Theological Innovation

It is probably no surprise that churches of all denominations are having problems these days with declining membership and funding.  The message and community value they brought years ago does not seem to resonate with today’s youth and the idea of just giving money to any organization is now questioned more carefully.  Yes, there are always those who have been raised to appreciate tradition and may value it … or may not any longer.

Things that were once sacred may not be sacred any longer to this new generation.  Part of the problem here is that they don’t accept the underlying premises.  And, in fact, it might just be accurate to say that what we once thought was foundational may no longer even be accepted as fact at all.

A business person facing these questions would ask the natural question:  How do we innovate?  Do we need to stop wearing robes, add modern music styles, or just talk about things in today’s everyday life?  These seem to be good questions, but asking them runs the risk of wrath by those who cherish tradition.

So, attempting to be innovative on things that some consider sacred is bound to create tensions.  And, given another church down the road or across the street may have decided to stand on cherished tradition, you can easily imagine the migration over time.  The church clinging to tradition may indeed seem to be growing … but it is very likely growing increasing out of touch with what is happening in society.

This may be interesting to watch from the sidelines, but is certainly not just rhetorically interesting if you are one of those churches trying to innovate.  Churches have spent hundreds of years trying to formalize and rigidize their brands as defensible in the sea of theological alternatives non-churched people can consider.  Some, most notably the megachurches, have decided that Sunday is more about performance than theology … and it seems to be working.  Critics in the mainstream easily criticize them as “watering down” the truth, but those in leadership in these megachurches will point out that they offer an easy start to the unchurched.

As I watch all this I am stunned by the parallels in our world of energy policy and consumer engagement.  Maybe it’s time to think of customer journey and engagement more about performance than theology.

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