Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tradition, Innovation, and Renovation

   It seems that the trend for the last couple of decades has been for churches to try and chase culture. Every minister has felt the pressure to be on the cutting edge. There are the latest strategies, newest outreach techniques, and the most "relevant" modes of ministry. The pull of innovation and chasing original ideas can be taxing. At the same time, many ministers have also felt the pull of tradition. Congregants and leadership cling to old practices and non-essentials simply because "this is the way we have always done things." These sacred cows become an obstacle and a source of divisiveness. More often than not one of these tensions wins and there is little compromise. There is both a place for innovation and tradition within ministry. Innovation allows the church to clearly communicate the gospel to current culture. Tradition establishes clear boundaries so that we are not carried off by the culture and begin to compromise the essentials of the faith as outlined in Scripture.

  My wife watches a show, "Rehab Addict." It is about this lady who restores old homes. She has a great appreciation for the care, quality construction, and history that has gone into these houses. Where ever possible she tries to reclaim, re-purpose, and restore these homes bringing them into the modern area without losing their rich history. The thought hit me the other day that this is a good philosophical approach to have in ministering to an established church. Most established churches in our country are in decline and are in serious need of revitalization. A good philosophy to have going in is one of a renovation. In a renovation of this sort we must restore, reclaim, re-purpose, place and remove (I sincerely apologize for the alliteration).

Restore- Restoration requires a love and appreciate for what something was and is. The heart beat of any pastor should be a love for not only possibilities of what might be, our what we think it should be, but loving a church for the things that it already is. It is easier to fault a church for what it is not, instead of loving what Christ has already built. No church is perfect. But if we truly believe that it is Christ who builds the church (Matt. 16:18), then we must appreciate the work that He has already accomplished before we seek Him to further His work through us.

Reclaim- This approach recognizes that we do not have to reinvent the wheel. There are many great practices, disciplines, and ministry approaches that have been utilized through the rich history of the universal church. For one reason or another some practices that were great tools or biblically mandated means of ministry have fallen out use. By reclaiming we can connect a local church to older traditions and richer history. In doing so, a church can see themselves as part of a larger plan God has designed through the ages to create for Himself a people. There are more faithful and more intelligent men who have walked before us who provide us with a treasure trove of resources, if we are humble enough to read and learn.

Re-purpose- Somethings that a church does may not be necessarily bad, just misapplied, unfocused, ineffectively carried out, or poorly executed. They don't know why they do a particular thing, but are set on doing it. Sometimes the best approach to take is to reteach the purpose of a particular practice or program, retrain, and tweak it so that it now operates efficiently, with a level of excellence, and with a clear since of mission and purpose.

Replace- There are other situations where things simply need to be replaced with an updated model or strategy. The old one is outdated that it is no longer accomplishing what it was designed to do. The key is determining whether or not the original need for which this was implemented still exists. If so and it is too far gone to be re-purposed, then it needs to be replaced.

Remove- There are situations where certain programs, practices, values, and convictions must be thrown out. Sometimes this is because the church has moved away from Scripture and there are now things that are done or held in contrary to Scripture. Other times the program or practice is rooted in a particular bygone era and no longer serves its original purpose. The need for a particular practice may no longer exist. This approach must only be done with love after reviewing the remaining approaches and finding no other alternative.

Hope this may helpful.

In His name and for His glory,