Common Core. Harriet Tubman on money. Cursive handwriting in schools. I keep seeing all kinds of these things pop up on Facebook feeds, Twitter feeds, news articles, and more. What in the world does all of this have to do with church?
Keep in mind, I have opinions on all these subjects. Everybody does. I’m not advocating an opinion on any of these. However, a quick scroll through the comments sections of these articles it reveals that the most common argument against any of these topics is one of the following:
“The old ways are best.”
“We’ve never done it that way before.”
“We need to get back to the time-tested way.”
“We did just fine without (or with) that when I was a kid.”
Whether you agree with these ideas or not, I think we can mostly agree that an argument for or against something by using quotes like these is completely illogical. These thoughts kill innovation without a single thought to the idea that maybe, just maybe, something new could, in fact, be better! So, what can we learn about innovation from these ideas?
The old ways aren’t always best
I promise. They’re not. I’ve heard the argument in churches constantly: “Well, they got along fine without that before!” “That,” by the way, is basically anything new that someone is against. My usual response is: “Well, they lived without indoor plumbing and air conditioning, too.” The response is generally “Well, that’s different.” No, it’s really not. Go back farther and they even went without the polio vaccine, actual surgery (not just sawing things off), and contact lenses. Sometimes, the old, time-tested ways are not best. In fact, those old, time-tested ways were new and innovative at some point. And, guess what…people criticized them then as well. If your only reason for being against something is that it is new, then it’s a bad reason. Innovation is key to success.
Principles are different than methods
Often, our confusion comes when we substitute these two words. The principle of God using the church as His primary tool for discipleship is a never-changing principle. However, the methods with which the church is built, used, and spread is always changing as culture changes. The odds of attracting anyone to a local church today that was designed to attract people in the 1700’s is slim. Generally, the only churchgoers you will get are history buffs. The principle of using music, teaching, and scripture in our worship is a never-changing principle. However, the music style will always change. The teaching will always change based on the problems of the age and how the Bible relates to them. The use of scripture in worship may be read into a microphone, projected onto a screen, turned into a video, or read on a cell phone. The principles never change. The methods are always changing.
New isn’t always better, just different
One of the quickest ways in the world to kill creativity, innovation, and freshness is to establish a routine. The idea of changing something just to change it is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it kicks us out of a rut. Sometimes, it gives us a fresh idea. Sometimes, it teaches us that the way we were doing it before is, in fact, better! I can’t count the times that I have made a change and then reverted because it just did not work. Sometimes, change doesn’t have to mean bigger, better, and flashier. Sometimes, it just means different.