August 22, 2018

“Exit” is defined by Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary as “the act of going out.” That correctly characterizes the innovative church. Their philosophy is, know where the signs are located and search for entry signs.      

You would think it would be natural to look ahead and not behind. People can’t successfully drive a car or peddle a bicycle or for that matter, safely walk if they are always looking back. Though it may help to sneak an occasional backward look, to ensure your safety, when it comes to achievement, the past is just that, the past. Former professional baseball pitcher and Hall of Famer, Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige said, “Don’t look back—something might be gaining on you.” That’s terrible news for the church because that something is called secularism.

I look back at a time when there was more airline competition, and people flew the “friendly skies.” It’s hard to understand how airlines charge more and more and provide less and less service. I would think that there would be fewer people flying. But, that not true. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “On any given day, more than 87,000 flight are in the skies in the United States. Only one-third are commercial carriers, like American, United or Southwest. If I calculate correctly, the U.S. skies are home to over 29,000 commercial flights on any given day. I wish some of those flights flew in the friendly skies of the past.

On a recent flight out of Tampa, Florida, I listened—a good idea— to the flight attendant’s mandatory preflight safety announcements. She addressed the issues of seat belts, oxygen masks, no smoking, float devices, service trays, etc. When she talked about exiting the plane, should an emergency occur, she told us to look the closest exit sign. And the flight attendant reminded the passengers, the nearest exit may be behind, even in the next row back.

A quick look back helps a church, or any organization realizes that it’s on target or missing the goal. The scoreboard reveals the winners and the losers.  • Is worship attendance on target? • Is the Sunday school attendance growing? Is membership morale high or improving? • Are members growing spiritually? • Are you introducing more people to Christ and seeing them experience salvation? • Is the organization innovating as it should? You are either achieving your goals, or you are not. Recognize the shortfalls and take corrective action. Tout the achievements and build on the momentum. Look back and verify the objectives you set in the past are still realistic.

The past is often a burden for the future. A strategy that produced success in the past, even when executed brilliantly today, frequently leads to failure. Blame it on change. Great advertising executive, Bruce Barton observed, “When you are through changing, you are through.” Look at a caterpillar and look at a butterfly. The only connection is change. As someone said, “If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”

While what’s behind (the past) is essential, it is also important to look around (the present). Both the past and the present are often harbingers of the future. A sensitive appraisal of today, viewed in the light of the past, can help eliminate repeating the mistakes of history.