The Danger of Nostalgia at Church

Church Old 1Nostalgia: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Most people experience nostalgia from time to time. Maybe it’s a place. Maybe it’s a song. Maybe it’s a restaurant. Maybe it’s a movie. But from time to time, all of us experience sentimental longings for the past. Nostalgia even happens in church … And when it does, it’s a dangerous thing. Here are four reasons why nostalgia is dangerous at church:

1) Nostalgia at church idolizes the past. We convince ourselves that if we could recreate our past church experience, many of our spiritual issues would be solved. Or at the very least, we would be better suited to grow spiritually. This is a lie, and we must guard against the temptation to idolize past church experiences.

2) Nostalgia at church forgets the struggles of the past. If you grew up with a positive church experience (like I did), you have a tendency to remember the positive and forget the negative. When we find ourselves longing for the church experience we used to know, we must remind ourselves that there were problems even in “the good old days.”

3) Nostalgia at church makes the present disappointing. If your heart lives in the past, the present will never be able measure up to your expectations. You will constantly criticize and nit-pick. You will be a complainer and a detractor. Simply put, you will be bitter and miserable in the present because you can’t get out of the past.

4) Nostalgia at church paralyzes progress in the future. The faith once for all delivered to the saints does not need to be updated to accommodate modern sensibilities and political correctness. However, nostalgia is rarely rooted in the unchanging aspects of church life. Rather, nostalgia is usually rooted in temporary cultural expressions of church life. Some churches have been paralyzed by their sentimental longing for the past.

Have you seen other effects of nostalgia at church?

Originally published July 6, 2015 on