Pastoral Ponderings—Good ol’ Days
Does it make me weird that I act like a history detective for fun? I’ve always been a fan of history, and for the better part of the past ten years, Darling Wife Karol and I have been dreaming toward acquiring and moving into an historic farm space. We finally bought that property early last spring, and it’s been driving us crazy ever since. The tax records show the old farmhouse as having been built in 1900, but its hand-hewn beams held together with mortise and tenons and wooden pegs tell a different story. And as I get a few minutes here and there, I’m being the history detective exploring clues I find to discover the REAL story behind our new/old home.
Our move to the farmhouse is an effort to embrace “The Good Ol’ Days,” yet the realities those Good Ol’ Days are often full of surprises. We all struggle with change, and often think of change as undermining good things we love, yet the Good Ol’ Days we often embrace as iconic of what we love, is a story of embracing change as both a necessity and as desirable for The Good Life. My history detective work is continually finding examples of this.
We love our hand-hewn beams, but can you imagine the thrill the guys doing the back-breaking and dangerous labor of hewing those beams would have felt when they could change to using a sawmill for that heavy labor? And I also found according to documents in the Ohio Historical Archives, “reaping, binding, and shocking an acre of wheat in 1829-30 took two men approximately twenty hours; sixty-five years later the same amount of wheat could be reaped, threshed, and sacked in about eighteen minutes”(Hutslar, p. 237). ONLY 18 minutes! That’s not only bringing a heck of a lot less work, but such change meant bringing families closer to The Good Life they saw depicted in so many ways by Currier and Ives.
We bemoan the change we see in our churches now as compared to in our own “Good Ol’ Days.” Yet after sawmills started saving lives and backs from the labor of hand-hewn beams, can we even imagine some of those old-timers complaining about the labor-saving sawmills, and saying “I wish we could just use our axes again…” or “Gee I wish it still took me 20 hours to process the grain I can now do in 18 minutes…”? That’s inconceivable! (bonus points for getting that movie quote!)
So we’ve changed from more independent congregations to three churches working together, and that change brings a full range of challenges. Not as dramatic as mechanized grain processing or sawmills, but significant nonetheless. The core process of old Ohio farmsteads was the dual mission of sustenance and grain production for profit- farmers caring for themselves, and feeding the community. All decisions on those farms were made around facilitating those core processes.
The core process of churches, both in The Good Ol’ Days and now, is making and growing disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. Our decisions, too, are made around facilitating our core process, which is also twofold- caring for our own, and “feeding” the community. Jesus set that mission Himself, telling Peter “Feed my sheep,” and telling the gathered disciples to preach the Gospel make disciples, even to the ends of the age.
How we process the grain and build the house is an adventure in change—but the core process is the same. Let’s focus on making disciples—and following Jesus’ lead to “feed my sheep.” — Pastor Jim