September 19, 2007

Outside the Box

I've mentioned before that I was originally a marketing major, and there's still a lot of the marketing geek in me. I love watching commercials (sometimes more than the shows they're advertising on), and my family will tell you I have an annoying habit of coming up with spontaneous slogans for the little Mom and Pop businesses we pass when we're traveling. It's in me, even though my calling is different now.

One of the slogans I used to live by is "think outside the box." Marketers live and die by their ability to innovate, and that box can kill a career in no time if you let it. So I have always taken pride in my ability to think outside that darn box.

But Joe Thorn makes a great point.

There is a danger in the allure to think outside of the box, especially when it comes to new churches and dying churches. It sounds promising, exciting, and new, but for many “thinking outside of the box” simply boils down to trying something we’ve never tried before. This often means we imitate the ministries of other churches, like Mars Hill, Harvest, Sojourn, Saddleback, or FBC of Whatevertown. We see successful churches doing great things, and in our desire to see God do something great among us we simply copy another ministry. So, while we wind up thinking outside of the box of our own operation (a potentially good thing), we may wind up thinking well outside of the box of our cultural context (a bad thing).
I've seen it happen in churches. Attendance is down, or the 'young people' aren't coming anymore, or the new church up the road is attracting some of our people, and so we start trying to "innovate," which usually means copying someone else's great idea. We forget that what works in California won't always work in Kentucky, or Pennsylvania, or Ohio. The people are different, the culture is different. I can tell you that what works for a church two blocks from my house won't work in a church ten miles away, because the people are different. Different ages, different economic level, different education.

But we also have to be careful to define what box we're thinking outside of. Orthodoxy is, after all, a box. It defines the boundaries of what Christianity is, what the "faith once delivered" consists of. The (dare I use the word?) >fundamentals of the faith. If we start thinking outside that box, we wander into territory that we're not meant to be in. We end up wandering far from the faith, and sometimes we can't find our way back. And we lead whole congregations astray -- people who depend on us to show them what's right, and true. Thinking outside that box can be fatal, and can lead people away from Christ.

So I still like to think outside some boxed. But I'm learning just how important, how valuable, some boxes can really be.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 08:12 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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