Innovation and the Church
We were meant to be “the head, and not the tail”. Yet in the past, over the last 70-80 years, we have been the “tail”, the last one in on the New and so far behind in warming up to that new thing that the element in question is no longer new, but old. Because the Church waits for something to be “tried and true” to use it, it loses an integral moment of setting the standard and seeing that innovation reach its full potential from the onset.
There are a few things wrong with the way The Church has deals with innovation. The main problem is that the Church fails to think of innovation at all. The second problem is that the Church demonizes anything new. The third problem is that, should the Church adopt an innovation, it adopts it long after it truly is innovative and the adoption carries a “copycat” nature within it.
But we were meant to be “the head and not the tail”.
Initially, I was concerned about this topic forty years ago, specifically in the area of music. I heard a few voices, very few, mention that when rock-n-roll came out, the Church could “have had it”, but they dropped the ball. Thinking of what it means for the Church to “have had” rock-n-roll, to take ownership of it and use it from its inception brings a lot of questions to my mind (as to what, exactly, that means). But I think that the Church’s criticism of rock-n-roll is –at least in part– evidence of what circumstances and situations would have been prevented if the Church didn’t ignore its innovative potential: drug abuse, sexual impropriety, alcohol abuse, theft of property rights and money. And isn’t it “odd” that many of the early artists and performers of rock-n-roll gained much of their performance and musical chops through the Church? I don’t think that is coincidence.
It was also forty years ago that I heard a song on the radio that caught my attention in a way that struck my spirit even more than my ears. It was a song by the band U2, their first US single, “I Will Follow”. I was compelled by that song and that sound. I had to know who that band was, who they were, where were they, and where could I see them and hear more of them. It was new, what they were doing. It was unlike anything else being played on the radio at that time. I wasn’t even hearing anything quite like that in the local club (Scorgies, in Rochester, New York) that I occasionally went to, that hosted punk and New Wave bands. In an early interview that I saw of them with the inception of MTV, the band said of themselves that they weren’t punk or New Wave; they made “U2 music”. It was around 1984 that I found out about their spiritual connection, that at least three members were “born again” Christians. I went to see their concert in 1984 at the RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) skating rink and I felt like I had been to a really good, really personal, really freeing worship service– Bono’s climbing onto tall speakers included.
It was only a few months ago, after listening to some of the contemporary worship music by Jesus Culture and Hillsong that I suddenly realized, “Hey, that sound is the sound that I heard from U2, forty years ago!” The drone, the bass, the resonance of the guitars…some of the mood, even. And I thought to myself, “It only took forty years….”
Why did it take the Church so long to catch on?
Even with part of the Church catching on to “the sound” so long after its inception, there is still criticism against that type of worship. I think that some of the criticism against worship endeavors like Jesus Culture, Hillsong, Ramp, etc. might be similar to the criticism against rock-n-roll back in the day. And I think some of what is criticized might have been thwarted if we had been ready to receive it forty years previously and had aligned ourselves with that innovation. But, once again, the Church didn’t.
I’m concerned about the Church receiving what Chuck Pierce calls, “The New”. I’m concerned about the Church not being ready for what Chuck Pierce refers to as “the Next”. I am concerned that the “spirit of innovation” that certain prophetic circles within the Church mentions might be missed by many people for as many different reasons as there are dissenters of the particular ways and manners of worship that Christians in the US– and beyond– walk in.
We cannot miss this!
Let me say it again: We cannot miss this!
My concern over the Church and innovation was important enough to me to really begin to blog in earnest. Subsequently, my goal for at least a portion of this blog will be, hopefully, dedicated to exploring issues with the Church and innovation, the Church and “the New”– as an educator and academic, as a musician, as a writer and artist, and as someone with what is now decades of “walk[ing] by faith and not by sight” and participating in congregations ranging from “long-traditioned” denominations to non-denominational startups.
Hopefully, some of you will walk with me, and learn with me. When I get my blogging chops together, I will be welcoming your feedback and conversations with you. I don’t know everything; I merely will express what I am moved to express from my observations and meditations.
Thanks for riding with me into the New!