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11 November 2007

How Exactly Are You Innovative?

I grew up in a very traditional church - the type where more time was spent fixing those in the church than was spent sharing the message with those not in the church.

Don't get me wrong, I am thankful for the foundational Bible knowledge and the Christian upbringing. But the pieces of the puzzle didn't come together until I came to the church I currently attend. It was here that foundational teaching met innovation.

In my past life the "innovative" church was synonymous with the "rebellious" or "misled" church. It was the church that played rock music, had swapped Biblical teaching for long worship sets or had given up on traditional teachings for more "worldly" ideals.

Looking back I'm almost positive there were churches that lived up to those assumptions. But there were also churches that stepped out in faith and weathered the criticism in order to push the envelope and lead in the area of innovation in a typically stale and stagnant landscape.

Because of this I thought I'd break the myth that innovation=rock music in church. Here are just a few things you can do to be a more innovative church:

  • Be seeker-sensitive: As time goes on the gap between traditional church and the non-believer grows ever greater. Something as simple as having your pastor take off the ominous robe and allowing your members to lose the three piece suits and bonnets will go far in helping a new person feel comfortable. And yes, playing music that people know doesn't hurt - even if it is rock music. Just make sure to pull the spiritual meaning out for those that don't get it.
  • Be culturally relevant: Tell the story of Joseph. You can even read it directly from the Bible! But for crying out loud, don't fail to recognize that there are people in the crowd struggling with every theme in the story from family trouble to prison time to adultery. The Bible is meant to transcend time - not get lost in in.
  • Be technologically advancing: Notice I didn't say technologically "advanced." You never get to the place where you have it all figured out. Technology changes so fast you can't look at it as something to attain. More appropriate is to view it as a train to catch or a journey to be on. This includes everything from IT inside the building to the way you do print/graphics to your web strategy. Think big and make sure a big portion of it is outside the box.
  • Be socially conscious: Jesus was all about taking care of those that had less. Less financially. Less physically. Less mentally. Less spiritually. So who are we to hoard the blessings we've been given? Get out there and make a difference in your community.
  • Be about growth: Jesus made the statement that He would "grow" or "build" his church. The church in Acts grew daily as people were added to the community of faith. So what makes us think that we should build a small box, fill it and be done? Instead - constantly look for new ways to reach people where you live. And if that means you need a building strategy for future growth - so be it.
  • Help people take steps in their spiritual journey: Just as a sports team needs players at every position, so the church succeeds when each person uses his or her talents for the greater good. Give tasks away. There is a good chance someone can do it better than you anyway. And it might be the very thing that seals the deal (spiritually) for that person.
  • Think small as you grow big: As the church grows, people feel less connected to the church at large. The danger is that people will come to a large service, talk to nobody and go home - feeling less relational connected than when they walked in. So champion the small group concept at your church. Keep people connected to each other so in turn they will feel connected to the larger church.
  • Set up wide and go long: First, as your church grows and people hear about you, they will want to come - even if they live an hour away. At some point this makes it necessary to branch out "wide." Provide what they are after where they are at. Don't be afraid of multi-site. Do your research and make it happen. Second, if you provide streaming versions of your service, you will eventually develop an online following. Most churches call this their "Internet Campus." Believe it or not it can be and do everything that your physical church can be and do. Go "long" and realize that there are those three states away that can benefit from what you do.
  • Share your DNA: If you are doing great stuff and it's effective in bringing people out of the darkness - share the love! Don't hold onto it as if it were yours to hold onto. Let others take what you've created and make an impact in their community. You can sell it or give it away - doesn't matter - just make it available.
  • Keep looking: Don't stop here - keep looking for ways to take it to the next level.