It’s fun to see something that exists only in your mind eventually become a reality. So is being on the front end of impactful changes. And seeing those changes lead to much bigger ― life-altering, even ― changes? Definitely fun.
A few minutes ago, I pulled a telephone out of my pocket to read breaking news. This evening, I’ll use my phone to watch a few innings of the television broadcast of a baseball game. (Imagine it’s 1990 and reread the two previous sentences.)
Remember when we had to wait until the next day to read about what happened the day before? If you were on the East Coast and wanted to find out what happened out West, you were stuck waiting for a couple of days.
We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?
That’s crazy! Or is it?
The last few years have brought plenty of new methods. However, while I have occasionally desired to go back to the way things were pre-COVID, there are few new approaches to life I can appreciate.
For example, I enjoy pulling into a parking spot at the local grocery store, popping the trunk and having a store employee load my groceries without my having to step foot outside the vehicle. Others prefer to go into the stores, roam the aisles and hand-select their merchandise.
The store has something necessary for the people who like to shop inside and me. We may even require the same thing. But we need to get it in different ways. When people talk about going inside a store nowadays, I don’t pay much attention.
I prefer the new way of grocery shopping. Others like the traditional approach. But we all keep going back to the same store because it’s familiar, it provides what we need and we know we can count on it to be there when we need it.
There are plenty of other stores that offer the same great stuff, too. They look and sound different than what I’m familiar with. I probably wouldn’t shop at these stores, but they do an excellent job providing the same necessities to others. I’m glad they exist.
I have to admit, from time to time, I’ll have exactly what I need delivered right to my home.
During the pandemic, businesses did what they needed to serve their customers. They pivoted to new approaches. But their mission didn’t change.
Churches did the same thing. But then again, churches have always tried new things to reach new people.
It would have seemed crazy for a church to drop eggs from a helicopter not long ago. But when Grace River Church (St. Peters, Missouri) met 6000 people at its Easter Egg Drop this past April, it connected with community members it otherwise might have never met.
What is most important?
But as important as innovation is, it’s not most important.
Whether your church is on the cutting edge or follows a more traditional approach, our eternal impact still comes down to something much more important than innovation:
Relationships ― with God and with people. And ultimately, relationships we help others build with God.
Video games and churches in the virtual world are great. So are Bible discussion groups and online worship and mobile apps and drums and guitars during worship. But if they don’t build or enhance relationships, they’re just things.
And they need to know God every bit as much as you or I need to know him.
Innovate to relate
Should churches innovate? Yes, and here’s why:
Everyone deserves to hear the gospel.
Whether formed by location, language, legacy, labor, leisure activity or life circumstance, every people group and community needs a church.
The churches won’t all look or act the same. And neither will their people.
Harvest Community Church (Orlando, Florida) lead pastor Lee Stephenson recently said people need to know five things about God:
God wants to have an intimate relationship with them.
God has a purpose for them.
God can meet their needs
God will help them.
People will hear those truths in different ways. Some will only hear them while wearing a virtual reality headset. Others might hear them in a traditional church building.
It’s possible that the church doesn’t yet exist. Or it could be at your church.
But one way or another, people will hear the truth of the gospel because somebody connected with them. Somebody showed an interest in them. Somebody saw them.
And they will grow in faith because somebody walked with them ― physically or virtually or in a way that doesn’t yet exist ― on their journey.
A friend I grew up with first pointed me to Jesus when we were in college. We had been close friends since elementary school. Several years later, I truly began to follow Christ, and again, friends helped me cultivate my relationship with him.
In both instances, I felt comfortable exploring a relationship with God because of my relationships with others. Even today, people I know ― some I’ve known for years, others for months ― encourage me to stand firm in the faith and deepen my bond with God.
Some of those people I’ve never met in person.
I’m thankful an innovator created something I once could have never imagined that allowed me to build a relationship with them.
Innovation is great. But as we innovate, let’s do so with our eyes on what is most important.
Mickey Seward, Contributing writer
Mickey Seward is a freelance writer and editor. He served as Converge's director of communications from 2017-23.