One principle I have sought to live by as I pastor FBC Gadsden is this: “Honoring our Past… Embracing our Future.”
Many young pastors chafe under the commitment some churches have to honor their history and traditions. Frankly, I am troubled when any church honors their tradition more than they honor the Bible, but I have come to realize that this type of church is rarer than many believe. However, that does not prevent many from extrapolating that unhealthy attitude of a few out onto the attitudes of the many who simply value the history and tradition of their church. All commitment to honoring the past is not a direct threat to being on mission today.
I love the history of my church, and I think many of our traditions here are part of what make our church culture special! I want to share the story of a way we have applied this principle since I have been pastor here. I want to tell you about the Bonnie Smitherman Arts and Crafts room.
Our church owns a kiln. In our Family Life Center, steps away from our gym, was the Bonnie Smitherman Craft Room. In one closet just off the room was the kiln, and in another closet we kept all the supplies that were needed for those who made ceramics. From the best I can tell, the room had not been uses for Arts and Crafts for over 20 years. However, the room had become the most popular medium-sized meeting room on our entire campus.
It also happened to be the best possible room for our youth group to meet for worship. What could we do?
First, it would have been easy to simply say, “We need this room for ministry! Let’s just change it because we need it to help grow our church!” This would have been very unwise.
Instead, we went to every group who used the room and shared the idea with them. All of the responses were overwhelmingly positive, and so through volunteer labor we made the room into an up to date student worship room.
It is no longer the Bonnie Smitherman Arts and Craft Room. It is now Smitherman Hall. We did not call it a hip youth name because we do not only want to embrace our future. We want to honor our past in the process. And every time we talk about Smitherman Hall we are reminding our students that there is a long line of faithful people who worshipped Christ here before them. Bonnie Smitherman is no longer with us. I never got to meet her. But every time we talk about Smitherman Hall our members tell me about Bonnie’s kindness and commitment to serve this church. I am told that she would have been thrilled to have her name affixed to a room in which students have fun and worship Christ.