We were also blessed to have descendants of our original charter members; including a video from one young lady who is a fifth generation descendent of charter members and who is currently serving as a Missionary in Africa with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board. We were also blessed to have with us a third generation descendant of one of our earliest Pastors (the second Pastor of the church who had served back in the late 1890s, right after our founding).
Our featured speaker for the morning was Dr. Randy Davis, Executive Director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention. He culminated his message with the ringing of the original church bell which had been preserved form out very first worship center. We rang it thirteen times, one for each of the twelve decades of our existence, and one for the future.
As a part of his message, Dr. Davis shared the following insightful illustration. He talked about the difference between a rear view mirror and a windshield. Both, he acknowledged, are important when we drive, or go forward. The rear view mirror is important because it helps us to see where we have been. But we cannot effectively drive in a forward direction if we focus only on where we have been.
Instead, we have to look in front of us, to where we are going. And that is the purpose of the windshield – to present that very view. He then noted that the windshield is more important than the rear view mirror, precisely because it lets us know where we are going.
I was inspired by that thought. So much so that I came home and took some measurements. The rear view mirror on the vehicle I drive is c. 2”X9.5”, for a total area of only 19” square inches. By comparison, the windshield is c. 29”X56”, for a total area of 1624 square inches. Now, 1624 divided by 19 is approximately 85.5. This obviously means that the people who designed the vehicle I drive intended for me to have 85 times more focus on where I was going than on where I had been!
It was William Shakespeare who said, “All that is past is prologue.” Those words are fittingly inscribed on Robert Aitken’s 1935 sculpture titled Future, which sits in front of the northeast corner of the Unites States National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. As a country, we rightfully celebrate our tremendous heritage; but we look forward to an even greater future in light of this.
And that thought must translate into the life of a church as well! Where we have been (our history, our heritage, etc…) is very important. But even more important is where we are headed. And if we spend too much time looking at our past, we will not go where we need to in the future. In fact, we may even endanger ourselves and/or wind up in the ditch!
With this thought in mind, I will look forward to a periodic glance into the past, to yesterday, to where we have been. But I always do so knowing that tomorrow, the future, deserves so much more of my time and attention than yesterday, the past, because like it or not, this is exactly where we are headed. And because of that, I find myself, with great excitement and anticipation, “looking forward”. I hope you do as well.
For the Prophet Isaiah said it even better than Shakespeare. Speaking on behalf of the Lord (43:19-19), he penned these words: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” How right he was, and how right you and I will be, to keep “looking forward”.