The success of Silicon Valley is its failures. Over and over companies fail in their desire to interpret the future and their place in it. But, every now and then new innovation that is based on the failures of the past clicks, takes off and changes how we relate to our world. Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster in Silicon Valley, when asked by the BBC what is, “the secret to Silicon Valley’s success?” replied “we know how to fail and we have been doing it for decades. Failure is what fuels and renews this place. Failure is the foundation for innovation.” He went on to inform the BBC to, “consider Google; at least half a dozen other companies tried to turn search into a business, but Google was the first to crack the code and turn search into a huge business.”
What about the church in North America? Have we understood or appreciated the times we have failed to reach the generations of people who are quickly drifting away from any connection to Christianity?
The old ways of doing church are not working and people in leadership do not understand the need to wake up to the reality that we live in a different world from when they were young men and women. Silicon Valley thrives because they dare to innovate, fail, recognize their failures, pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes and move on.
Many Churches, however, shudder at the thought that their ways are possibly no longer working, because they are very comfortable with their system and to some degree believe their way of doing church is God ordained. Just try to get a staid congregation to change the order of service to get a feel for what I am talking about.
The question we must ask ourselves is why do we continue to beat our head against the wall of failure instead of rethinking our approach to reaching the non-Christians in our communities.
I believe there are a few reasons for this failure that might be worth our discussion. First I believe that most pastors do not have a grasp of what changes are going on in the world and are therefore not prepared to meet the challenges. The world we live in is not even close to the world that most of us believe still exists. If we as pastors can’t get a handle on our communities it is difficult to lead our congregations to engage in any meaningful way.
How does your church do outreach? How does social media, Internet evangelism, outreach to youth, new immigrants, low income earners and the use of music and video enter into your evangelism? Does your denomination or church place value upon small group and house church ministry? Are there groups in your church that gather to discuss the culture we are confronted with and then try and work out plans to counter the worse aspects of those cultural norms?
What is the ministry within the church? Do we minister to the broken within our midst? Does the church feel safe to be able to speak out and say what is on your mind without your feeling isolated or somehow guilty for sharing your views?
Secondly, when we realize that something isn’t working are we willing to change? Why do we have to continue to do things over and over that don’t work? How wonderful it would be for someone in the church to stand up and say, “this isn’t working let’s try something else and if that doesn’t work let’s push ahead until we find what does work”.
Thirdly, numbers attending church means nothing. The tendency of a church that is struggling is to try and do something different to attract people to the church. What I am talking about in this blog is let’s do something different to attract people to God. The church, through an innovative program in the community, might never see more people walk through the door of their building, but they will have introduced people to the love of God through their work. For the church community to get over the desire to “grow” is a hurdle that goes against everything we believe about the purpose of church.
Lastly, the role of the church is to encourage people to come to Christ. It is about being the hands, feet and heart of Jesus in a broken world and unselfishly present His love to those who have never experienced unconditional love before. Our mission is for the Holy Spirit to work through us so that others may see Jesus. For many of us Christians we have to stop making Christianity all about us and our wants and desires and start opening our hearts up to the transforming power of God. We need to stop just knowing about Jesus and to start experiencing Jesus deep within our heart.
House churches, small groups, cell groups, organic church; call it what you will are authentic movements of people who wish to live close to God and be His people in the community. I wonder what would happen if an old staid church that is no longer growing would break up into house churches and then maybe gather once a month as a group to rejoice together over ministry? I believe that millions of Christians are waking up to the wonder of personal ministry within their neighborhood and if the traditional church structure doesn’t tune into this ministry they will become less and less relevant.