Museums can be a lot of fun to visit. They contain relics and artifacts from which we can learn a lot about our past. They are monuments and testimonies to where we have been as a culture and from where God has brought us as a civilization. They serve a very important role in our culture as they help us to appreciate the sacrifices and successes of those who have gone before us in the hopes that we do not become proud and arrogant as a culture and they provide useful instruction in terms of the mistakes of the past in the hopes that we do not repeat them. There are many kinds of museums, but they all have one thing in common…they do not contain any life.
Sadly, churches can also fall into the trap of becoming museums instead of being the living, breathing marks of the Kingdom of God that we are meant to be. This does not mean we oughtn’t look back and celebrate the blessings of God that have been brought in the past and not learn from our errors as well, but if we spend all of our time dwelling in the past—dwelling in the museum of antiquities—the life that we are meant to have will be sapped from us and we will decline into a testimony of what once was, and not to what is. Remember, God is a God of the living, not of the dead (Luke 20:37-38; 24:5).
Instead of a museum, we are called to build a kingdom (Matthew 6:33; Mark 1:15; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12). Our great commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is to make disciples of all of the nations—that begins here at home. Our call within our church is to be at the task of disciple-making. Those who are not believers need to have the Gospel proclaimed to them and those who are believers need to be built up in the faith. We should learn from and celebrate the past, but we must never be tempted to dwell there. Like that favorite hymn by Sabine Baring-Gould:
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!
Like an army, we are to march forward, and for that to take place, though kingdoms rise and fall around us, we must always keep our eyes fixed upon our great and glorious captain, Jesus Christ, who leads us on. Let us never lose sight of the goal that the church is to march onward, breaking down the strongholds of hell in this world around us.
Also, let us count Jesus’ own words to one individual as a warning against dwelling in the past:
“And he said to them, ‘Leave the dead to bury their own dead;
but you, go and preach the Kingdom of God.’”