Earlier tonight I tweeted the following:
Do churches try to “think outside the box” because they are dissatisfied with the box God gave them?
This thought was sparked during a conversation with Stephen Proctor (@worshipVJ, WorshipVJ blog) over dinner. We got around to this question after talking about using technology in church, what does “excellence” mean, and a variety of other topics. Before I put this question in context, here are the Twitter replies that were sparked by my question:
(via @glohiatt) do you think God put us in a box?
(via @brianfalexander) @glohiatt what I think @chrisrouse is referring to is the life that God has given them, not sure though. God does give us restrictions..
(via @glohiatt) well if we are in a box, then so is the whole world. we were sent out to all corners of the earth, right?
Here is the context: a couple of months ago Church Production Magazine published an article on Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC. In the article, Wes Watson, Elevation’s lead producer, is quoted as saying:
“Pastor [Furtick] leads us to think inside the box vs. outside the box. We’ve learned that as we think inside the box, it forces the box to get bigger. Let’s be honest, the box is there (nothing is free), so quit thinking outside the box and get creative on what the inside of your box looks like.
So now you have the context of my tweet. It has nothing to do with the life we as Christians live or anything like that. It has to do with how the church responds creatively to technology and physical things. Sure, there may be a church down the street that is bigger and has fancy lights and concert-quality production, and your church may have some conventional light fixtures and a single projector.
We’re trained out whole lives to “think outside the box”. To do something no one else has thought of. In marketing, it’s referred to as “guerrilla marketing.” In the church, thinking outside the box tends to mean doing something that your individual church hasn’t done, but that has been done by other churches. Many churches defer to Willow Creek, North Point, LifeChurch.tv, Saddleback, etc for their ideas.
(I’m struggling to keep this topic focused already. I want to go some many directions with it, but I don’t have time.)
When we think inside the box, inside the restrictive budgets we’ve been given, inside the style of worship our church has, inside the spiritual and emotional space our church members are living in, we learn to do more with less. And as we learn to do more with less, we realize how to expand what we can do.
Think about it, Jesus fed a lot of people on some fish and bread. Small box, big results. Granted, He did have a bit of a bonus on His side being God and all, but still, the lesson exhibited in that story is to trust God to do more with what we have. He didn’t have any doubt that the small ration he had would go a long way. He knew it would.
The same goes for the church. Proctor expanded on my initial thought by asking if the reason we try to think outside the box so often is because we are dissatisfied with the box God has given us to work in. But I think if we constantly strive to think outside the box, we’ll never get there. We’ll always want bigger and better and shinier. If we think INSIDE the box, we find creative ways to use our limited resources to create environments and experiences far greater than we imagined. If we simply trust God to do more with what He has given us, our box will grow. If we try to force the box to grow by thinking outside of it all the time, the box will eventually catch up to our great ideas and suddenly be inside the box again.
Don’t be so concerned about being better than “that” church. Focus on being the best church for your members and guests. Church is not a competition. We’re all in this together. God never called us to do more than we can. He called us to do more with what He has given us. And what He has given us fits into a pretty spectacular box.
The box is a test of faith. Trust God inside the box and He’ll provide you with the resources to have a bigger box when you need it. Just don’t put God in the box.