Just a very quick entry to the thousands of church planters out there who should be asleep by now but are still writing your sermon for tomorrow.
If one of the major impressions you’re trying to make on your community is that you’re different than the traditional church, allow me to shoot the elephant in the auditorium. If you use the idea of ‘different’ as a major part of your identity (different than your old church, different than what people expect, etc), the following things are probably true:
1) You’re primarily reaching burned over pastors kids and disgruntled attendees of other churches.
- The only people who give a flip that you don’t do hymns are the ones who grew up doing hymns. The people who get a real buzz out of wearing jeans to church were the ones who were forced to wear dress clothes as a kid. In fact, if you’re hung up on doing church differently, then you might need to go back to where you got burned for some inner healing. Regrettably, more churches have been started out of reaction to something than calling.
- Ironically, those non church types you’re professing to reach really don’t know about a dress code or old school music, and they are far less impressed with your efforts to be “just like them”. In fact, when they figure it out, they’re going to feel a little manipulated.
2) Having made ‘different’ the Holy Grail of Church Identity, you’re going to need to keep it up.
- You have to continue to do something different week after week, month after month, year after year, to keep the adrenalin junkies coming back for more. They are expecting you to swing from the chandelier if necessary, because you promised them you would. Today’s different is tomorrow’s yawner.
- Even if, like a blind squirrel finding a nut, you stumble on to a good thing, once you’ve done it, it’s old. You can’t do it twice. You’re different. Change is your mantra.
Change isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, particularly when it’s change for change’s sake. Often, it’s just a backhanded slap at the way things used to be done…a cheap shot thrown out there for a reaction, particularly when we’re short on our own content.
Peter and John never pitched first century Christianity as “Not your father’s Judaism…”. They let their faith speak for itself in relation to their history.
Was it different? Certainly. But was different their identity? No. Their identity was far more impactful than just change. Their identity was knit to the power of the gospel to change lives, set people free and see people healed.
Now that’s different.
Confession: I’m a little dissatisfied with this post, and particularly dissatisfied that it was emailed out unedited to those who subscribe via email. It points out a gripe without offering any real answers.
I’ll follow up in a day or two with a second post outlining the vast spread between doing things different and true innovation. I’m bored with the church’s penchant for simply doing things different, however, I’m completely energized by innovation, which often leads us to do things different in a proactive way.
Totally confused? I’m not far behind you.
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