Historical Revisionism: thinking it’s all bad when it’s not.

We were attending a regional leadership team meeting for the denomination of which I was a part, at a time in our ministry when things were going poorly. After one session and before the next, Ellen and I returned to our hotel room to relax. I can’t remember what prompted it but we started going over our history in the ministry. It seems with the passing of time you either remember things to have been worse than they were or better than they were. At this time in my career I was remembering everything as having been bad. That wasn’t fair, it had not all been bad but that’s how I remembered my history in the pastorate.

The dictionary defines historical revisionism as: “…the attempt to change commonly held ideas about the past. The reexamination of historical facts, with an eye towards updating historical narratives with newly discovered, more accurate, or less biased information, acknowledging that history of an event, as it has been traditionally told, may not be entirely accurate.”

When things haven’t been going well in your church, if you haven’t seen growth for a long time…or maybe have never seen much growth, your current discouragement tends to make you forget the good times. As Ellen and I revisited our history we discovered that one third of our time pastoring was really good, one third was really bad, and one third was somewhere imbetween. It was helpful for us to realize it had not been all bad.

If this is a disappointing time for you in the ministry, if you find yourself thinking it’s all been bad, go back over your history. I bet you will find out that there has been good with the bad, easy with the hard, encouragement with discouragement. We tend to think of historical revisionism as a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes your history needs to be rewritten, especailly if you remember it having been all bad. There are seasons of life, seasons in relationships, seasons in ministry. If this is a difficult season you will probably come out of it. Spring always follows Winter. Be thankful for the good and easy times…and if you really want something to shoot for…learn to be thankful for the bad and difficult times as well. Character and depth of soul are seldom achieved without pain and disappointment.