Nostalgia’s Gift

Mark Tidsworth, Pinnacle Team Leader


a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” (Google Online Dictionary Definition)

Remember when? Remember when our church was in its heyday? Remember when the sanctuary was full, every Sunday School class was used, and we were a seven-day a week church?

Remember when….

While listening to churches tell their stories, we often find ourselves immersed in nostalgia.

While listening to pastors describing the suggestions they receive from disciples in their congregations about how to move ahead as a church, nostalgia appears again.

“Remember when we walked through the neighborhoods, knocking on doors? Perhaps we should do that again.”

“Remember when we would do a cookout in the church parking lot and so many people would stop by, we ran out of hamburgers and hot dogs? Maybe we could do that again.”

It’s fun to watch others in church meetings when these kinds of ideas are shared. Those under age 60 typically try to move the conversation on as quickly as possible, recognizing the cultural disconnects between those activities and the way people currently live.

But before we move on too quickly, I believe nostalgia brings a gift with her when she appears.

It’s tucked away, below the surface. When we peel away the cultural overlay of the specific suggestion, we find something very helpful. Those historical practices which were effective at one time were based on the missional impulse of God’s Church. The desire to reach out to people, expressing God’s love for them, engaging them spiritually, is a really good desire.

So, let’s not miss nostalgia’s gift. When she appears, it’s like she’s saying, “Hey, this person is communicating a desire to reach out to others with the good news of the gospel.” Spiritually aware and insightful leaders will then stoke that missional impulse, encouraging it to grow and take shape.

“No, our community may not respond well to people knocking on doors. Yet our community is receptive to loving people who want to connect in respectful ways. Now, how can this particular church channel that missional impulse which has been a part of this church’s DNA for forever, into our current cultural context?”

The desire to share the good news of the gospel in relevant and faithful ways in our current cultural context…that’s the missional impulse of God’s Church. Sometimes it comes hidden in reminiscent language. Let’s not miss nostalgia’s gift, translating it into missional movement.

Helen Renew