It is enormously important which direction people are looking. But how can we move from looking backward to looking forward?
As soon as people walk into a church, they can tell if it is oriented toward the past or the future. They don't discover that by what they see as much as by what they hear. When I visit a church or catch conversations in my congregation, I listen to how people talk about one subject: the greatest days of the church.
At one well-known midwestern church, for example, visitors may hear people say: "I remember when folks lined up to get into evening services. Conventions of major national associations were held here. When people came to town, they attended here." Their glory days are past, not future. The result, for both the listeners and people speaking, is an overwhelming feeling of sadness.
When I came to Wooddale Church, people spoke similarly: "I remember when we used to.… I remember when attendance was growing instead of declining." I found it emotionally ...1