Innovate_not Imitate (Phase_1)

Innovate, Not Imitate 

I have been thinking of this topic for some time now.

What is true innovation?

Yes, I have a great love for technology and the benefits of its uses everyday, but I am deeply convicted by the reliance we have put on it in today’s church. It seems the deeper we get within technology, the more we are losing touch with REAL relationships.

Look at some of the largest churches in America. They can have everything from state of the art sounds systems, cutting edge visual media, intelligent lights and so much more. We commonly see different things imitated between the big ministries across the country. But as they grow by the thousands, where are the true authentic relationships. But after a while we start to notice that the largest churches in America, stop becoming the fastest growing and stay stagnate after a specific reach.

Why does growth stop after a certain point? 

It seems that many people come and go, like their looking for the next Night at the Roxbury. But in the club world great venues come and go. Some stay hot for years, and some never make a break. But then there are a select group of venues that have always been popular, CBGB’s, Abbey Road, House of Blues, etc. These places have hosted some of the  most popular groups in the World and have always had people drawn back to them. Somehow they have left everlasting relationships with their consumers. 

What is it about places like this?

Back to the Church, like great clubs and venues, we have churches with amazing speakers, talented worship leaders, and strong programming. But people tend to come and go. Why do we grow to a certain point while lacking in the area of retention. 

I strongly feel that it comes down to the word retention. The best way we see high retention is through strong relationships. 

Strong Relationships?

Well my church has small groups! Of course they do, so do many others. So why are people still coming and going?

Let’s just think for a moment. What if a church of 20,000, all of a sudden took away all of the bells and whistles. We are talking about the Sound Systems, Lighting, Visual Media, etc. Take it outside for one weekend, just a Pastor and his people. 

As a leader what would you do? How would things be different? 

We need to become innovative in our relationships. What? Is that possible? Innovative in our Relationships? This does not necessarily mean having the coolest resources of something to do this. But finding out what clicks to build a strong relationship. 

Think about the Ministry of Jesus. Down to just plain black and white. It WAS the Church with no walls, no sound system, and no web site, but people followed. In fact enough people followed one man that his ministry still exists today. Just a thought. 

Even take the Printed Bible. What if we had to memorize scripture? Yes, the printing press is one of the greatest technological inventions of all time. But What if we had to emphasize on memorization. 

We have to move from complete reliance on technology and how fast it advances us, and back to the heart of relationships. Jesus was a relational leader. When a strong relationship is built, it lasts. Small groups are amazing, but we have to become innovative with the way we approach people to get them into a small group. We have to become truly authentic, so they can be who they really are.

This is not a call to abandon the resources we have at our disposal. Yes we can reach so far with the advancements of modern technology and we would be foolish not to utilize. 

But lets focus on innovation in our relationships. We need to stop focusing on imitating other leaders and start innovating with people in front of us. (This does not mean to stop learning from others, but starting thinking for yourself!) 

Innovation is not Imitating the church next door. In fact I am more lead to believe that TRUE INNOVATION is being more original and using less resources to make an impact. Any church can build a state of the art building, hire the best speaker, and make it and entertaining place. But retention is not something everyone can say has been mastered and that is why I am writing this. 

What does that look like. I can’t truly tell you but it will be an ongoing project as we look deeper into the focus or retaining true relationships that last. 

Stay tune, Provide Feedback, and lets take this journey together…..

Team IML


9 responses to “Innovate_not Imitate (Phase_1)

  1. What does it look like? I have come to the conclusion that, while it may take many forms, it probably usually looks like a group of 30 or fewer people (more or less) meeting and breaking bread together from house to house and devoting themselves to the apostles’ teachings.

    The NT Christians were no more perfect than we are, but they had a unique community of true relationships, and they were accused of turning the world upside-down. When was the last time anyone here has had that accusation thrown at them? Even though it comes with persecution, I want it. I really, really want that.

    God bless,


  2. Cindy, thanks for your insight. I love the small gathering in the homes. I think if a church could implement that concept effectively where everyone gets plugged in that would be truly innovative. We live in a very comfortable world. We do not need to fight for our belief like back in the day. Good thoughts to think about.

  3. Thanks for taking time to write this Sean. You bring up some great points I am going to think about his week. I look forward to reading more.

  4. Great discussion. Relationships are important, critical. My dislike of the mega-church model is that it seeks to balkanize people of The Way from the world. You can get nearly everything you need with a wonderful gloss. My question is this: What does a larger church context ask of its members? Teaching Sunday school doesn’t count. I speak of sacrifice. Sacrifice, locking arms with one another, builds loyalty. Ask anyone who has served in the armed forces and you learn the meaning of brotherhood. It’s about deep relationships forged in the crucible of sacrifice, together crying out for the strength to finish the race, striving, straining, reaching, climbing as one in our collective and individual weakness. Innovation in ministry is also eschatological — it’s forward-looking, living now in the not yet (Ladd).

    Again, great post. I hope my musings are helpful.

  5. I think it was Chuck Swindoll back in the day who said, “If you’re creative enough, you never have to be original.” The chances that I am – or anyone else is – going to have an original thought is pretty slim. I think innovation in the church means engineering, not inventing.

    Now, that’s not to say we shouldn’t think, brainstorm, search, and reach in creative and inventive ways. I just don’t think we should be surprised or dismayed when what is actually effective turns out to be something that already exists in one form or another.

  6. good insight Patrick!

    fiercegrace, i like the quote from Chuck Swindoll, thanks for posting.

  7. On a business podcast, I heard some silicon valley guy say, “Good leaders don’t solve complicated problems with complicated solutions. They solve simple problems with simple solutions.”

    As much as I love all the technology and the wizardry we get to use these days… we’re solving simple problems with complicated solutions.

    I read an article in the San Antonio paper this morning called Get 6 People Together and Find a Way to Help Your Community. It’s about simple leadership. In some ways, it’s suggesting a good model for empowering lay leaders within the church…

  8. Marcus, great article, thanks for posting. I like would like to find out who said that quote, it makes perfect sense.

  9. Doesn’t innovation start with ‘in’ovating? To bring real change, do we not have to first change ourselves? I believe if we want to change the world, then we must first bring change to ourselves.

    Just like having the latest gadget everyone wants it, when people see change in you, they will want it too. Technology should be used as a tool, not an idol.

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