enter the ministry or the mission field and pursued the training they would need to respond to that call. Church records can only hint at the ministry that country church provided to the community at large.
As time passes by it's easy to forget all the positive things that have occurred in our churches, but we must not forget. God has been at work in our churches, and we need to pause from time to time to celebrate that. I mean really celebrate. Think about it, Almighty God, Creator of the universe, has chosen to work in and through your church to impact the lives of the people in your community. That is something worthy of celebrating!
Does your church have a special anniversary coming up in 2016? Is there something significant in your church's history that must never be forgotten? The best way to remember these things is to celebrate them. Go ahead. It's OK for God's people to celebrate the great things God has done.