Author: Watson, Troy
Date published: May 2, 2011
I think the famous line from 1960s rock band Buffalo Springfield - "There's something happening here, [but] what it is ain't exactly clear" - sums up how many of us feel about the paradigm shift we find ourselves in.
What is clear to anyone paying attention is epic change is sweeping across planet: from social and political tions in the Middle East and Africa, to the shocking vulnerability one of the world's most economically technologically advanced nations that just suffered catastrophic natural and nuclear disasters.
Everything is in shift, including Christianity. Churches respond to this faith transition in one of four ways:
1. DENIAL. What paradigm shift? Postmodernity is a fad!
2. DEFIANCE. The remnant shall fight this rebellion against God to the death!
3. DESPAIR. Will all our children and grandchildren abandon our church, denomination and faith?
4. DECONSTRUCTION AND INNOVATION. Let's look at this with fresh eyes and try something different.
The last response holds the key to the future. It is the faith of present-day iconoclasts and innovators that will move forward into the new paradigm and inspire future generations to heed the timeless call of Christ to be people of peace and love, attuned to God's Spirit.
Everett Rogers' Diffusion of Innovation Theory claims that 2.5 percent of people are innovators, creating big new ideas; 13.5 percent are early adopters, supporting innovation and risking trying "crazy" ideas; 34 percent are open to new ideas that have demonstrated promise; 34 percent are open to new ideas that have a proven track record; and 16 percent are laggards, either reluctantly going along with the majority or digging in their heels to resist.
This would mean that 84 percent of the church is wary of innovation and new ideas. This has several implications:
* WE TEND TO BE LAGGARDS, instead of pioneers, change-makers and cultural influencers (adopting egalitarian policies years after the women's rights movement; accepting other forms of music as valid expressions of worship many years after those forms of music became normative for the culture that is our missional context and accepted in other denominations).
* WE CAN DISCOURAGE or shut down the most creative people in our midst, the very innovators who could help us move forward with vitality into the new paradigm.
* THE SUSTAINABILITY CRISIS our church is facing will not be solved by status-quo mentalities. As Albert Einstein once said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
The good news here is that God continues to gift the church with innovators, but it is up to us to empower them and experiment with their "far out" ideas.
This means that we will have to risk failure because many of their ideas will not work. (Remember Thomas Edison created a thousand light bulbs that didn't work before coming up with the one that did.) It is important for us to remember there are no such things as failures, only outcomes or results to interpret and learn from.
To create congregational environments where innovation is celebrated and encouraged we must pattern our lives after our Creator God. To be godly is to be creative.
When I look around at this incredibly diverse and strange universe full of platypuses, aye-ayes, Venus flytraps and the like, it certainly seems like God gets carried away with being creative! I certainly can't think of a moral or practical reason for the creation of blobfish or the proboscis monkey.
I am not sure why creativity has become secondary to other divine character traits we strive to emulate. We should value creativity equally alongside holiness, mercy and honesty, and make it just as much a mark of authentic Christian spirituality.
The majority may caution us to "be careful about being creative for the sake of being creative," but that makes about as much sense as "being careful not to be moral for the sake of being moral."
It's time to unleash our innovators and get carried away with the creative spirit.
Ask yourself or your church:
* Are we intentionally working at encouraging and creating space for innovators in our midst?
* Are we driving our most creative, imaginative people to other churches, denominations or worldviews?
* Are we inadvertently encouraging our most entrepreneurial young adults to pursue careers in fields other than ministry because there is not enough room for innovators to experiment and flourish in church settings?
Troy Watson is a Mennonite minister, resident theologian, spiritual director and a founding leader of The Quest, "a different kind of 'church' for life in the postmodem shift" in St. Catharines, Ont.