My History, Your History, Our History

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by Paul Gilbert

When I was in seminary over 20 years ago, I took a pastoral counseling class that still reverberates in my heart and life to this day. One of the things that we had to do was to complete something marriage and family counselors call, a “genogram.” Lest you confuse this with the riveting family game know as “Jenga,” let me explain….

A genogram is basically a physical representation of your family history and lineage. Constructing a genogram, however, involves much more than simply putting together an ancestral tree of your long lost country cousins. A genogram is a tool that you utilize to identify family relational patterns, problems, issues, and strengths. Hopefully, a genogram will in turn give you greater insight and clarity into who you are and where you come from. The goal? To help you develop healthier patterns of relating in the present.

Well, three things immediately stood out as I journeyed down this path of ancestral enlightenment:

First, I was absolutely shocked that extended family members were not only willing to fill out family history questionnaires, but that they were so forthcoming about the myriads of complex problems in their lives. Suffice it to say, there was zero chance that we would be doing a genogram debrief at the Thanksgiving dinner table that year!

Second, I discovered things about my family history that were deeply encouraging and inspiring. Yes, there was plenty of dysfunction junction uncovered, as there would be for any family, but I was left with a profound appreciation and gratitude for those who had blazed the family trail before me.

Third, and most importantly, it gave me a vision for how God would have me learn from the past in order to move forward into the future. In other words, the purpose of the genogram was not for me to endlessly mull over and ruminate over all of the ways that I was negatively impacted by people I never even knew (and a few of which I did!). The purpose was to give me a vision for going forward.

This Sunday at Four Oaks, we are basically going to reconstruct our church genogram. Every year about this time, we hit “pause” in our current sermon series in order to do a sort of “state of the church” address where we take stock of all things Four Oaks and point forward to the places where we believe God is leading us.

Now, just like doing a family genogram, we will have two things in mind as we reflect on our history together. First, we want to grow in our gratitude and thanksgiving to God for His grace to us over these last 26 years, even amidst problems, difficulties, and sin – issues that every church experiences to some degree. You see, there is no desire to whitewash the past – we want to be honest about our history so that we can both thank God for His goodness and stand amazed at his grace! And, second, we don’t want to camp out in the past merely for the sake of waxing nostalgic and memorializing our history together. No, we want to revisit the past in order to gain clarity about God’s vision for our future together. As such, there will be a number of things to highlight as we plot our course together as a church family.

Because there is lots of cool stuff to unpack together this weekend, I am tempted to start spilling the beans. But, alas, there would then be no reason for you to show up. So, make plans to be at one of our services, and pray for time together. Hope to see you there!