What is a church homecoming?

by Daniel Ausbun, First Baptist Church, Moreland

This Sunday our church is celebrating homecoming.

This means the former pastor is coming back and you bring a covered dish to church. Typically a church homecoming is held annually and includes a meal. You might be a Baptist if you believe you’re supposed to bring a covered dish to heaven when you die.

Typically a church’s homecoming is celebrated around the church’s anniversary. It’s a time when former members come “back home” to see old friends and eat fried chicken. Scripture teaches to look forward (2 Peter 3:13), but homecoming’s a time to remember the past.

Celebrating your church’s past is important.

Every year in the U.S. 4,000 churches close their doors and go out of business. Remembering what the Lord has done in the past is important. Joshua 4:6-7 says, “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ you should tell them.” As the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land for the first time, 12 stones were selected from the river as a memorial of God leading the Twelve Tribes of Israel into their land.

Homecomings originated from college football games.

It was a game to get the alumni back on campus – beginning in 1911. Three universities claim the first homecoming: Baylor, Illinois and Missouri.

“Jeopardy,” the TV show, declares Missouri held the first homecoming where alumni came back for a parade and football game. The first church homecoming was celebrated shortly after this in an African-American congregation in North Carolina.

The church held an event to bring back distant family and friends for a weekend get-together. Homecoming would also include a visit to the cemetery.

The greatest homecoming in Scripture occurred in Luke 15:20. The parable of the prodigal son is about a younger son who squandered his inheritance, and his father welcomed him home with open arms. The father was outside looking for his son to return.

This parable is a picture of God. He’s the Father who waits outside late in the night for His children to return.

I remember during college going on a ski trip to North Carolina and being delayed – this is before everyone had a cell phone – and returning home at 1 a.m. to discover my dad on the porch waiting. If you’ve wandered from home, God is the good Father welcoming you back.

Your church should celebrate its past and push forward towards the future.

Church ministry changes. The events and programs that were effective in 1974 likely aren’t effective 40 years later in 2014.

Churches need a “whatever it takes” attitude for reaching their community. Recently I was talking with a member of a church whose attendance was declining. He predicted in a few years their church would close, but they wanted to go out gracefully. How sad. This man has already given up on God’s desire to revitalize their congregation.

You need to know your church’s past.

If your church consistently baptized more people 30 years ago than today, something’s wrong. God hasn’t changed. The Gospel doesn’t fail. The purpose of the local church is to glorify God through disciple-making. This begins by leading someone to Christ.

Does your church have a continuous history of leading people to Christ?

One of the best ways to reach your community with homecoming is to contact all the people who have recently visited – and non-attending members – and invite them to Homecoming. Thank them for visiting or being a member and remind them about the upcoming homecoming service and dinner afterwards.

Christians should use every chance to invite unchurched and dechurched members “back home” to hear the “Old Time Story.”

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