I've noticed a little trend in my social media feeds recently. It goes along the line of new problems needing new solutions, not being able to solve new issues with old thinking, that kind of thing. Einstein gets quoted (the one about expecting different results, even though we do things the same way), and I've even quoted Craig Groeschel a couple of times on this very blog in the past (if we're going to reach the people other people aren't reaching, we're going to have do what other people aren't doing). They are great quotes, challenging and thought provoking. But are they changing anything?
In order to think in new ways you have to innovate, and innovating can be a very lonely endeavour. To be a pioneer means to be leading the way to a place we have not been to before. We may have a sense of what it might look like, but we have yet to experience the breath-taking wonder and beauty of the new.
When we sense the call to pioneer, to move out of the comfort of what we know and towards something yet to be realised, we face the double challenge of the journey into the unknown and how to take people with us. We can go alone, but alone isn't usually a great plan. Casting a vision for the new can be the most frustrating thing you ever do. I know from personal experience that it's very tough to get some people to see what you see, to understand what you say and to want to change and embrace a new adventure.
The problem seems to be that what you are offering them in this new vision is a swap. You're asking them to swap the thing they know for the thing they don't know. Their something for your nothing. So what do you do?
In the midst of all these hints and calls for new ways of thinking and new solutions I think it's worth spending some time reflecting on something I've heard Bill Hybels talk about a couple of times in the last year or so. Bill is a great vision caster, he's had a few years experience doing it! He knows a thing or two about the way vision leaks as people grapple with what they've just heard and how important it is to reinforce the vision and revisit it regularly in order to keep in the front of minds that get preoccupied with other stuff. But he's recently tried a new approach when casting a vision.
Rather than just describe what things could be like, he urges us to describe how things are right now and how unimaginable it is to stay where we are. In other words we have to be able to see the future in the context of the present and the present in the context of the future. We have to agree together that we simply can't go on as we are and that we have to journey somewhere new.
Perhaps, in church life, we have not yet reached that place where staying as we are is not unthinkable for most churched people. Perhaps until we do, little will change.
I'm not sold on the idea of importing business ideas and practices into the church, but I am struck sometimes by the difference in approach to innovation in church and in business. Would anyone have said to Steve Jobs when he announced the first iPod to the world that he needed to make sure he didn't upset or alienate users of portable CD players?
If the gospel is the power of God to change lives, if the church is God's chosen vehicle for the proclamation of that message, why are we so afraid of breaking it? Why are so we so afraid to try something new?
The church must change, we must innovate, we must pioneer, but do we have the courage to see it and to acknowledge that where are in not where we should stay.