There is actually a whole lot to be said for doing everything in the way that it has always been done. Take a Sunday morning worship service for example. When I am planning a worship service that follows the normal weekly pattern, it is always a lot less work. I can just copy and paste what we’ve done before and then make some changes as needed. I know where to go to find hymns and prayers and other elements of the service. Even more importantly, there is a psychological comfort and ease in working according to pre-established patterns and forms.
But just try planning an unusual or innovative worship service. You find yourself basically reinventing the wheel. You have to go back and rethink the function of a prayer or a litany at a certain point in the service and then write the thing according to that purpose. That is a lot more work. And that is just when you’re preparing for the thing. The actual worship service itself takes even more concentration because it’s just a lot easier to lose track of what’s next and how it is supposed to go.
And if that’s true about a worship service, it is doubly true about any new or innovative project or event that you might consider in the church. The first time you do something, you have to invent or create just about every aspect of what you do. There is also much more potential for something to go wrong in some unanticipated way. After you’ve done a program a few times it can be so much easier and a lot less work.
For example, as you will see as you continue to read through this newsletter, we are about to embark on a bold new endeavour in the coming weeks; we’re calling it Hespeler Arts Palooza. Though this is something that builds upon some past successful events, the scope of what we are attempting is quite new and rather daunting. It hasn’t even started yet and we are already feeling the stress of it as we work on schedules and finding innovative ways to get the word out to the people we are trying to engage.
So, given that new is hard, you have to ask the question: why even try it? Why not just keep doing things the way that they have always been done? Of course, there’s also the added benefit that church people often take a great deal of comfort from what they are used to and what they have experienced before and are more likely to criticize or even complain when dealing with the unfamiliar. So why even bother trying anything new?
The reasons are many, but I would like to share a few with you from my perspective.
- Just because something worked in the past, doesn’t mean that it is the best or only way to do it moving forward. In fact, since the church finds itself within a rapidly changing society – a rapidly changing world! – we find ourselves in a situation where what worked in the past might be increasingly irrelevant to society. But, if we never try anything new, we will never be able to compare what worked in the past with what works today.
- Yes, there is a comfort to be found in doing what we are used to, but we must ask, is comfort what we are called to as followers of Christ? No. We are called to lives of faith and trust in God and stepping out and taking a risk by trying something new is indeed an excellent way to exercise our faith muscles.
- While there is indeed comfort and ease in routine, there is an excitement that comes with trying something new. We cannot constantly be in such an excited state, of course, because it can wear us down, but seasons of excitement are needed to keep us engaged and interested.
- New initiatives mean new ways to connect with people. Think of it in a travelling metaphor. When you are travelling over familiar territory with people that you know, the group tends to behave in very self-sufficient ways. There is no need to stop and ask anyone else for directions. You all know where and how to get the supplies that you need. But when you are travelling over unfamiliar territory, you are often forced to deal with other people and you have to deal with them in a place where you are not the expert. There is a humility and a mutuality that is found in unfamiliar territory, attitudes that would serve the world well in the coming in this young century.
- But, of course, the most important reason for trying something new is that we are emulating our God who says: