Is innovation relevant in the Church?
From my research of church in the 21st century, I am finding that being innovative and creative in your ministry is not only relevant, but necessary. When you examine the 1st church of Acts, they were innovative in how they established what the church looked like. They were creative, unique, and different. They leveraged their resources to accomplish their goals. Today, we have grown complacent, comfortable, and stale to the world… and almost completely overlooked. Within my study of the Acts Church, I’ve discovered that they engaged each other in community and thier excitement for God and for each other caught the attention of unbelievers (Acts 2:46-47). This insight led me to a post that I stumbled upon by Tony Morgan. This particular blog brings home what I mean when I say “Innovative Ministry”.
I liked it so much that I decided to post it here. Check it out…
Starbucks Ken (who by the way has one of the coolest looking blogs in blogland) passed along an interesting article from a recent issue of Psychology Today. The article talks about the rapid growth of Starbucks and, among other things, attributes that growth to the “Starbucks experience” rather than the coffee. Here are some highlights from the article and the questions and thoughts it raised in my mind:
“From a base of just 100 stores 15 years ago, Starbucks has grown into a 13,000-strong coffeehouse armada. It operates cafes in all 50 states and in 37 countries… The company now opens more than 2,000 coffeehouses per year, an average of six new stores a day.”
The company’s current goal is to have 40,000 stores worldwide. Does anyone else read that and think our vision for the Church pales in comparison? We complain about and try to discredit the ministry of churches that are approaching 40,000 people while this company (that’s just trying to sell more coffee) is trying to open 40,000 unique locations. Aren’t we thinking too small?
“At Starbucks, nothing is accidental. Everything the customer interacts with, from the obsessively monitored store environment down to the white paper cups, is the product of deliberation and psychological research. The coffeehouse as we know it is a calculated creation…”
It ticks me off that Starbucks has demonstrated this much intentionality in selling coffee while the Church embraces a passive (or maybe it’s just lazy) approach to spreading the Gospel.
“Starbucks filled America’s need for a public gathering spot–…a ‘third place’ with home and work being place one and two. This became Starbucks’ community rallying cry: It wasn’t a coffee company, but a place for bringing people together through the social glue of coffee.”
Here’s an example of a need that people had that could have easily been filled by the Church. Maybe we’re too focused on arguing about what we’re against instead of being what the Church was intended to be in people’s lives.
Starbucks interviewed coffee drinkers and found that they “talked very little about the coffee itself, but quite a bit about feelings and atmosphere… The coffee wasn’t the point–the feel of the place was.”
Here’s the reality–Starbucks just wants to sell more coffee. But, we don’t hear blogging baristas complaining about how Starbucks has watered down the coffee because they’re actually paying attention to people’s feelings and the atmosphere of their stores.
What if God gifted artists to create an atmosphere for people to be more receptive to hearing the Gospel? What if God created some people with the gift of hospitality to design a welcoming environment for people to hear the Gospel? What if God gifts people and directs them through the Holy Spirit to think about effective building design, sound systems, video capabilities and children’s ministry so that more people might hear the Gospel? Is it possible that we’re trying to put God in a box by limiting how he chooses to reach people?
I happen to believe God will use methods we’ve not seen before to reach people who have yet to commit their lives to Christ. As I’ve read through the Bible again, I’m amazed at the variety of different approaches he used to get people’s attention and transform lives. I don’t think God’s done creating. And, I don’t think he’s done redeeming people’s lives.