Innovative Churches: Opportunities & Influence

January 26, 2007 by

Part 4 in a series on Innovative Churches. Be sure to contribute to the Most Innovative Churches list.

Here’s the continuing Q&As from the Outreach/Tony Morgan questionnaire:

What’s happening outside the church that should influence innovation inside local churches?

The biggest thing happening outside the church is that most people are not looking to the church for anything. Because of this, any attempt at being innovative may very well be seen as the second grader who didn’t get chosen by the red team or the blue team, so he’s showing off his cool moves on the side of the field, hoping someone sees.

What we need is to be communicating the message in ways our communities understand. This is a critical component of understanding where the church fits in a culture full of innovation. Any innovative influences from the “outside” should be studied from the perspective of impact, not impression. What is working and why? Not what is cool and how can I use that in my church. Just because blogs are cool doesn’t mean everyone should have one.


Do you believe the Church has influenced past cultures? Do you think the Church can still influence culture today? Why?

Yes, the Church has influenced past cultures–for better and worse. From Martin Luther to the Pope, history if full of church impact. And we can still influence it today to the extent we’re not trying to. Martin Luther didn’t wake up one day and decide he wanted to influence culture. He did realize he had a problem with the way things were, and was so moved by his convictions that the future of the church would literally be changed because of his convictions. Likewise, we must be motivated by our convictions–our love for the lost, our repugnance for sin and our commitment to God. This is what will drive our influence. We don’t seek influence, influence follows us.

Post By:

Brad Abare


Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it. He and his wife Jamaica live in Los Angeles with their daughter, Miró.
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6 Responses to “Innovative Churches: Opportunities & Influence”

  • Geoffrey Brown
    January 26, 2007

    I really liked the metaphor of the 2nd grader on the sideline that didn’t make either team showing off his moves on the sidelines in hopes someone sees.
    Maybe the best way of being innovative is for the church to help the second grader improve to the point that he can make a team.
    I mean that figuratively (that actions speak louder than publicity) and literally: our little rural Episcopal church gets super mileage from our “Summer Sunday School Soccer”. In fact, we have more kids in church during the summer than any other time of year, except for the Christmas Pageant.
    (www.trinitylimerock.org and take the Summer Soccer link to read about our program).
    Geoff Brown


  • Jason McCoy
    January 26, 2007

    I think this can be seen so clearly in our worship music and contemporary Christian music. Both, currently, are based in emulation- not innovation. There is no other context where you can do a cover of someone else’s song and have it appear in the top 20 on a regular basis…We have tried to be cool- but it has largely failed. (I can’t think of any friend outside the church that listens to any of that kind of music)
    It’s interesting because, at one time, the church WAS the center for innovation on a lot of fronts (artistic and even scientific in spurts)- and there are innovators present in the church now, it’s just that there often are too many hurdles to overcome for them to remain in a church community. I think of some of the bigger names like U2, or the ambient/new age music label Windham Hill that began in the church but left and then their influence multiplied and wonder how many other versions of these exist unknown right now in our churches because there is no context for them to bring who they are “to the table”.


  • Geoffrey Brown
    January 28, 2007

    Thank you Jason.
    A huge amount of the “innovative” church music we are putting out today is nothing of the kind. It’s copycat stuff, and after a while copycat stuff just plain gets old — and then there’s a massive rejection of it.
    Today in our (Episcopal) annual meeting, our Vicar challenged us to “Be new” and “Stretch Anglicanism” (that’s the parent denomination for Episcopalians in the US).
    I am hoping to find out how to do that here. I really want to hear how churches “kick the envelope”.


  • Gene Mason
    January 28, 2007

    “What’s happening outside the church that should influence innovation inside local churches?”
    Turning questions like these sideways always yields interesting thought-lines:
    “If what’s happening inside the church is not influencing what’s outside the church, can we really call it innovation?”


  • Jason McCoy
    January 29, 2007

    This is a really exciting conversation to be having! I hope this will continue and we can share ideas!
    To me- one of the key issues in this is how insular we’ve become. We’ve become entirely cut off from the world we were meant to be “in and not of”…so that there are no longer any of the normal interactions with culture and society (thus, making it pretty hard to shape or have any influence in it). It really raises the question for me of how to evaluate our “saltiness” as Jesus said. How much are our communities (within the church) involved with and interacting with the larger community…or are we still waiting for “them” to come to “us”??
    In our church, we’ve spent the last year interviewing the heads of social services in our area (to try and figure out where we might be of help) and I’ve come to discover that no church in my area had ever done this before. Instead, they typically start their own food pantries, free medical clinics, etc that typically do not have enough resource or interest to last- so they fold. So, for example- wouldn’t it make much more sense to put our energy into an existent service and build relationships there and combine our resources and efforts? And yet, that is met with skepticism and fear in many churches I’ve talked to…which seems to illustrate the degree to which we really have turned into ourselves.


  • brad
    January 30, 2007

    I’m gonna echo the pro-2nd grader metaphor comment.
    I’ve often thought about what the church has meant historically, and what it means now. The church used to be the centre of art, music and even architecture, and now, well, not-so-much. But back in the day, the church was also closely tied to the state, where the money was, and was wrapped up in all sorts of other shady dealings to fund its grandeur. Let’s not look to those as the glory days of the church.
    Necessity is the mother of innovation. I think if we did more examination and concentration on the needs in and around our churches, we’d have more room and reason to innovate, and more impact in our world. Certainly the way culture has moved to image-based communication has caused innovation in the church. And we need to do more of that, integrated as part of our loving outreach. (I’m working on an invitational video clip that introduces our church, and offers reasons why you might want to visit. These will be handed out like flyers in our community)
    There are many needs that the church can zero in on. Practical, cultural, relational, and of course spiritual. Some are bluntly obvious, and some are really subtle.
    Great discussion here!



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