The heroes of our churches embody the "dna" or "code" of our congregations. The heroes of the church are those we look to for guidance and wisdom. They live out the character that is being nurtured in our congregations. In telling their stories, why we consider them to be heroes, what things they did that exemplify the qualities we admire, we can unlock the code that we live by as an organization. "Heroes can be living legends or departed saints." - from Transforming Church by Kevin Ford.
One of the heroes of my former church, Trabuco Presbyterian Church, is Tom McFadden. I should include Anne his wife as well, because they work in tandem, but the story is mostly about Tom at this writing.
Tom was close to retirement age when he started with our new church. He worked hard to find us and when he did he was always there. Not merely on Sundays, but Tom was engaged in growing as a disciple. A lifelong Presbyterian, but not a person stuck in his ways. As a pastor I could wish that all pastors would have at least one Tom McFadden in their life. Tom encouraged, corrected, listened, shared. Tom was fiercely loyal.
In one conversation that took place near the beginning of our church, Tom shared that he and his family, which dated back to the early days of Orange County. His relatives had come on horseback in the 19th century to be the early pioneers of the real OC! They built McFadden's Landing (Newport Pier area) which is where much of the lumber used to build up the county was delivered. They were teachers and farmers and help pioneer this new territory. Tom revealed that his immediate and extended family had always been members of the Presbyterian Church. In particular, they were members of 1st Pres. Church of Santa Ana. (It took on other churches in mergers etc, but this was the congregation their family served through.)
What was of most interest to me in the story was this observation. Tom said that he was the first of his family to leave 1st Pres and become a member of another church. When I asked him why he said, "McFaddens start things. And I want to be part of that legacy." Tom is a pioneer at heart. Which means that at the heart of Trabuco Presbyterian Church is a pioneering spirit. That spirit is seen in the likes of Tom McFadden.
It makes it possible for a church like TPC to consider starting new things and not just getting stuck in doing it the way they always have. This aspect of their code is integral into moving forward in a positive light.
For any congregation, the heroes hold part of the story of their dna. In a church I worked with recently, one of their heroes was a man who followed up on all visitors in person. He went by their homes and introduced himself and invited them into the life of his church. He owned the ministry. This is a great code, a great legacy for a congregation. Who are the heroes? Tell their stories and learn what part of the code they embodied through their actions.