It seems that many local church gatekeepers readily applaud ministry that looks like the successes of other churches rather than champion the indigenous creation from their own people. My friends in the business world do this all the time. One company sells computers successfully, so reverse engineering takes place by competitors. The idea is to emulate the success and hopefully exceed the level of your competition. In church work, our thinking may actually be similar.
The thought is this: “If a song is popular on the Christian radio station, then surely it will resonate with people in our worship services.” Instead, creative leadership says this: “We need to worship and lead culturally from who we are and from who spiritually we desire to be.” In the first case, no question is asked and answered about the assets and opportunities existing around you. The second idea starts at home then outside content is validated or dismissed. When you are blind to self-awareness the only option left is to copy another’s identity. However, when you know who you are, you set the stage for creativity.
Why copy? Cut-and-paste creativity is about efficiency. We can download from the Internet complete sermons, including outlines, small group handouts, and polished graphics. We do this, because it is efficient and looks and feels like the successful church we admire. Learning the process and finding inspiration from these incredible ministries and their leaders is a must. Best practices are mined by competent leaders. But, we should never simply copy without full disclosure. If we champion the need for authenticity, should not that value steer us to create rather than emulate?
Inspiration and mastery calls us to create. Ambition or fear drives us to cut and paste. Most have the best intentions. To reach a community is the heart of most pastors I know, but fear of letting go of the process to reach those people narrows the bandwidth of the local church. What if people not like us actually become leaders and start steering things? That fact is inevitable. Time offers us a shelf-life. Legacy is ours to own or abdicate. Would we want to lose our legacy to the creative energy of leaders who have no personal relationship with us?
Failure has value. When we copy another’s success, we lose our ability to fail with our own creativity. This one fact alone stalls us! Innovation allows mistakes that we choose to make, not that others prescribe for us. The trendy church culture is gullible, fickle and ever-changing. Songs, sermons and personalities are fluid. A church needs to birth from their identity to be a force that lasts. If we pass on anything, it should be who we are. If we do not know how to answer that question, then perhaps passing on is not an issue to us. We live in the now, and worship the god of efficiency.